October 30, 2021

Choose Your Own Adventure #71 - Space Vampire

What's Going on?

Almost a year ago I was going to make an April Fool's entry where I pretended I was going to change this blog to a Choose Your Adventure blog. I wrote up most of the entry, and then just never finished it. Why'd that happen? Laziness? Pandemic induced ennui? Who can say. All I know is that the draft of this sat there for a long ass time. By the time I finally got around to updating this blog, I felt the need to "start fresh" with a Goosebumps entry. Still, I spent time writing and reading for this, it needn't go to waste. So here it is. My entry for Choose Your Own Adventure #71 - Space Vampire, right in time for Halloween.




Choosing My Adventure

I'm not going to read every single story line until I get all of the over 24 endings in this. Like times past when I have done this style of book I will give it 3 attempts to get the "good" ending. If I die 3 quick times well... then that's just a bummer isn't it?

Attempt 1

To begin with I am briefed about the usual nature of the book, that you don't read it in a linear page by page fashion. I'm already aware of this but there is also a warning. The space vampire, it would seem, has extraordinary powers and a terrifying appetite.  I will heed this warning!




In an interesting turn of events Space Force is real. Who knew Donald Trump stole his idea from a book in 1987? Not only is it real, but I am about to graduate from their academy on Mars. Dope. My communicator goes off, I'm needed immediately! I hustle through various hi-tech security protocol to the office of Jason Neff who appears to be some sort of... space Dumbledore. He declares that I, who have the cool code name of Osprey, am graduating first in my glass. Hell yeah, I'm the best. It turns out that my credentials as the best is going to be put to the test immediately. Am I to stop an alien invasion from the Canopians? No sir, the problem we're facing is.. SPACE VAMPIRES. You see Vampires are weak on Earth what with all the Sunlight and such. Deeper in space though? Not a problem. A space vampire has gotten aboard a transport ship and is killing a passenger each night. If I can't stop this vampire there may be a whole invasion of them! I don't have to take this mission though. If I want to pass it up, I can be on my way to Barnard's Star to see if it is suitable for colonization.

Listen this book is called SPACE VAMPIRES, of course I'm going to take the space vampire mission. For breakfast the cook hands me some garlic to improve the taste of my future space food. Can't imagine how that will come in to play, eh? Then its off into space and immediately into trouble. A Canopian attack vessel intercepts us and Captain Rick Field asks for my input. I can suggest we outrun them, or tell him to attack.

Let's attack these assholes. Or not. Rick Field doesn't give a fuck about my input. He thinks getting the space vampires is more important than destroying an immediate alien threat. Just like that I'm shooting pool at an officer's club waiting for reassignment. One decision and I'm already on the outs! I could maybe go after the vampire on my own though. The computer system still thinks I have security clearance. Ahead of me is a hangar hosting a very top secret special unique awesome spaceship. I could maybe borrow it to go eradicate the space vampire menace.... or I could play by the rules.

You don't kill space vampires by playing it safe. Let's commandeer this vessel an get to vampire murderin'. I start the process of "borrowing it" but the guys in the hangar seem to realize I don't belong. There are sirens and guard robots. It's close but I get my ass out of there unscathed and am on my way to the vampire infested transport ship. I consult the space computer about how to go  and kill Spaceferatu and it highlights some pointers. Sunlight will do the trick. They can be captured with force field generators which I happen to have. They also recommend back up. I could call my friend Steve to come out a'vampire huntin' with me or I could go it alone.

The more the merrier when it comes to killing vamps I say.  I invite Steve-o along but security forces are there! Has he ratted me out or did they intercept my message. My options are to surrender, to escape, or to "think of something else."

I'm going to escape. I've got the best spaceship in the fleet, I can handle a nice running away. Or at least I could if they didn't have override codes for my secret stolen spaceship. All I can do is wait for Space Force to come and arrest me. Damn you Donald Trump!

The end.

Attempt 2

Ok, graduating head of the class, accepting the mission to kill space Dracula, intercepted by Canopian alien attack ship... but this time I'm going to tell the captain we should flee!

Flee we do indeed. We are able to get to the transport with the Vampire on it. Each night it kills a victim... What the hell does night and day matter in a space ship? Unless you're rotating on a planet night and day don't even really exist! Someone suggests we fire on the ship because they are an idiot and don't want any survivors at all. The captain asks for any DECENT input. I could tell him we should board the ship, or to wait until it lands on Earth.



Wait until it lands on Earth? That's dumb! Then we'll have vampires on Earth! No, we are gonna board the ship. The captain agrees and suggests using human bait... What an asshole. Do I volunteer to be bait or not?

Sure why the hell not, go big or go home I say. (and that worked so well for me last time when I stole a space ship)  My mission is to lay there helplessly and let a vampire go in for the kill. My shipmates will catch him in a force field while he is overcome with bloodlust. I didn't know this plan was quite this shitty when I volunteered but no backing out now I guess.  I get into bay... wait... and... holy shit it worked. We captured the vampire. Now the only problem is getting him to sunlight. I am ordered to watch over him and shoot him with a stun gun if he starts to escape. I gotta be the bait AND his watcher. Graduating first in your class sucks. While watching over him I yearn to talk to him. I could learn so much about vampires. Should I strike up a conversation?

Hell no. This tricky vampire scum is gonna die and I won't be fooled into feeling pity. I stand watch until arrive near enough the sun to do him in. His spirit is broken, and in the full sunlight he shrivels to nothing. The book suggests I feel a little sad about what I've done as if I've "killed a magnificent tiger." Once again I say hell no. This vampire scum is dead and won't be preying on earthlings anymore. This book may try to steal victory away from me, but I won't accept it. Mission fucking accomplished, vampire fucking dead.

Attempt 3

Well even though I succeeded in killing the vampire I did say I would attempt this 3 times and there are at least 22 more endings so lets get at it. This time instead of accepting the mission to kill the space vampire I'm going to go on the mission to evaluate Barnard's Star for colonization. Weeks away on a scout ship, the mission turns out pretty boring. I could take my job seriously and pay close attention...or I could go for a nap...

A little nap never hurt anyone says I. Maybe I as wrong though. I slept 3 hours and no one came to relieve me of my shift. Turns out no one did so because they'd all been killed by a vampire. Oops! Sorry bros, my bad. The vampire confronts me and demands I set course for the space vampire home world. He wants to tell his fellow vampires how delicious human blood is. I have to play along, but where should I send the ship? I could start heading to Akbar, the vampire home world, or start flying to the Sun.



Well the sun kills vampires so sunward ho I go. Vampy notices pretty quickly that we're heading to the sun and he is not a real fan of that idea. I accelerate to throw him off balance. By the time he attacks you again we are in range of the sun. He disintegrates and I manage to get ship off course of the sun and heading towards earth in the nick of time. They'll be so glad I killed a space vampire that they probably won't even mind that all my crewmates are dead.....

What I Thought

Outer space is perhaps not what one first thinks of when they think of the horror genre, but it's a natural fit. Sci-fi is all about the unknown, and what is scarier than that? There are countless movies about all sorts of crazy aliens attacking. One of the best known movies Alien itself is fundamentally a horror movie with an alien villain, so this premise is not a huge stretch.

One of the problems however, is that space is about the UNKNOWN and part of the appeal of aliens are so foreign. These aliens however, are just straight up regular vampires. Every little kid knows what a stereotypical vampire looks like. Heck, they have a vampire on sesame street! Using an established trope like a standard vampire for a space story while silly and fun, also kind of robs you have having a unique and interesting alien type. That is half the fun of aliens.

The setting of space can be interesting and isolating. I also feel like kids this age often go through "space" phases, where they learn all about the solar system, so it works from that angle, but they are kind of dumb about space. For example talking about day vs night for vampires, where that doesn't really apply in space without rotation and orbit. It's probably a lot to ask for a smart take on sunlight in space versus vampires in a cheap kids book, but it would have been nice.

Ultimately this book sort of just is what it is... the 71st entry in a cheap pulp series for kids. It's silly, it's fun, it's a bit stupid. No doubt dedicated kids who got this far into the series would enjoy it. Kids who love vampires and/or space would probably enjoy it too. Unless you are super dedicated to Choose Your Adventures I would probably pass on this. If you wanted to check it out though it's quick to thumb through a few attempts. I guess all in it doesn't convince me to switch from Give Yourself Goosebumps as a series.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Space Vampires



What's Next

I've been very inactive on this blog until recently, and I'd really wish I could promise I'll be way more active in the future but I'm not sure that is a promise I can keep. Still, I would very much like to not take another year to update like happened previously. There is a small chance I will get one more update here before 2022. If not, then hopefully soon after New Years I can get an update in. We shall see. Likely it'll be a mainline original Goosebumps book. Hope to see you then, thanks for reading.







August 13, 2021

Goosebumps: Night of the Living Dummy III

Back from the Dead 

They say on a Friday the 13th spooky things can happen. They say, even the dead can rise from the dead... Like... dead blogs... Like this one!

It's been a year and a half since I've written a review on this site. I'm extremely sorry. The bulk of this blog was written while I was unemployed suffering from extreme anxiety so I had a lot of free time and needed an outlet. For the past 2 years I've been gainfully employed in a bakery which has been good for my life overall but bad for free time to update this blog. 

I'm going to try to rectify that. Even if I don't update as often as I used to, I should still be able to manage one every so often. The goal I have is to do at least 2 more updates before the end of the year. I have one entry I was planning to release earlier this year and just flat out flaked on. I also want to release one for Halloween, another spooky spooky day. Hopefully I can motivate myself!

During the drought of updates this page still managed to get a lot of hits. I still got a comment or two now again. I really appreciate that people were still visiting here even if I neglected it. I'll try to do better in the future.

Judging a Book by its Cover

 



Anyway, without further ado, time to talk about the book I'll be reading. What better book to return from the dead with than Night of the Living Dummy III. Yes, one RL Stine's most sequelled books. The star of these books, Slappy the Dummy, even has his own featured series called Goosebumps SlappyWorld that is still being published right now as we speak. 

The cover art immediately might help you realize why this particular series of Goosebumps is so popular. Ventriloquist dummies are creepy. This illustration answers the question, "what is creepier than one ventriloquist dummy?"..."a bunch of ventriloquist dummies!" They are just hanging out in a dank old attic. Who knows what they are planning? Nothing good!

It's worth noting that this whole dummy gathering is a real wooden sausage party. Only one of the puppet looks female. We demand haunted puppet equality now! If we don't get representation in demented dolls, where are we gonna get it? Oh well. It was the 90s, what are you gonna do.

So I'm assuming this book is indeed going to feature many dummies. Are they Slappy's relatives? Are they just other discarded puppets? Is Slappy bringing them to life or are they just coming to life on their own? So many questions to answer and there is only one way to find out. Let's read!

Getting Goosebumps

Trina lives in a creaky old house with mom, dad, and brother Dan. She'll call her brother Mouse sometimes because he's a tiny little dude. Trina on the other hand, is a bit chubby. Boy can I relate. They don't even really look like siblings. Has mom been fooling around? I'm guessing this book wont' tell us.

 

So the creepiest part of this creaky old house is the attic. Why? All the god damn eyes. What eyes? The ventriloquist dummy eyes. Before dad became a camera salesman he performed puppetry with his dummy Wilbur. Wilbur isn't the only dummy up there though. There are plenty. So many that dad calls it the dummy museum. I thought that's what you called Congress, heyo! Point is, these dummies don't get used much these days. Mostly just the occasional birthday party, or when Dan is trying to scare his sister. Speaking of trying to scare his sister, one of the dummies starts threatening Trina, but Dan is on the other side of the room. Who could it be? A living dummy! Wait, no, it's still chapter one. It's dad this time pranking his daughter. Nothing is better for childhood development than a little trauma.

Scaring his daughter wasn't the only goal though. Dad has a new dummy to show off. He found it in the garbage with its head split in two... You know... Slappy's head was broken in two at the end of Night of the Living Dummy 2. Weird coincidence eh? Well all it took was a little glue and this totally unrelated dummy is good as new. This couldn't be Slappy though, because they've named this dummy Smiley. What a nice friendly name! Smiley even has a little slip of paper in his suit pocket... full of cryptic sounding nonsense language words. Just like Slappy... And once they read it out load (why do they always read it out loud!??!) the Smiley even SLAPS Trina. You know I am beginning to think maybe this dummy IS Slappy.

Dad brushes aside the accusations of dummy assault with the news that the kids cousin Zane is coming to visit. The cousin they just love to scare. I think we can all see where this is going. Problem is, dad made the kids promise they wouldn't scare him. Darn.

So what happens? Zane is IMMEDIATELY startled by one of the dummies falling on him when he opened the bed room door. The kids play innocent, but who else could have rigged the dummy to do that?


When the kids go to put the dummy back in the attic Zane joins them. Their cousin is a newfound shutterbug and takes his camera everywhere. He uses the opportunity to get some dummy photos. It's all going great... until one of the dummies SLAPS him. This time it was a different culprit than the Trina slapper. Arnie, one of dad's older puppets did the deed. Trina blames Dan for both slaps, but her brother plays innocent yet again.

That night Cousin Zane startles Trina in her sleep by accident trying to get her to wake up. Though he is a big guy, he frightens easily and in this spooky house alone at night he thought he heard voices from the attic. He and his cousin go to the kitchen to have a bowl of cereal and calm down but a misplaced dummy scares them even more. Once again the blame is placed on Dan. They go to confront him upstairs but he is sound asleep. When they go to leave the room the dummy from the kitchen has followed them upstairs. Dan in his bed couldn't have pulled this one off! No, it was dad! Only he didn't scare them on purpose. He heard a ruckus in the kitchen and went to check on it only to find one of his dummies misplaced, so he was going to put it back. His is quite displeased as what he assumes is his kids nonsense. He told them not to scare Zane and yet all that's happened so far has been Zane getting scared. Dad makes them promise to knock it off or there will be hell to pay (ok maybe he didn't phrase it like that.)

So, now that dad has laid down the law surely there will be no more dummy shenanigans right? Wrong. Trina wakes up and immediately sees Rocky the dummy back in the kitchen. She doesn't know who did it but she wisely hauls him up to the attic immediately.

The rest of the day is spent playing nice with Zane. The amateur photographer wants to take pictures of.... their moldings. Ah yes, moldings, a fascination all young men have. He fills up his roll of film, reminding this that it is in fact the 1990s and film still exists, and goes down to the dark room with his cousins. Once he develops the photos he is very displeased. It seems all the photos, are photos of Rocky the dummy!

 

Trina decides to go upstairs and question the dummies. I am not sure why. She doesn't seem to really expect answers. She gets a response anyway. Smiley the new dummy starts insulting her in a hoarse whisper. She almost believes its the dummy until she notices Dan behind the couch. Dan blames Trina for the moving dummies. Trina blames Dan. Then Dan came up with the wildest accusation of all time. Zane has been doing it to himself. To get even with them for being assholes to their cousin. He does have a point though. Zane is the only one who could have taken those photos of Rocky the dummy.... right?

That night the siblings stake out the attic to catch Zane in the act. The hide for quite awhile before someone starts walking across the room, picking up a dummy. Who could be it? Zane!... Wait what, you  mean it was ACTUALLY Zane this whole time and none of the dummies are alive? Yes, he'd been doing it to get back at his cousins just as they theorized. They all declare that their scores have been settled and they are calling a ventriloquist truce.

Thanks to the truce they were all finally able to enjoy the visit. They spent the day out enjoying nature, riding bikes, taking photos. Everything was wonderful. Then they got home and Zane room was totally trashed, complete with a dummy as the centerpiece. Mom was quite upset but how could any of the kids have done this? They were outside with each other the whole day!

Sleeping that night Trina had nightmares about dummy. She awoke to the greatest nightmare of all, an actual dummy laying on top of her! Naturally she screamed and woke up her father who was extremely pissed about everything. All this dummy nonsense has to stop!

Later that night Dan startled Trina awake to launch accusations against Zane. In his opinion their cousin hasn't been honoring the truce. They have a point, who else could be doing it?

During dinner later that day that had a big feast with the neighbors in honor of the cousins visit. When Zane goes to get his camera there is a huge commotion. Someone has smashed his very expensive equipment. This just proves it couldn't be Zane causing the mischief. He would never break his own camera, he loves photography too much. Suddenly there is more commotion. Someone has overturned dishes for the delicious food planned for the dinner. Who could have done it? Well some dummies are present... Things are quickly getting out of control. 

Zane, however, is still the kids only suspect. Once again they wait in the attic to confront him when he goes to move the dummies around. They only had to wait a half an hour for him to show up with a dummy slung over his shoulder... only this time it wasn't zane... IT WAS SMILEY THE DUMMY!

They confront the doll, by name even, but he assures them his name isn't Smiley... It's Slappy! They tussle with the dummy, but he assures them that they are now his slaves. Slappy has never heard of the emancipation proclamation. They make a huge racket and Dad arrives. He is PISSED. Since he arrived to late to see any evidence of dummy life, he calls bullshit on his kids excuses and grounds them immediately. 

A tired and disgusted Dad leaves them to clean up their mess, and Slappy immediately lets the kids know about his plan to blackmail them into servitude. Parents, it seems, would never believe a dummy could come to life. In a last ditch effort Trina tries to pull Slappy's glued head apart, to no avail.

 

Then she comes up with one more last, last ditch effort. They toss him down the well in their yard. Despite being evil, Slappy is often easily overpowered by kids since he is, ya know, a tiny ventriloquist dummy.

They think their problems are all solved but that morning Slappy greets them at the breakfast table. They go to put him away and Slappy assures his slaves he's never going to give up. He will probably however let them down, and may even run around and will most definitely hurt them.

Trina comes up with a plan. She remembers those creepy words from the paper in Slappy's pocket and theorizes reading them brought him to life. Maybe reading them again would undo the damage? They go to get the paper from Slappy's pocket, but he isn't going to make it easy for them. Trina scuffles with the dummy, in a losing battle but Dan manages to grab the paper from his pocket and read the words.

Then there arises a problem. You see, Slappy doesn't suddenly lose his livelihood. no, instead all the rest of Dad's dummies are brought to life. They march forward to attack.... Slappy! Yes, the dummy crew circles round their evil brethren to do battle. Zane appears, and all the dummies are on the floor. Did the other puppets defeat Slappy? It seems so.

Now is the time for Zane to leave. They ask him about his broken camera but it turns out he isn't interested in photography anymore. No, now he is interested in... ventriloquism! Dad offers him a dummy and the kids know just the one to give him, Slappy. Trina is sure Slappy and Zane will have a grand old time together. As their cousin departs, Slappy turns to give Trina a goodbye wink.


 

THE END!

What I Thought

Once again one of the hardest parts of trying to review a Goosebumps book as an adult is to try and put yourself into the mind of a child. To try and remember there is a mindset that goes in to this book that believes anything is possible. Not the cynical mind of an adult who has read dozens of these.

So how do you write 3rd book about a living dummy and not immediately give away who is the culprit? If you remember Night of the Living Dummy the original, things were actually more about another puppet named Mr. Wood, with Slappy only being revealed to also be alive with the very last stinger. Night of the Living Dummy II was actually Slappy's main go around. So for number 3, what do you do? Do you get a new puppet? But Slappy is a pretty big feature at Goosebumps, even back in the day when this is published. You gotta have Slappy! So how do you make kids not immediately know that Slappy is the bad guy? Well Stine did his best. Step 1, add LOTS of Dummies. Any of them could be evil. Also, you remove Slappy's identity. Sure kids who have read the last book should probably be able to put the clues together, but by giving him the new name of Smiley you distance Slappy from some kids mind. Lastly, you have a triad of blame to shift. All the kids are blaming each other for every. Young readers that may not realize there HAS to be a supernatural element may indeed be quick to blame Dan, or Trina, or Zane. These things I believe ultimately I think are what make this book work for the age bracket its intended.

To that note, I'd just like to say that Zane as a character added a lot. Many Goosebumps books are merely siblings goading each other. Zane is an outsider who is familiar to both of them. It makes allegiances hard to sus out. The siblings don't want to trust each other, but also they both can't trust Zane. Zane's innocent act works extremely well. Even I wasn't totally suspecting that he would in fact be part of the shenanigans. The fact that he was guilty but also there was also in fact the mischievous Slappy involved "pulling the strings."

This didn't need some of the tricks of other books I like to feel interesting like an exotic locale or an absolutely bonkers new villain. All it takes is some misdirection and some interpersonal relationships. Sure, I wouldn't say there were any "new" tricks to this book, but ultimately I think RL Stine took the usual tricks he uses and just did them as well as he can.

Maybe it's because it's been over a year since I have read a Goosebumps book, but this book which is #40 overall, and #3 in the Dummy series could have easily felt extremely tired and stale, but I actually really enjoyed it. 

Rating: 4 creepy dummies I may or may not have already used in past reviews out of 5



Up Next
 
So in my intro I mentioned I'd like to do 2 more updates for 2021, at least. One of those I'm aiming for will be on Halloween. The other one, I have no idea, maybe December before the end of the year. I have a halfway written review written that I was intending to do earlier this year, that just never got finished. I will likely finish it for one of those 2 updates. Which one? I don't know. We'll see. I will say that review is not a Goosebumps book, but a book from a somewhat comparable series. The other review will be a Goosebumps book for sure. Likely from the original series. I am getting to the point where I just want to be finished with all the original books I own and fill in the gaps of what are in my possession. We'll see.

Once again I would like to thank everyone who still checked in on this blog. Thanks for everyone who leaves a comment. It lets me know you are reading. Thanks for humoring a fully grown adult who still reads kids books. I'm really going to try to get these updates done this year, but try not to get mad at me if I don't.



July 17, 2020

Sorry

I started this year off so well, and had a new entry half typed up by April... then the world fell apart and everything was terrible and well, it's been setting there unfinished for months now. I'm sorry, I really meant to be publishing here more, but it just hasn't happened. I do hope I can get something new up here soon, whether I finish that entry meant to be post in April, or just start a new one from scratch, we'll see. I hope you all are doing well and staying safe. Keep it spooky.

March 1, 2020

Goosebumps #39 - How I Got My Shrunken Head

Judging a Book by its Cover




Alright so I said I'd have a new review out by February... and it's March.... but not very late into March so I think I'm doing good!

We are back on track with the next entry in the original Goosebumps series. It's #39 How I Got My Shrunken Head. As expected the head in question looks pretty creepy. I think generally in a shrunken head the eyes are sewn shut... since eyes tend to rot away. I'm guessing this one is super natural though? Also its skin is green. Skin usually doesn't turn green. Maybe it's a goblin head. Looks like one to me...

There are some nice details in the illustration. There is a pair of chucks that often grace Goosebumps covers. There is also a "University" pennant. Most people cheer for a specific university but this kid just loves secondary education in general. I also want to know who has purple and blue tiles in their room. Weird color scheme dude.

The tagline give us so head related word play. "Heads up!" says the front illustration. I wonder if the fact that this tagline is next to a baseball glove and ball is coincidental or planned. My guess is a happy accident. Thinking they thought that out seems like giving them too much credit. The back HILARIOUSLY states that "two heads are better than one." I might have to disagree in this case. No preserved human remains for me thanks.

Anyway, it's been awhile. lets see if I remember how to write a a synopsis and review.

Getting Goosebumps

Mark really likes the video game Jungle King. You swing from vines, collect shrunken heads, and avoid quicksand. What an adventure. Incidentally there was a real video game named Jungle King, where you do in fact swing from vines but very little else matches up with R.L. Stine's description. Incidentally that game had to rename itself Jungle Hunt after it got sued by the people who owned the rights to Tarzan. No joke. Anyway, what was I saying again? Oh yeah, kid likes jungle adventure video games. Kid even made up his own jungle cry, "kah-lee-ah!" Kids are weird. So Weird.

So by total coincidence after collecting shrunken heads in the game, one shows up at his doorstep. Not by itself though, it was carried by a woman named Carolyn who apparently knows his Aunt Benna. Aunt Benna it seems is off on a jungle island studying. The shrunken head is a gift, because what kid doesn't like playing with parts of corpses?

Well that shrunken head does some weird stuff. And some of it is his sister playing pranks, but some of it is harder to explain... like at night it started glowing... and grinning! Still it could be his sister pranking, little sisters are so jealous of gross human heads. She even scratched the darn thing in a spat!

So it turns out that Carolyn was sent by Aunt Benna to bring her nephew Mark to visit her in the jungle. Well the word of a stranger with absolutely no warning from the Aunt is good enough for mom, so Mark packs his bags and is off to dangerous parts unknown with a woman they've never met carrying a disembodied human head through the airport. Sounds like everything here is in order. Next stop, the jungles of Baladora.

Once there instead of meeting his Aunt whom he has not seen since he was quite young, he instead gets introduced to a Dr. Hawlings and his daughter Kareen. Benna, it seems, is missing. That is the reason Mark had to come. They didn't contact police, military, rescue crews, the government, trackers, no.... they contacted a 12 year old boy. How can Mark be of any use what so ever? Well it's simple, Mark has the JUNGLE MAGIC. Yup, that's gonna be the plot of this book I guess. Jungle magic. The Oloyan people of the island had the magic. They were headshrinkers, hence the head in Marks possession. Mark too possess the magic only he is... skeptical. I can't imagine why!

Mark uses some of that good common sense Goosebumps protagonists have and decides to explore the jungle a little bit at night. He comes across a seriously creepy pile of heads. Not cool. He retreats pretty quickly and searches headquarters for a flashlight. Instead he finds Aunt Benna's notes. Turns out ol' Benna is hiding on purpose because Dr. Hawlings and co. are EVIL. They want the jungle magic for their own evil purposes. But come on now, what is the jungle magic of a race of ancient headshrinkers for if not for evil? Anyway to keep things safe she gave Mark the magic years ago, and kept he safe 4000 miles away from the island. Sure would be a shame if he showed up at the island for some reason... oh damn!

Kareen interrupts things. She believes in Marks jungle magic and despite being Dr. Hawlings spawn convinces Mark she truly cares about his aunt. She helps him escape to the jungle, alone... which is a great place for a 12 year old city boy to be. No joke, the dude passes out and gets covered by huge angry ants. Way to go Mark, your aunt is going to die because you are inept.

In desperation he shouts "Kah-lee-ah!" that stupid jungle cry he used in the video game. Turns out that is a plot point too. His jungle cry. It saves his ass somehow. Next his dumb ass falls into quicksand. He never saw the Mythbusters where they proved you don't drown in quicksand so he panics. His little shout won't help him because he dropped the shrunken head, which is part of the jungle magic. Then he thumps the head his way and grabs on to it. His shout works and summons vines to the rescue. But where is his aunt? Well lucky for him that his shrunken head works as a Benna seeking compass.

Next our dude gets attacked by an angry momma tiger. Never fear though because a literal hole rips in the earth to protect him. Course now he is stuck in a hole. Out of the frying pan into the fire. He can't figure out a way to get out of this one. What do you do when jungle magic fails you? Count on Kareen.

The duo walks in a Benna-ward direction while Kareen tries to convince Mark her dad isn't so evil. Then they find Benna and then Kareen tries to convince the old woman of her dad's not evilness too. Then Kareen pulls a total heel turn and reveals that she is totally evil herself, and had been helping her dad find Aunt Benna. Kareen tries to justify it by saying kids gotta help their parents even if they are evil.

Aunt and Nephew get put in a shack til they reveal their jungle magic. Luckily the shrunken head didn't get confiscated. They have one last shot to use the jungle magic to save their asses. I am getting really tired of typing the words "jungle magic" by the way.

They get one last chance to spill the secret or they are gonna get their heads shrunken, shrinked? shrank? shrunk? Their heads are gonna get smaller. The plan to save their asses goes awry when the head gets swatted away into a pile of heads. How can he tell which one is the right one? Oh right, his dumb sister scratched up his, that's how! Hey lookit those details coming back into play.

With the right had and a fierce "kah-lee-ah" the head shrinkers become the shrinkees, except not just their heads shrink but their whole bodies. Odd. Anyway as tiny Stuart Little sized people they are powerless and Benna is free to return to civilization with her nephew. She does the responsible thing and takes back the jungle magic she gave him years ago, but he can keep the shrunken head.... hey did that thing start talking?

My Thoughts

Fundamentally this is the kind of Goosebumps book I should like. There tend to be "location" books, where kids go on an adventure far from the normalcy of home. The Mummy books were a good example of this, exploring ancient pyramids and tombs. Likewise, this explores a jungle. of course it's not a very realistic jungle. It is a jungle right out of old timey adventure movies I bet RL Stine grew up watching. If Tarzan swung by on a rope it wouldn't be out of place.

If this is the kind of Goosebumps book I should like, then why didn't it? I think "jungle magic" had a big part to do with it. Stine loves to put really dumb plot points like this in. I mean, there is probably a really cool way to reveal a magic of the island. Shouting "kah-lee-ah" and calling it "jungle magic" is not really that way. More than just a magical device, it kind of serves as a means to just magically solve any problem by shouting some words. It's a nifty little Swiss army tool for making sure the protagonist can get out of anything.

Sometimes Stine just really drops the ball on things too. It's a book called how I got my shrunken head. It's all about shrunken heads. So when Mark defeats the enemy what does he do? He shrinks their heads them entirely. Whhhhhy? It doesn't make any sense.

Plus he doesn't really flesh things out. For example, why does Dr. Hawlings want the jungle magic? Like, ok... yes he wants to strip mine the area.... why does he need jungle magic for that? Trust me, standard industry has been doing a great job of ripping apart the jungle for raw materials without any need for magic. All you need is bulldozers and chainsaws. Easy peasy.

So lets go over what is scary/creepy. Shrunken heads are creepy. Thing is, I don't know if they go far enough to really convey how creepy that are. Real ones are ACTUAL HUMAN FLESH. Like a real person got murdered and their skin got preserved. It's creepy as fuck! And it's a real actual thing too. Of course probably 80% of so called shrunken heads in collections are thought to be fakes. To be honest if I had a shrunken head I'd be revealed to found out it is a fake.

The other scares are largely "real" scares. Jungle mayhem. Vicious tigers, swarming aunts, fictional deadly quicksand. To me these are largely the more interesting scares of the story. A shrunken head is just gross, a tiger will maul you to death. It could have used a snake squeezing the life of him though. That would be my suggestion.

I think perhaps one of the big reasons I didn't enjoy this is the same reason I didn't enjoy many of these books on the reread. I'm thinking with my adult brain not my child brain. Still, adult brain me wonders if even child brain would think shouting "kah-lee-ah" is pretty dumb.

At the end of the day I guess this book just isn't that memorable to stand out in the field of the near 40 other original series Goosebumps books that were out at this time. If you like the jungle setting it my sit well with you, but otherwise it doesn't have much else to offer.

Rating: 2 out of 5 shrunken heads



Up Next

Ideally I'll have my next review up April 1st. It won't be a Goosebumps book, or even by R.L. Stine, but it's from a series I've wanted to review for awhile now. Excuse me for these little deviations! I think it'll be a fun one though. Until then, thanks for reading.

January 25, 2020

Sending out Goosebumps Postcards!


This Christmas one of my generous friends that knows I love Goosebumps and know I like sending my friends postcards sent me the Goosebumps Postcard Book. Thing is, because I love Goosebumps and I love postcards I've already had this AND the second postcard book and sent my friends all of those 60 postcards. So now I have 30 more, and though I might send a couple to my friends I thought maybe my readers might want one. So if you don't mind sending your address to some random weirdo on the internet, I'll send you a handwritten postcard. If you're not comfortable sending your address to some random weirdo... I understand! But hey, maybe people out there have PO boxes or something. Anyway, sign up for a postcard at the following link. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScEbVsRU7g5EpQUEDD3f8lzn78YVF7W4ceHmdYKmshi8gchHA/viewform?usp=sf_link

If you're wondering where the next book review is, wait til February. Sometime in February I fully intend to have the next review of an original series book up. I am hoping to have a little more output in this blog this year. We'll see how that goes.

November 16, 2019

Red Rain



So on this blog I put the title "Reliving the Terror of Youth." That has been the focus, the Goosebumps books I grew up with. Occasionally some other scary book for kids I grew up with gets reviewed, like that one time I did Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I have even strayed out into more modern Goosebumps books released recently after I was well into adulthood. So here is a real first for me, I am going to talk about a horror book... FOR ADULTS.

The novel Red Rain was released by Goosebumps author R.L. Stine in 2012. At this point in his career Stine had released literally hundreds of children's novels. Adult novels, however, he had only released perhaps a couple. Still, as he had perhaps reached the apex of his popularity in the 90s, it was maybe quite tempting to write a novel for those kids who loved him back then but had now grown up. Thus comes Red Rain.

Now I am not gonna give a full on treatment I give the kids books. It's a newer book, it's for adults, maybe you guys want to read it without me spoiling all of it. I do however feel like I have a want, nay, a NEED to talk about it.

I will outline the basic premise without hopefully giving too much away. Lea Sutter travels to an island to write about for her travel blog, leaving her kids and husband back home on the mainland. There she experiences a horrible hurricane, devastating the island. Emerging from the wreckage appear to twin boys. Orphaned. They have lost everything, and Lea feels an instant connection. She has an overwhelming urge to adopt the boys. Once home, strange things start to happen. Are these boys as angelic as they seem? (Spoiler alert, no.)

So how does this book shape up? Not well. Even though I love Goosebumps books I think in my reviews I have been the first to admit they are not "traditionally good" books. R.L Stine is not an excellent writer. He gets away with this by writing to children, with fun quirky monsters and villains. His writing style doesn't improve that vastly when writing for grown ups. Sure he can provide a few more details, but his characters are still pretty flat. In fact, I don't think I gave a crap about a single one. He also writes side plots for characters like cops that don't amount to anything. He tells us things we don't need to know and frankly don't contribute.

There is one thing that really weirds me out too. So he still writes in R.L Stine mannerisms. Like clearly is aimed for older people but it still feels very much like you are reading R.L. Stine... then a guy bangs his secretary over his desk and you are like waaaaait a minute. It feels so out of place. It's almost like he uses sex scenes and gore because that is what "grown up novels are supposed to do." It is no substitute for good writing.

But is it scary? No. The antagonists of the story are honestly no more frightening than Slappy the Dummy. They would scare an 8 year old, but not an adult. In fact, the only way in which they are "more" scary is that they are successful in murder, and there is some gore. But there essence is not scary. They spout childish mantras that could have been torn right from the pages of Goosebumps. Think when the Phantom of the Auditorium goes on chanting, "stay away from my home sweet home." They say stuff about that level of "scary" except this is meant FOR ADULTS! You can dress them up a little blood and guts but the reader will still come away from it thinking it seems childish.

Bottom line is, this book may be aimed at adults but if you cut out the gore and sex, and shaved off 300 unnecessary pages this could be a Goosebumps book... just not a very good one. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone expecting an advanced scare, nor would I even recommend it to adult readers of Goosebumps like myself. An adult can still get a laugh out of Goosebumps, and read it in a half an hour. This book will take you longer and you'll enjoy it less. I'd only suggest it to someone curious, but would advise you to have low expectations.  My real advice is to go reread the Night of the Living Dummy trilogy. It'll take you less time and you'll have more fun.

October 27, 2019

Goosebumps #38: The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena

Judging a Book by its Cover


My, my, my it has been a long time hasn't it? Sorry for, you know, completely abandoning this blog for almost a year. I'm back though, so let's get to it.

The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. Clearly snowmen are not supposed to be in California. You know the only reason I knew about Pasadena existing before this book was the Jan and Dean song Little Old Lady From Pasadena. I guess these are their 2 claims to fame?

So the Snowman is clearly out of his element amongst the palm trees and one wonders where the snow he is covered with is from. You know I always thought Abominable Snowmen were white furred and that is what distinguishes them from their Bigfoot/Sasquatch brethren. Maybe I'm wrong though. This brute is very top heavy. It looks like he skips leg day at the gym but his upper body strength is a site to behold. Just look at that street light! Also he is knocking over a mailbox which I am pretty sure is a federal crime. Not cool buddy, not cool.

You know what is cool though? Finally writing a review for a dang Goosebumps book again. Let's get on with it.

Getting Goosebumps

This time around our protagonists are the brother sister team of Jordan and Nicole Blake. Their dad is a photographer who just got back from the Grand Tetons where there was SNOW. Jordan and Nicole are mad jealous because, having never seen snow before, they don't know that it's actually terrible. Dad is developing his photos of the grizzlies. You see developing photos is what old people used to have to do before digital cameras were invented. You had to actually WAIT to see what the picture you took looked like. Crazy, I know. And for some reason all his photos of the grizzlies look like... teddy bears? That rascally Jordan pranked him. There has always gotta be a prankster in this books, always.

Speaking of pranking, in the next chapter the neighborhood bullies unscrewed the Blakes' bike handlebars and put them on backwards. That and a thorough Super Soaking (tm) really got the better of the duo. The grand finale was a rock smashing that turned out to be a movie prop. Surely these villains will never get their comeuppance later on!

Anyway dad gets great news that he gets to go shoot some photos in Alaska for a magazine. The normal babysitter is occupied so the kids get to tag along on a professional photo shoot in the wilderness. What could go wrong? The publication wants shots of a supposed Abominable Snowman but dad is skeptical and is fine just getting shots of the tundra. Booooring.

Cut to the flight in to Alaska. It is a mighty small town they land in and they meet their guide Arthur. He is a true believer of the Snowman and tells tales of people gone missing. He is not real fond of the idea of kids being brought along. Can't say I blame him.

As if to immediately confirm Arthur's feelings about the kids, 2 miles in to their 10 mile trek the siblings are horsing around and one of them falls into a crevice. Damn kids. They stop for the night after arriving late at an old musher's cabin. Not too late for Jordan to plant some fake Snowman tracks though. Dad and Arthur fall for it hard. The old guide flips out. I guess it's a reasonable response if you think something that's been eating all your friends is nearby. Count this as a prank that didn't land very well.

Next morning the sled dogs are scared of something. This makes Arthur doubly scared. Mr. Blake concedes and they head back to the cabin. Later on the dogs get spooked again. That night the kids sneak out of the cabin because they can't sleep and they spot Arthur abandoning them to be eaten by the yeti. Dick movie Arthur. Dick move.

The kids chase him because they are idiots and of course they get lost. They fall into another crevice, scream for help, cause an avalanche, stumble into a strange room, and then find the Abominable freakin' Snowman. He is big, he is scary, and he is... frozen in ice? That seems to be the case, even though fresh footprints lead right to the ice cube. Odd


Can ice stop a snow beast though? No it cannot. The ice cracks and he chases the kids, savagely attacking them, tearing them limb from limb and devouring the corpses... oh wait no, he opens their backpack and steals their trail mix. This is the fearsome monster that made Arthur almost piss his pants?

Once the snacks are gone the monster carries the children outside only to be scared away by dogs. The dropped kids return to the cabin and tell their father about the beast. He has the reaction any good father would have, demanding the small vulnerable children lead him to the huge unstoppable monster. They do it because they are kisd and they are idiots.When they get their the Snowman is back in his ice cube. Father of the year ignores his frightened children's please to leave the beast alone, and instead he decides to take the Abominable Snowmansicle back home to Pasadena. Jordan sneaks some snowballs in the trunk they lock the monster in. Wait a second, how fucking big was the trunk Mr. Blake took anyway? It can fit a whole damn yeti inside? Jesus! Anyway, no life or death situation is so serious you can't pack away some snowballs to throw at your childhood bully.

Back home in Pasadena the kids who couldn't wait to see snow are relieved to be back in the sunshine. Dad has to leave for business and warns the kids to leave the yeti trunk alone. Sound advice. Their friend starts hassling them about the trip and the Blakes quickly spill the beans about the Snowman. Their friend is reasonable skeptical and needs some hard evidence. Immediately they do the one thing their dad told them not to do. But hey, when you got a frozen yeti you gotta show it off.

Of course the yeti isn't the only thing in there. They sneak the snowballs out and throw them at their awestruck friend, missing instead hitting a tree. That detail is notable because the snow on the tree starts to spread instead of melt. In 100 degree weather the snow covers the tree and spreads  to the ground. The friend is thrilled to see the snow in Pasadena, because (and I've said this about many characters before) SHE'S AN IDIOT. The Blakes are rightfully concerned. The friend becomes more concerned when she lobs a magic snowball at Nicole and the girl freezes solid.

Trying to thaw her out in front of the oven didn't work. A reasonable solution though. The furnace is a no go too. Then a.... uhh... genius solution comes to Jordan's mind. He'll bribe the yeti with trail mix to warm her up. I fail to see how this could go wrong, so lets do this thing. After taking a bit of time to thaw out, the yeti indeed delights at trail mix. At first he seems to maul the frozen sister but he does indeed thaw her out. Wait... that plan fucking WORKED? You gotta be kidding me! The Snowman even goes outside and rolls around in the new magic snow to get it to dissipate. Then the beast takes his leave. They assume he will travel to the chilly mountain tops, but really it's out of their hands.

There is really one thing left to do. There are 2 of those magic snowballs left, and no yeti to dispose of them. They do the only logical thing and bury them in an empty lot.

Dad is understandable bummed that the Abominable Snowman escaped but takes solace in the fact that his kids weren't terribly mauled. At least he has always got the photos he took. I wonder how those turned out? Well all the pics of tundra and elk turned out fine... but every one he took of the Snowman just shows snow and nothing more. Guess he won't be making his millions.

And that is the end of that.

Oh wait, one of the bullies dug up the magic snowball and threw it at the other bully.

THE END.



My Thoughts

Ok surely I could nitpick this book to death. It is formulaic in the way all Goosebumps are. There are silly solutions to monstrous problems. The trail mix being the key to salvation was ridiculous. There are at times desperate leaps of logic. These are things that seem to commonly plague the series.

There is one major thing I thought could be changed about this book though. The book is called The Abominable Snowman of PASADENA and it is only in Pasadena for like 2 chapters. It is somewhat interesting seeing the kids out of their element in Alaska, and certainly the isolation and wildness of the area makes it quite a great setting for a horror book... but that diminishes the interesting aspect of the "fish out of water" Yeti being in California. To me this book fails to deliver on the premise of its title.

I would like to pitch an altered plot to this book. The kids are at home sweltering away in sunny Pasadena with a broken AC while their dad is out having a wild adventure in Alaska. They receive a cryptic postcard in the mail about some mind blowing discovery. Their father returns soon but is acting strange. It turns out he is the sole discoverer of the world's first yeti, frozen in ice. He spends all his time in his dark room studying it, to the neglect of his children. Oddly, the usually balmy California weather in July starts to plummet. Can you believe that after only a week the temperature is below freezing at night? What ever happened to global warming? One morning the kids discover snow covering the ground outside as far as the eyes can see. And... are those giant footprints in the backyard? It turns out the yeti is on the loose. Their father sheepishly admits he was overcome with the strangest desire and knowledge to free the beast. You see, it is more than just a savage animal that time forgot, it is an arcane beast who brings the tundra with him wherever he dwells, with a thirst to finally be free upon the world again. Only the Blake family know the truth about the frigid weather in the city, and only Mr. Blake with his kids by his side can undo the horror he has unleashed upon Pasadena.

Why is RL Stine a millionaire and I'm just writing shitty blog posts? Life ain't fair! Still though, the book isn't like, absolutely terrible. It's basically on par with your average Goosebumps book. It doesn't hurt to believe it could have been so much more though.

Rating: 2 Yetis out of 5



Up Next

I really intend to write another blog post before the end of the year. At the very least, however, I promise to right another one before next October.


My lovely friends sent me some birthday gifts this summer. One is this awesome Haunted Mask blanket pictured above. Another is the RL Stine book Red Rain. It is a horror book he wrote for adults rather than children. I don't expect to do a full big post about it with a lengthy synopsis and everything, but I do expect to at least drop some brief thoughts and perhaps let you know if it's worth picking up.

Beyond that, I still have a giant pile of Goosebumps to read. I'll try and get to them as soon as I can. thanks for reading and happy Halloween!