October 12, 2011

#5 Curse of the Mummy's Tomb

Judging a book by its cover:

It's a mummy.

... Did you want me to say more? I don't have much to go on, it's kind of a boring cover. I mean, the mummy picture is competent enough but it's not very fun or imaginative. The tagline on front is, "What will wake the dead?" Not this illustration, that's for sure. Maybe the back has a better tagline...

Something dead has been here...? Well of course something dead has been here, it's a freakin' tomb! Where are the stupid puns or plays on popular phrases that tend to grace these covers? A bit of a let down but maybe the book is better. I do remember one of the Goosebumps books about mummies being my favorite of the series, is this the one? Lets find out!

Getting Goosebumps

This book stars young Gabe who is one of the only main characters with a name I remember after reading it. This however, is mostly because Gabe is kind of a dumb name. Regardless, Gabe is in Egypt with his parents visiting his Uncle who is a scientist that studies the pyramids. I also remember the Uncle's name, because it is Ben. Uncle Ben, like the rice guy. Stine even goes out of his way to call him "Uncle Ben," at every opportunity. All I could think of is the rice guy. Anyway Uncle Ben also has a daughter named Sari that constantly competes with Gabe to be the most annoying character in the book. I don't know if there is a clear cut winner.

So one notable thing is that this is written in first person, like Welcome to Dead house was, but all the other books thus far have been third person. I had some qualms about the first book being written that way, but Stine did a much better job this time. It came across more as a young kids perspective, instead of a middle aged man trying to make a young kids perspective. Unfortunately it's also kind of whiny. In fact I wonder if I thought these kids were whiny at the time or it just seems that way now that I'm old and curmudgeonly. Who knows.

Anyway, Plot! So Gabe is here with his parents in Egypt but they have to leave to do... something. This is a common occurrence in Goosebumps but it is more interesting here because he is in an exotic location. Good old Uncle Ben is recruited to serve him rice watch him. Despite being a serious scientist he is also a jokester. Our first meeting of him is when he and his daughter burst into the hotel room Gabe is alone in, dressed as mummies. It scared the bejeezus out of him, but his uncle and cousin found it hilarious. It was kind of a fitting scare because Gabe is way into mummies. In fact he has a mummified hand he found at a garage sale back home. I am not sure I want to know what sort of neighborhood he lives in that you can find goods like that at garage sales.

Well if Uncle Ben is gonna watch this young fella he might as well bring him into this immense unexplored totally not dangerous pyramid he is researching. Nothing bad could happen there! Besides the creepy silent Egyptian dude Ahmed is there to keep them all safe by warning them about a terrible curse. Excellent! Naturally the kids wander off and get in trouble. Those rascals. The whole time Sari tries to drown out Gabe's whininess with her own brattiness. The next day they have to stay at the hotel, which seems reasonable. Do they do it? Nah, they are smart kids they can totally handle themselves in a foreign country that speaks a language they don't know. They wander off to the museum which they browse for awhile before Ahmed the creepy scientist dude shows up and tells them their dad wants them back to the hotel and even though it isn't only a couple blocks away he insists on driving them there. They soon realize he is driving AWAY from the hotel. Fearing he is kidnapping them they run away.

I've been surrounded by mummies myself...
Dad is kind of confused by this, and also worried that two of his workers are dreadly ill. Could the curse be real? Better take the kids back to the pyramid to find out! But this time he has a fool proof plan to keep track of them... Beepers! This foolproof plan is foiled by the fact that he and Sari totally ditch Gabe almost immediately after entering the pyramid and Gabe is too much of a putz to use the beeper so instead he wanders off and falls into a chamber where he is surrounded by mummies. Mummies everywhere! Some are standing up, some are laying down, or propped up against a table. Kind of a weird way to spend eternity isn't it? Amazing accidental find by Gabe! Too bad he is getting swarmed by bugs. In his stumbling around he finds Sari who scolds him because she is sort of a bitch, and is just as lost as he is. Then comes Ahmed the creepy scientist attempted kidnapper. Turns out the curse he speaks of is real, because he is the one who carries it out. He is descended from the line of a 4000 year old priestess who swore that anyone who defiled her tomb should be cursed. Cursed of course means murdered. Ahmed wants to turn them into mummies while they are still alive.

Good news! Uncle Ben shows up. Bad news! Uncle Ben is a pussy. He gets knocked out and they are thrown into sarcophaguses. Sarcophagi? Anyway, turns out Egyptians put escape hatches on them so their souls can escape. I'm no Egyptian expert so I have no idea if that is BS or not, but one would think Ahmed the ancient Egyptian scientist woulda known this. Since he didn't, they escaped! Almost! Ahmed finds them, and is about to hand Uncle Ben's ass to him again when Gabe decides to do some ridiculous bullshit. For literally no reason what-so-ever he pulls out that mummy hand trinket and holds it above his head while spinning around. He even admits he has no idea why he did it. So what did that do? Well it woke up all the freaking mummy's because that just happened to be the hand of the 4000 year old priestess. Of course. Well they chase off Ahmed and then go back to their eternal slumber. They all celebrate by going back to the hotel and eating scrambled eggs. Then Gabe's parents show up. The end.

What did I think of it?

Well if this really was my favorite Goosebumps book back in the day I'm not entirely sure why. I mean it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great. The fact that it was in an exotic location like Egypt was kind of fun, and this attempt at a first person narrative was more successful than the previous but it was bogged down by several things.

First off, I can't help but feel that even back in the day I would have felt like these kids were overly bratty. I could see kids kind of identifying with Gabe though. Despite the fact that he is kind of a brat himself the way he sort of despises the snobby brat-like qualities of Sari seems familiar.  I know I had some bratty cousins I loathed having to spend time with. Of course if one of my cousins is reading this, it was totally not you, it was one of my other cousins!

Also, when I told my friend I was going to reread all my Goosebumps book he told me to get used to hearing the phrase, "I opened my mouth to scream but no sound came out." I half-way remember this, and silent screaming has already appeared the books but this is the first time it appeared that way basically verbatim, and twice. If you can't find new ways to phrase it maybe you should stop using it? I have the feeling it is just the beginning of that phrase though.

The ending was pretty disappointing as well. I thought I was going to like it more because it started wrapping up far earlier than previous novels so I thought it would be a little more coherent and less out of the blue. Then Gabe ripped out that stupid mummy hand for no god damn reason and I groaned. That ending wouldn't have bugged me as much if there were actual allusions to it, but it was just out of nowhere. It simply existed as a device to wrap shit up.

Plus: Uncle Ben. Why'd he have to be called Uncle Ben. And Always Uncle Ben too, never just Ben, or Uncle. Uncle Ben. Every single time I thought of the rice guy. Maybe that's just me though.

Perhaps I'm being overly negative though. I could have had too high expectations since I remembered this book as being my favorite. The fact they were outside of typical suburban family neighborhoods was a nice change. There was more to worry about than just the super natural problem. There were pits to fall down and scorpions to sting. It added some extra tension and worry. In fact, the supernatural was really just tacked on at the end.

All in all it was decent enough, I just hope the sequel is superior and I can remember why one of these mummy books was my favorite.

Rating: 2 Mummies out of 5

Up Next!

Let's Get Invisible! What do I remember about this book? Almost nothing! Presumably someone gets invisible. Seems like we are on kind of a streak of obvious classic movie influences. From the Mummy to the Invisible Man. I really hope to get the next entry done faster than I did this one. Check back soon and see if I succeed with that goal.