November 15, 2013

#23 Return of the Mummy

Judging a Book by its Cover

Didn't get enough mummy in Curse of the Mummy's Tomb? Well now we have a returned mummy. Where the previous book's cover had merely a mummy on the cover, this book coming out of the sarcophagus. I definitely had to use spell check to spell sarcophagus. It's not a word that pops up in day to day usage. Anyway, sarcophagi are pretty cool looking so it makes for a neat cover. We can only see the mummy's hands emerging... well that and some stink mist. Stink doesn't have a visual component but I guess you gotta get the concept of odor across somehow. I wonder how much a mummy stinks though... I mean I get dead bodies rot and smell but this dead bodies is thousands of years old. I bet it smells a little musty at worst. I doubt there is any flesh left to rot. Oh well, it makes for a good looking cover.

Also of note is the color scheme. So often the two tone Goosebumps' ooze logo seems just randomly pick but here the blue green goes around quite nicely with the blue toned background and striped sarcophagus. Man I am using the word sarcophagus more than I have in the past 10 years combined here in these few paragraphs!

Now there is a blurb for the Goosebumps Fan Club on the front. Often in the later books there would be blurbs for selling shit. I always wanted to join the fan club but never did. One of life's regrets. You got a hat, pen, autographed RL Stine poster and more for like 10 bucks. How could my mom never have under stood how much I needed that? Oh well. Are fan clubs even still a thing? I feel like the news letters and such that you get from them are now an online thing. I could be wrong about that though.

The taglines are disappointments. No puns. I like puns dammit. The front merely states that he's back from the dead which is pretty obvious from the title of the book and the cover illustration. The back says, "Dead... or alive?" And that is a trick question because it is both! Undead!

Enough about the cover. This was my favorite book growing up (if I remember correctly) and I want to get to reading. I am pretty sure this is a direct sequel with the same characters and everything. Though if memories serves right this isn't a return of THE mummy, as it is a different mummy than involved with the last  book. Speaking of the last book, if you need to get caught up here is my review of Curse of the Mummy's Tomb. Now onto Return of the Mummy!

Getting Goosebumps

As this is a direct sequel we have returning characters! Once again tween Gabe is going to visit his Uncle Ben (once again, not the rice guy) and his daughter Sari as they excavate another pyramid. It's a different pyramid this time so even though it is called Return of the Mummy it is a different mummy. Also despite the undead shenanigans of last time Gabe seems pretty psyched. He has his mummy hand trinket that he carries with him at all times. Last book it woke the mummies from the dead but he seems pretty unsure about it's abilities. Mostly it is just a good luck charm. While last time he went to Egypt with his parents, this time he is going alone to be with Uncle Ben because truly his parents can trust in the "almost lead our son to his early demise" antics of ol' Ben.

So Gabe arrives by plane and immediately is onto Uncle Ben's sense of humor. He is dressed up in robes with a thick accent looking to pick up Gabe in a cab. Nevermind, that's just an Egyptian cabby. Simple mistake to make right? The real Ben arrives with his daughter and immediately Sari and Gabe resume their rivalry. Gabe is slightly sympathetic towards her, however, as he realizes she rarely gets to see her dad due to his studies. Not overly sympathetic though because she is kind of a bitch.

Instead of staying at a hotel this time they are camping right at the dig site.After arriving at the pyramid and Gabe is startled to find a mummy risen from the dead out to get him. Already? Jesus this is only like chapter 3. Oh right, practical joke from their trickster uncle. What a hilarious joke to play on kids that were almost murdered in a tomb last time you saw em. I am sure that's not horribly traumatizing in the slightest. Turns out that was an actor, as the media is there to shoot a commercial. Uncle Ben isn't such a horrible bastard though. He gives his nephew the gift of a scarab trapped in amber. They are said to be good luck for some reason even though one bite from a living scarab would kill you. And now Gabe feels a pinch at his leg. Oh god he's gonna die this early in the book? Or it's yet another prank this time from Sari. Again these tricks would probably be funnier if they didn't almost die in the last book. Maybe I'm just uptight.

Anyway so this time around the tomb in question is believed to belong to Prince Khor-Ru the cousin of King Tut which makes this a pretty major discovery. That is, if it hasn't been pillaged by robbers over the centuries. This importance has caused interest from a beautiful pantsuit wearing reporter named Nila who interrupts the crew as they enter the pyramid. She wants to cover this story and since she is a looker and has supposedly talked with Uncle Ben's partner he allows her to accompany them. She admires Gabe's scarab necklace showing him her own amber necklace that is sadly scarabless.

Now you would think entering a pyramid with a group that all have lights would go somewhat smoothly but somehow almost immediately Gabe gets lost and tumbles into a pit with thousands of spiders. How are those good luck charms working out for you now Gabe? He fears he is also getting attacked by a snake but it's actually a rope to save him. After he shakes off the thousands of spiders he makes sure his mummy hand thingy survived the fall. Oddly Nila seems to recognize it as "The Summoner." While the others move on Gabe sees The Summoner's fingers move. Creepy! After this whole fiasco they give up because they "explored enough." Explored enough? you were in there for like 10 seconds for Gabe got his stupid ass covered in spiders!

Two days later they get back into the pyramid for some excavating. As they are working to open the tomb they hear a bellowing, "PLEASE LET ME REST IN PEACE!" but alas it still isn't a real mummy woken from the dead, it's just Dr. Fielding who is Uncle Ben's partner. He believes there is a curse on the tomb. Hieroglyphics say if you repeatean ancient Egyptian phrase 5 times you will wake Prince Khor-Ru and feel his wrath. As a man of science Ben isn't swayed and his partner refuses to witness it and leaves. After chiseling away at the entry they reveal the tomb full of splendorous... nothing. But there is a seal to another room. They chip away and finally enter that one revealing the real resting place of the Prince. It is filled with jewels, treasures, and a sarcophagus containing the prince's mummy. The celebration is short lived, however, because 4 police officers from Cairo show up. They were sent by Dr. Fielding who has apparently changed his mind about the find and just wants to "protect" it.

Later that night Nila cons Uncle Ben into telling her the words that supposedly wake the prince from the dead, "Teki Kahru Teki Kahra Teki Khari." So if you at home want to raise the dead, now you know. I think Ben just told her because he wants to get in her pants and what better way than revealing an ancient curse? He is one smooth operator. Since Gabe was present for the reveal too he decides to try and get back at Sari for all the pranks by reciting the curse for her. Doing so freaks her out, but I think it also scares him a bit as well. To further add to the scare Dr. Fielding busts in right after they finish the curse. He needs to see Sari's father urgently! Suspicious, the kids follow him and see him gruffly push Uncle Been into the pyramid and then leave abruptly past the kids without even acknowledging them. Weird.

Well the kids get some lights and enter the pyramid. The follow footprints to the tomb and see that the
sarcophagus is now closed. They open it revealing Ben inside. But if he is in there then where is the mummy? Alive and out to get them! And for real alive this time, none of this prank shit. Gabe's uncle is unconscious in the casket and the kids run into an empty room where they discover Nila. Instead of being a source of help she is the cause of the problem! She is not merely Nila but PRINCESS Nila, the mummy's sister and she stole Gabe's Summoner to raise her sibling from the dead. She tells the mummy to murder the children to eliminate the witnesses but in some sort of ancient sibling rivalry (or a desire to be left in peace) the mummy attacks Nila. In a chaotic panic Gabe accidentally rips off her amber pendant and drops to the floor. The princess disappears and a scarab scurries away in her place. Apparently through some magic kept herself alive all these years by turning into a scarab at night. Anyway I guess with his summoner a scarab or whatever, the mummy stops moving and Uncle Ben finally regains consciousness. Dr. Fielding returns with the police. Apparently he was a good guy after all and was just in a panic earlier.

Finally Gabe has the chance to brag to Sari since he saved the day. She, however, points out the Nila is still out there as a deadly scarab and she is probably out to get him. A moment later in bed Gabe screams, "OUCH!"


What I Thought

I remember this book! Many times reading things I find it hard to fathom that I had ever read it before I remember nothing. Sometimes things come back to me as I was reading but this one I remembered a fair amount pretty early on. I didn't remember specifically that Nila was the mummy's sister but I did remember she was the bad guy. I have long remembered that this was my favorite Goosebumps book growing up and my actual memory of the plots seems to confirm it. I seem to remember having a mummy phase at some point in my life. I am not sure if this book caused it, or if I just liked this book because I read it during this phase.

So anyway, Goosebumps tend to be split between books that happen at home in every day life of a kid or books where kids go away to a location to get spooked. While the first option can be scary in it's own way I think I tend to find the latter more interesting. I've been at home, to school, etc. I have never been to a pyramid and reading about a kid going there is exciting! That isn't to say I wish all the Goosebumps were like this but perhaps that I tend to lead towards them.

Now I was worried rereading this. I didn't remember which mummy one I liked so much and the first book disappointed me. This one however I feel pretty favorably towards. I feel like it is just better written. There is more focus on one specific mummy which is good. Also Gabe doesn't summon it randomly like in the last book it's part of Nila's devious plan. And her plan isn't immediately obvious to the young. She seems like on of the "Good Guys" Pretty ladies don't have devious plans!

Of course this book has plenty of holes. It's a Goosebumps book! In true horror b-movie fashion it seems like the characters have all forgotten everything about the previous book. Gabe seems surprised his mummy hand summons mummies WHEN IT ALREADY SUMMONED MUMMIES. Also what's the deal with Nila? So she's like thousands of years old and just now happens to show up to revive her brother? Shouldn't she have known where he was buried this whole time? Couldn't she have tried this any other time during the past several thousand years? Also how did she not know the curse when it was written in the hieroglyphics? She should speak ancient Egyptian because she literally is an ancient Egyptian. I also don't completely understand why her brother attacked her. I guess he really just wanted to be left in peace, even by his sister? You think she woulda known about this.. But still, these are nitpicks in a series you can't really nitpick with. It's for kids. I am sure 8 year old me didn't think about this shit.

Really though, despite its flaws it may be my favorite Goosebumps book again. The setting is fun. The rivalry between cousins and the prankster uncle make for some decent false scares. It seems like it got into things quicker than the previous book. Also there is less ridiculous bullshit than the earlier one. I recall rolling my eyes a lot at Curse and not so much at Return. It's the rare sequel that improves the series.

Rating: 4 scarabs out of 5 (also did you know scarabs are a kind of dung beetle? DUNG!)


Phantom of the Auditorium. Presumably it will be based on Phantom of the Opera. A least very loosely based. I don't remember much about this book off the top of my head but I am pretty sure this was one of the first Goosebumps I read in 1 sitting. The idea of reading these books in one sitting now seems laughably easy but back in the day it took a little bit longer to get through. I plowed through it in one day however. I don't know why I remember that, but I do. So we shall see if any of the plot comes back to me as I'm reading it or if is entirely unfamiliar. Next time!

October 31, 2013

Give Yourself Goosebumps #2: Tick Tock, You're Dead!

Happy Halloween! Instead of doing the next in line of the regular Goosebumps series I decided to do another one of the Give Yourself Goosebumps books. These are Choose Your Own Adventure style books, where it gives you choices of which direction to take almost always resulting in death. Fun, right?

Judging a Book by its Cover

Tick Tock, You're Dead! It's going to be about time travel. There are no other options. It is a scary clock with a kid hanging from one of the hands. Here is the thing about scary clocks, they aren't scary. No one is concerned about a clock being out to get them. The only way they have to make a clock scary is if it can magically send you elsewhere in time. That does open up a lot of options. It could send you back to get devoured by dinosaurs, or forward to be conquered by aliens. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's not about time travel. But I doubt it.

Like other books in the series this cover has a shiny, reflective surface which is cool. Kids are easily swayed by shiny things. Hey, even as an adult I look at it and think, "Ooo shiny!" It also boasts 20 different endings. That seems cool until you realize 18 or 19 result in your untimely death. Oh well, reader beware it's time for me to choose the scare!

Getting Goosebumps

Now as per last time I am not going to read exhaustively through every option this book has to offer. I don't think it's in the spirit of things, and it's also not very fun. Especially not fun to read. Likewise I think only reading through once will probably result in a short "and then I died." So I am going to read 3 paths through this book to give a couple options of what can happen. Here goes!


We begin with a warning not to read this book straight through. You must look at the choices at the bottom
of each page and turn to them accordingly. Anyway it seems that I am in the Museum of Natural History when my little brother Denny runs off alone. While searching for him I find a Dr. Peebles who is described as "Strange." He says I can test his time machine, because obviously the way scientists test time machines is via random kids who wander into their lab. I get the option to search for Denny or travel in time. Like a wiener I choose to look for my brother and the book rewards my sense of responsibility by making fun of me and picking again. I guess I will travel in time! Except before I have the chance to test out the machine Denny runs into it like a brat! Where, or when has he gone? I have an arbitrary 2 hour time limit to find him before he becomes lost FOREVER.

I have the option of looking for him in the future or the past. I choose the past in hopes I can see some freakin' dinosaurs! I enter the machine and eventually two paths appear before me. One with a knight, and one with a dinosaur. As we have already established I am gonna big the freakin' dinosaur! It turns out Denny loves dinosaurs which of course I knew and did not go for purely selfish reasons. There are dinosaur all over the swamp happily munching on shrubbery when the ground begins to shake and I am faced with a T-rex. It savagely rips off the head of another dinosaur before it notices me and begins chasing me. On the plus side however it is then that I find Denny. On the negative side, he is stuck in quick sand. After struggling with him I manage to yank him out but the chronometer that can send is back to the present comes off and sinks in the muck. The dinosaur closes in. Do I scramble to find the chronometer or run the eff away from ol' T-rex?

I figure finding the chronometer can send us back and I couldn't outrun a T-rex so I better search for it as quick as I can! Denny searches too. The tyrannosaurus faces us and lets out a huge terrifying sound. A burp, apparently. And how does a dinoburp kill you? Well it apparently knocks me into the quicksand... somehow. Denny and I sink down...down...down. THE END.

Once again I meet Dr. Peebles and must find my brother Denny somewhere in time. Something tells me that maybe I should try finding him in the future. I step into the Chronoport and the doctor tells me there is one thing I must remember but then he is gone. I see before me a fancy futuristic looking city complete with flying cars. There is also a city that looks a lot like New York. I recognize the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center so it must be pre 2001 (boo! too soon!) I think I see Denny there and also I am curious to see when this New York is so I choose that. After looking around a bit I see a newspaper that lets me know I am in the future... 1 day in the future. What a bummer! I am almost about to pull out my chronometer when something startles me... but what?

...It's me! And my family! Future us are walking into the street about to be hit by a truck! I can use my chronometer to try and stop it. Do I go back and try and stop my family from going into the street, or to try and stop the driver. I figure I might as well try and stop my family. They'd listen to me... right? I go back in time 15 minutes. But do I want to distract them, or warn them? Distract them! I devise a cunning plan to toss money out for everyone to create a distraction. Time-traveling Denny joins me, and future me and Denny are delighted to watch. The truck speeds by them. I've successfully saved us. But now I need to get Denny to come back with me in time and he is being a real butt. Do I use my words and try and get him to come back or do I take him by force?

I try to force him but he runs off and of course runs smack into his future double. Tired of his shenanigans I grab both of them and hit the chronometer. Both of them follow me back in time. Now I have two little brothers. I saved his life, but my own is ruined! Oh no! THE END.


Ok this time, into the past but knights instead of dinosaurs. Sound like a plan? Surely now I will be able to save Denny and not have a future copy of him to annoy me in the present. I search for the night to a drawbridge over a moat. It is then that the Knight charges me with lance lower. Do I face him, or do I jump into the moat (though I am not a strong swimmer.) I figure if I gotta go out, I shouldn't go out like a bitch. I face the night. The solider informs me that this is king Ruthbert's castle. I must beat his challenge or else become food for the crocodiles in the moat. Good thing I didn't jump in the moat. I get to pick my weapon. I automatically choose the club because I have a plan. We will hit apples like they were baseballs and see whose goes the furthers in some sort of medieval home-run derby. Apparently now I (the reader) must flip 2 coins to see what happens. I have to have coins now? I though I just had to pick pages! No one told me I had to come to this book equipped with coins. Well damn.

Home Run!
Anyway, one heads, one tails, turn to page 116. I smash my fruit like Gallagher, while his apple hit bounces down in front of him. According to the rules he must now jump into the moat. Before he willingly kills himself for some sort of honor he tells me to beware the lair. I'll get right on that, crazy dead guy. I enter the castle which seems eerie and empty. Then all the candles go out and I hear a scream! I should probably turn back, but what if that yell of terror was from my little brother? I must go on. But to the throne room or the lair? Well I was specifically told to avoid the lair, so I pick throne room. The king is sitting around with his knights and ladies and takes me to be a spy for King Henry. I notice Denny sitting right next to King Ruthbert! Apparently he has addopted him as his son, because that is a sensible thing to do with children that appear out of nowhere. My brother is no help and demands I be boiled in oil. The only thing that can help me is if it is my lucky day. Is today even or odd? Odd... Odd indeed.

So... I am being sentenced to be boiled in oil but I have a plan. I tell the king I have something that belongs to Denny hoping I can hand him the chronometer and send us forward in time. My plan fails though and I go plummet to the hot oil, pushing the button myself. I return without Denny. I count this as a win. The bastard tried to boil me in oil. Also know my family can sue the Museum for millions due to losing their son. Not just a win, a WIN WIN. THE END.

What I Thought

These books are so hard to have complete thoughts on. Any criticism comes more as a criticism towards these choose your own way books than the actual writing in them. Here is the thing about them, they are a fun little gimmick for kids, but ultimately they are unsatisfying. It is because instead of 1 solid decent story we are treating to over 20 tiny stories, most of which end poorly. If someone actually fleshed out these books so there were 20 lengthy well written stories in them, they might not be looked upon so poorly. But if you were gonna write 20 well done long stories, you would make them into 20 separate books and make 20 times the money.

Comments on the actual contents of the book though... This one is decidedly more sci-fi compared to the previous Carnival of Horrors... horrors. It was truly more based on horror convention while this used the time travel trope. It does lead to a lot of options. Just with my 3 read throughs I had plenty of variation. I saw dinosaurs, knights, and the present day. If I had read one more I probably seen what the future city was all about. That's pretty cool. But I can't help but think bigger is better. If there was even more too it, how cool would that be? I think the kid in me thinks that most of all.

My favorite one of the 3 I did was probably the Knights. Dinosaurs are awesome, but relatively little happened with them. The knights on the other hand let me best a warrior, and deal with my bratty bro. I know I was supposed to be sorry to leave him behind but he literally tried to kill me. What an asshole. That is what made it fun though.

While I am not a huge fan of the medium, this did as good a job as any at entertaining me.

Rating: 3 out of 5 clocks

Up Next

The next Give Yourself Goosebumps book is Trapped in Bat Wing Hall. I don't own it. I probably wont ever own it unless someone feels like purchasing it for me off my wish list... here 

Yes, I am shameless. But really I don't expect anyone to buy it for me. Still if you'd like to, there is the option.

Happy Halloween to you and check back soon for your regularly scheduled Goosebumps book Return of the Mummy.

September 13, 2013

#22 Ghost Beach

Judging a Book by its Cover

It's Friday the 13 and you know what that means? Absolutely nothing! Here is a super special* (*Specialness has not been independently verified) Terror of Youth entry for Ghost Beach. Here we have Ghost Beach boldly depicted as a ghost... at the beach. Actually it's a beach cemetery, which seems like a bad place to have a cemetery. Do the corpses wash out at high tide? The ghost is a bit of a grim reapery looking ghost. It's got a nice ghost hoodie and is coming out of a tombstone marked from 1642-1732. That is a pretty old ghost by American standards (and I am going to assume like all Goosebumps before it this is set in America.) Let us not forget the full moon behind it all, because the full moon is the spookiest moon. Crescent moon? That shit is hardly spooky at all.

Now this ghost is clearly disobeying the front tagline which reads, "No swiming, no surfing, no haunting." Now this spirit is clearly haunting but I personally would like to see it surf and haunt at the same time. Like, totally gnarly there spooky dude! Cowa-BOOnga! ...Moving on, the back tagline is a total disappointment. "Do you believe in ghosts?" Jeeze, bring on a bad pun or something!

Overall, not the most memorable cover, but I suppose there is only so much you can do with ghosts. It's adequate, but I feel like the more unique covers stand out better. That is probably true of the stories themselves as well. Will this just be a generic haunting? Or a spooktacular beach party? Wait 30 minutes after eating before reading on!

Getting Goosebumps

This book begins by throwing us in the midst of Jerry and Terri, siblings that are 12 and 11. Which one is the older one? Does it matter? Not really. What does matter is that they are in a graveyard looking at tombstones when suddenly green hands start bursting up out of the ground! Wow, what an exciting and unexpected way to start out the bo... and oh wait, it's a dream isn't it? Yep, it is. Goddammit. Not only is it a dream, but it is a MEMORY of a dream that Jerry had a month ago. At least we got the dream scare out of the way.

In reality Jerry and Terri Sandler are visiting their distant cousins Brad and Agatha somewhere in the vague vicinity of New England. These cousins are a bit on the elderly side of things but seem nice enough. While noticing a spooky old cave on the beach the kids are startled by a bat. A bat-kite that is. 3 other children were flying it, and guess what? Their last names are all Sandler too! Strange... There is oldest boy Sam, a bit younger Louisa, and youngest of all Nat. They share the tale of a ghost that lives in the bat-kite-cave. It seems he comes out on the full moon. Is he the ghost of a werewolf? Undetermined.

This is either indian pipe or a dog skeleton.
Later on Terri decides to engage in one of her many hobbies. She goes looking for wildflowers with her brother, and while looking for some indian pipe they instead find a dog skeleton. Almost the same thing. A howling comes from the distance. This dog's ghost come for revenge? Or the 3 Sandlers. I'll give you a hint, it's the latter. Their theory is the cave ghost did it. Dogs can tell when there is a ghost out and they bark. The ghost must have killed him to shut him up. Sam used this as a means to spook Jerry n' Terri again, but it seems he may actually believe these tales about the ghost. They talked to Brad n' Agatha about it, but they poo-pooed the idea of a beach-cave-ghost.

The next day on the beach the kids are looking for stuff in tide pools when the Sandler 3 show up again. Jerry n' Terri do their best to get more ghost info out of em. Seems it is a 300 year old ghost that cleans its victims to the skeleton. No one has ever seen it but at night you can see a weird flicker of light in the cave. Jerry remains unconvinced but Terri is having her doubts. I mean how else could you explain a dead thing in the forest and a unconfirmed light in a cave? Irrefutable evidence. They leave the beach as night rolls around but forget a towel there. Jerry heads back to find it and sees the mysterious cave light. Terri comes up from behind him for the "hand on the shoulder that is spooky but from someone innocent scare." He explains about the light, but it's gone when Terri looks. The ghost must be bashful around girls.

The next day's activities started out with another of Terri's hobbies, bird watching but the siblings meets up with the Sandler 3 who are fishing. The ghost light is discussed and the trio acts a bit weird. The fact that they show up everywhere and are so concerned about that cave make me wonder if it is they who are in fact ghosts.The old cousins Brad n' Agatha act weird when they talk to them about it too. Brad claims the light was just the aurora borealis... because the northern lights... come from a cave... or something. Bold claim from me here, I think both the 3 kid Sandlers and the elderly Sandlers are ghosts. Perhaps trying to add some more ghost Sandlers to their ranks. Maybe they'll kill Adam Sandler next and we wont have to endure his terrible movies. Nah, he'll probably make movies from beyond the grave.

To try and prove me wrong (about my ghost theory and not my Adam Sandler theory) the kids go and enter the cave. First they get startled by a colony of bats. Then they get scared by creepy old man surrounded by candles. Could he be the ghost? They don't stick around to find out. Which is probably is a sound idea. At best he is a weird old man in a cave. That usually doesn't mean good things. I recommend avoiding all cave dwellers whether they be alive or undead. Safe at home, the kids decide not to tell their old cousins about their adventures. They wouldn't believe in the ghost and would just get mad the kids went there.

That night there is a tap at the window. Not a ghost tap though, don't worry, just a tap from the 3 Sandlers. Once again they discuss ol' cave ghost. Apparently the ghost wants to kill them all? How they know this? No clue. We are just going to assume that if it is indeed a ghost it has sinister motives. Sounds reasonable. Anyway apparently there is a way to stop it, but they are going to have to work together. They agree to meet the next day, but it is raining so Jerry n' Terry can't get out until it stops in the afternoon. They looked for 3 ghost obsessed (and possibly ghost being) kids on the beach, but they were no where to be found. To lighten their minds from all this ghost business they do something cheerful. They make rubbings of tombstones. It is another of Terri's hobbies. What a nice normal thing for an 11 year old to be interested it. Something is strange at the cemetery though... it looks like all the people there are Sandlers... and there are tombstones with the names of all 3 of the other Sandler kids. They died at the ages those kids are now. My really "all the other Sandlers are ghosts" theory has some proof now! They talked to the elderly Sandlers about it. It turns out that the Sandlers were a very large family that tried to start a colony but had almost all of them die. The surviving Sandlers are kin of those, and were named after their ancestors. In fact even Agatha and Brad were named after ancestors. You will find tombstones for them out there as well. But mostly because THEY ARE GHOSTS. The kids are reassured however, even if I am not.

Finally all the Sandler kids meet up and discuss what to do about creepy cave man who is believed to be a ghost but probably is not. Apparently the cave is a sanctuary that the ghost cannot leave as long as it is sealed up. The plan is to have the trio of ghosts kids distract the cave inhabitant while Jerry n' Terri push large rocks down in front of the entrance. Apparently the 3 ghosts kids haven't done this themselves because they are "too scared."  Their plan isn't execute exactly the best. Instead of trapping him inside, the 3 ghosts kids run away as he comes out and grabs Jerry n' Terri. He explains that he is yet another Sandler who came here to study his ancestors and ghosts, and that he discovered his ancestors are ghosts. Those 3 kids out there, according to him (and me) are ghosts. Jerry n' Terri remain unconvinced. I mean come one, this guy is creepy. Little kids aren't creepy. He must be the ghost! In the ultimate in ghastly before he... lets them go. He tells them to check out the graveyard though, claiming it will finally convince them. They figure he just knows there are graves with the three ghosts kids' names on them but it turns out there are fresh graves. Graves for Jerry and Terri Sandler!

And because the 3 ghosts kids all the god damn time, they show up again. They all agree to try and slay the cave dweller yet again. It starts to storm and they all meet in front of the cave. Mr. Cave Dude comes out and confronts them. Who is the real ghost? A german shepherd appears to solve this for us. You see, because ass we earlier established dogs can tell when someone is a ghost. It barks at the 3 ghosts kids ghosts. They confess, explaining how they died too soon in their youth over 300 years ago. They get pushed deeper and deeper into the cave. Their bodies start to fall away in ultra-spooky fashion as the storm rages. Jerry n' Terri ran from the cave in terror. Looking back they witnessed a rock slide. Neither creepy old man nor ghost kids emerged. Old man Sandler gave up his life to stop the ghosts.

Scared, but victorious Jerry n' Terri return to their elderly cousin's home to explain what happened. They have a visitor though, the german shepherd followed them there and wont stop barking at Brad n' Agatha. How unfortunate, the dog revealed the secret that I guessed way earlier in this blog. Brad n' Agatha are ghosts too! Now what are they gonna do with those rascally kids?

The end.

What I Thought

I feel pretty smart! I discovered the plot twist of a book aimed at 9 year olds! Go Me! Seriously though it was a fairly enjoyable read. I like a book with a twist you can figure out versus a book with a random twist just for the hell of it. However, because I knew that both the young and old Sandlers were gonna be ghosts, it annoys me that the encounter with the elder Sandlers wasn't resolved. I know Stine likes to have a quick unresolved twist at the end, but it was just as predictable as the main twist, so it didn't really work. I want to know how the hell the kids dealt with the old ghosts! There were no more caves to trap em in, so what happened? Did they have to call in Egon and Ray?

Anyway... what to discuss... Unlike the previous book, this one is once again in the first person. As a result it feels like sister Terri was more full of a character than Jerry in some ways. People don't describe themselves as much, and when they do it feels weird. It is kind of interesting that different Goosebumps books are in first and third person though. You'd think he'd stick to one or the other for the most part. My personal preference is third person, but the narrative worked here for the most part.

It would be nice if there could be a little more character to the characters. Though Terri has more hobbies and is a little more fleshed out, she is kind of interchangeable with her brother. Besides their ages the ghost trio doesn't have many attributes besides being obsessed with the cave. Old Ghost Sandlers are just typical old people (besides being ghosts.) Creepy old cave guy is just a run of the mill creepy old guy. Nothing is terribly unique, and it could be. It would really help make the story stand out. Instead of being excellent, it is adequate. I guess that is good enough for Goosebumps. Adequate. I realize this is a complaint I make a lot.

The kids visiting their relative stories happen with a fair amount of frequency in Goosebumps and there is a reason. It works, and it can be more interesting. The children have new things and people to discover. They are out of their element. Parents are a major comfort for children. Being away from them even without ghosts present can be a little scary for kids. It's something to play on that works, and that is why Stine keeps coming back to it. As long as he thinks of new situations to put them in each time I suppose I'll give him a free pass to do it.

So, this is a competent book with a twist you can predict but that is part of the fun. It is not as outrageous as some of his books, but there is something to be said for competence over ridiculousness. Frankly as long as they didn't pinch the ghosts to kill them it is fine by me.

Rating: 3 out of 5 ghost-sniffing german shepherds

Up Next

Return of the Mummy starring Brendan Fraser... I mean... Gabe. This is a sequel, and may be my favorite Goosebumps book as a child. I remember loving one of the Mummy ones a lot and the first one wasn't so great on reread so I am hoping this one is extra excellent. Once again, merely looking at the cover I remember almost nothing about the story. Presumably good ol' Uncle Ben will be back. I assume there will be more mummies... Check back next time!

September 4, 2013

#21 Go Eat Worms!

Judging a Book by its Cover

This book appears to feature grape gummy worms that are spilled all over math homework. Someone is snacking while doing their long division! Seriously though, worms don't look like that do they? This doesn't look scary, or even particularly gross despite the tagline reading, "Homework was never this gross before." But anyway, I get it. It seems a book called Go Eat Worms! is going to heavily feature worms. Will worms actually be eaten, or just be handy study aids? Lets find out!

Getting Goosebumps

Todd is your average suburban, Caucasian, middle school, Goosebumps protagonist. He plays Nintendo, plays pranks on his sister, and is almost never seen without his Raiders cap. His sister claims, "Only grunges wear Raiders hats." Which people in the 90's totally sounded like. And fans of grunge, or "grunges" totally wore Oakland Raiders gear all the time. That definitely wasn't instead way more of a west coast rap thing... But I digress, Todd is pretty much a regular kid... except for his extreme love of worms. He has a tank he keeps them in, in his basement. Whenever it rains out he can be seen out gathering worms, as that is when they come to the surface. Often times Danny, his partner in crime, would be right there with him. Though Danny doesn't share in the worm love, he loves when Todd uses them for practical jokes. Todd's sister Regina and her friend Beth were their usual targets.

Well Todd had all the more reason to collect worms. The school science fair was coming up and naturally a worm based project is just the thing to win the grand prize of a home computer. So during lunch Todd and Danny went out to their favorite worm digging spot behind second base on the baseball diamond. It was all going well until the earth started rumbling! In a panic they ran in to school to warn everyone about the earthquake but no one else felt any shaking what-so-ever. Curious.

Meanwhile Regina and Beth were having lunch and discussing their science project. They're making a large paper mache robin because apparently that passes for a science project. Unable to resist a chance at bugging the crap out the ladies, Todd bets Beth that there is a worm in her chicken soup. When she agrees to the bet, he drops a worm in her soup, because he is a huge dick. Note to all the young readers out there, this will not gain you many friends.

Back onto the subject of the science fair. It turns out schoolmate Patrick is digging up worms in Todd's favorite spot, because he too has a worm based science project. Two worm science projects? THERE CAN ONLY BE ONE! Todd becomes obsessed with Patrick's project. What is he doing? Is it better than my project? How can he be doing a worm project when I am the worm kid? After pestering Patrick about his project turns up nothing he asks Regina. She doesn't know much either, but she gives him Patrick's address so he can investigate himself. The investigation reveals a devil dog that chases Todd and Danny into an abandoned house with a corpse inside. That is actually pretty scary, except the corpse turns out to be a Halloween decoration. The devil dog goes unexplained. Instead of a hell hound the story returns to worms, and getting revenge on Regina for sending them purposely to the wrong address.

The revenge came at the science fair. Regina and Beth's project named Christopher Robin, the big paper mache bird was getting judged when they noticed something strange in the beak... WORMS! What an unpredictable prank coming from the kid who is obsessed with worms. But things didn't work out too well for wormy Todd. His project was a worm house. A model house built with windows where you can see the worms crawling around. I am not sure what is scientific about that, but it didn't matter because guess what Patrick's project was? A mother fuckin' worm sky scraper. So there! Even a worm sky scraper couldn't beat Danny's project though... a partially deflated balloon solar system. Seriously, that is what won. I suppose it probably won because it was the only one with actual scientific content.

Later, when Todd was squabbling with his sister about the previous happenings he decided to show her
something "cool." He cut a worm in half and showed her how both sides kept wiggling. Then he told her the false fact that both sides will continue to live. They wont. Either one or both sides will die. And now you know!
Regardless, Regina points out that the other worms are watching this worm execution of his. Worms don't even have eyes, but sure, they are watching all right. The worms are angry at his careless worm murder Regina claims...

Then the worms started turning up in the darnedest places. First they were in Todd's "grunge" Raiders hat. Then in his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And in his math book. He thought Regina was doing it, but some eavesdropping on Patrick made him think it was his doing. Turns out he was just drawing an unflattering comic staring Todd as a worm. Despite all this chaos with the worms, Todd still went out to the baseball field to dig up more worms. There was more rumbling this time, but he learned to ignore it. His worm love, however, is beginning to wain. I suppose that is natural when they begin to turn on you. They even showed up in his bed that night! And Regina couldn't have done it because she wasn't home! In his hot bath to clear up the bed worms, he encountered more worms. Worms pouring out the faucet. Worms sliding down the walls. Worms covering him up, pulling him down into the water. Nevermind, it was a dream. Only the bath worms that is. The rest of the worms were real.

Finally, Todd is determined to get to the bottom of it. He sneaks down into the basement to view his worm tank and wait for something to happen. Something does. His dad goes down there with a baseball bat thinking Todd is an intruder. Understandable upset, dad proclaims that this worm nonsense is over. Tomorrow they are all going to be dumped into the garden. Now Todd will never figure out how they were getting into everything.

Oh wait. He will. The next day he overhears Regina gloating to Beth about how he'll have to get rid of his worms now. Payback for all the pranks he has played on them with the worms. And Todd was none the wiser the whole time. He was actually beginning to think the worms were actually getting revenge on them. How strange that the whole thing would end up to just be his sister. That's not usually how Goosebumps end up... And it's not really how this one ends because that was a red herring of sorts. Determined to get her back for this, he heads out with Danny to harvest as many worms from the football field as they can. Big ones, little ones. It doesn't matter, he digs them all up. It rumbles some more, but rumbling be damned! Only this time the rumbling resulted in a giant worm the size of a tree trunk bursting out of the ground and wrapping itself tight around Todd, trying to squeeze the life out of him. It just so happened that his sister and Beth were walking by with their large science fair robin as this was happening. It cast a large shadow by the worm which then relented and retreated back into its hole to escape the giant bird. Of course the girls didn't
actually see this, and refused to be scared by his story...

Well in the end Todd understandable lost his interest in worms. He became more interested in butterflies. He would pin specimens into his new collection... Until giant butterfly showed up with a huge pin, ready for revenge! The end.

What I Thought

I really wish the internet could shed some light on RL Stine and ghost writers. Most people assume he used them, because he churned out so many freaking books, but there are no details. I thought about that while reading this because for some reason the first half felt ever so slightly different tonally than other Goosebumps. I can't quite put my finger on why. It had many marks of the standard Goosebumps. There were dream scares, screaming without making a sound, nintendos, average tweens, but still Todd felt a little different. Maybe it was due to his obsession. These characters so rarely get personality traits, but his worm lust helped actually defined him. Was this a ghost written book? Did it come straight from Stines pen? I may never know.

Lets go over some other things about this book. For one, it relied on the grossness of worms far more than "scares." There wasn't any grabbing someone from behind to startle. There weren't a lot of "scary" pranks, mostly "eww worms." The only real scares besides the predictable worm dream and the big reveal at the end were the demon dog and the dead body decoration. The body was pretty good, but the dog felt really out of place. There was a whole lot of relying on people finding worms gross though. Plus the titled delivered, a worm was eaten!

Now the big scare at the end. The giant worm appeared and was dealt with quickly. Many times dealing with the villain or monster or what have you will take a couple (albeit short) chapters. This was over and done with in basically one. Big worm appears, squeeze Todd, get scared away. Because people weren't necessarily anticipating this as the worms appearing everywhere was featured far more than the rumbling it worked pretty effectively. Now naturally the way they got rid of it was kind of silly, but a lot more plausible than a lot of stuff Stine has tried, except for one fact that he already pointed out. WORMS DON'T HAVE EYES! How did it see the bird's shadow? BAM! I just punched a huge whole in the plot of a book for 10 year olds. Eat it RL Stine!

Still though, I enjoyed it. His sister didn't turn
out to be an alien, or a ghost, or a monster, or a robot. He didn't pinch the giant worm to make it go away. It was a little different, and a great deal of fun. The main story was a feud between siblings, with a giant worm thrown in for good measure and how could you go wrong with that?

Rating: 4 out of 5 worms

Never Before Done Book Suggestion:

I've never done this before, but I'd like to suggest another book to go along with this. If the notion of eating worms is intriguing to you, after checking out this book perhaps you'd like to try out How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. It's a book I remember from my youth and though it has nothing to do with Goosebumps or RL Stine, reading Go Eat Worms! brought up memories of this book as well. If you've never read it, give it a shot.

Up Next!

Ghost Beach! Once again, I remember nothing about this book. I swear I read all these Goosebumps as a kid but remembering is hard. I guess they are mostly forgettable. Fun. But forgettable. Will a bikini clad ghost bop a beach ball around? I guess we'll find out next time.

August 27, 2013

Wish List Fixed! Updates Soon!

It's been brought to my attention by some wonderful reader that wanted to bestow upon me the gift of  Gooflumps that my amazon wishlist wasn't set up right. It apparently didn't have my address in it. Now it should be all fixed and if anyone wishes to gift me Goosebumps you can do so to your heart's content. Let me know if there are any more problems with it.

Also, I know this summer has been a bit lacking in updates. I plan to read the next book very soon. I just happened to get a large pile of not Goosebumps books to read this summer and I have been busy with that. Look for Go Eat Worms to be reviewed very soon.

As always, thanks for reading.

June 17, 2013

#20 The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight

Shameless Pandering for Gifts

It happens to be my birthday today and if you would like to give me the gift of Goosebumps feel free to buy me a book off of my Amazon wishlist: . If not (and I fully expect no one to) read on!

Judging a Book by its Cover

The cover does its job. It's a kinda creepy scarecrow, what did you expect? Why does it have to be a full moon? Isn't a crescent moon spooky enough? I guess not.

The tagline on the front is "It's a Field of Screams!" Now that is the kind of excellent punwork I expect on the front of a Goosebumps book. It almost makes up for the boring as heck, "They're Alive!" on the back. All in all a C+ for taglines.

Ultimately there is not much to talk about on the cover so lets just jump right in.

Getting Goosebumps

This book is from the first person perspective of generic tween girl Jodie and her slightly younger brother Mark. They are going to their grandparent's corn farm for the summer. Jodie is excited but Mark packed his bag with 90's entertainment staples like a Walkman with cassettes, and a Gameboy with plenty of cartridges. Hopefully he packed a crapload of double A batteries too.

Now at gramps' farm there lives Stanley and his son, E-I-E-I-O. Ahem, sorry about that. Stanley is kind of a Simpleton who works for the grandparents. He lives in the guesthouse with his teenage son Sticks. Where is the mom in the picture? I think I am giving that more thought than RL Stine did. She's just not there, now forget about it. Besides being a simpleton, Stanley also believes in superstition. He has a large book that tells him about good and bad luck. Also he mentions that, "the scarecrow walks at midnight." Because that's what the title of the book is so someone had better damn well say it in the story! Still a creepy thing for a weird simpleton to be saying to young people who just arrived at a farm. Plus it must be true because OH NO A SCARECROW JUST GRABBED JODIE'S ARM! Oh wait, that was just Sticks showing up and goofing around. Nevermind people it's only the very beginning of the book and I totally though shit was gonna start going down already. My bad. But Stanley does insist he can make them walk for real. Silly dumb guy.

Being at the grandparent's farm holds a lot of memories for Jodie and Mark. They spend most of their summers there. Grandma always makes delicious pancakes. Grandpa always tells them scary stories. But on this trip Grandma says they eat cornflakes now because its healthier. Grandpa can't even remember any scary stories. That's not the only thing that's odd. During the night the kids could have sworn they saw all the scarecrows Stanley made out there moving in unison. When they bring it up to grandpa he tells them to drop it.

They forget about it and go off fishing with Stanley. It goes well until Jodie starts thinking about scarecrows. One reaches out from the water and grabs her! She falls in and discovers it was only weeds on her ankles. Later on she thinks she thinks she sees a scarecrow lurking around the creek. She informs Stanley who is awfully worried and runs off. She decides to go tell her grandpa about it. She goes to the barn and gets locked inside by another scarecrow! Her daring escape is made after she finds a rope in the loft. There is a scarecrow outside waiting for her. As she makes her get away she bumps into Sticks and is suddenly very convinced that this is all his doing. Apparently he likes to spook "city kids."

Naturally with all this scarin' Jodie has problems falling asleep. She tries counting sheep. She tries counting cows. Then the scarecrow comes! The horrifying unliving being has her grandpa's face. In her terrified state she bolts from her room to find scarecrow granny. Eek! It's a dream! Because that happens in every single Goosebumps book!

In the Jodie and Mark wake to find that only grandma is home serving up another boring breakfast. The guys
have gone into town. They're urged to go ride horses, which they do. Two old nags are saddled up for them. They trot around for awhile before yet another scarecrow pops out for a fright. They're thrown from the horses and helped back up by Stanley. Urging them to keep this a secret from grandpa he rushes off to take care of the scarecrow. Even though Jodie still kinda thinks it's sticks she informs the grandparents, who laugh it off as Sticks' pranks.

Clearly what Jodie has to do is confront Sticks. She looks for him in the barn again unworried about getting locked in this time, and finds some scarecrow clothes, kerosine, and torches. Her snooping isn't appreciated by Sticks who shows up assuring her it isn't him. But she saw his stash of scarecrow clothes! Immediately she hatches a plan with Mark to scare sticks. The plan is to dress little bro up like a scarecrow and convince Sticks the scarecrows really are walking around. Not overly elaborate but it might be effective. With Mark in position all scarecrow'd up Jodie goes to get Sticks' attention. On the way she sees that for some reason Mark is following... But it's not Mark. It must be Sticks. To put the kibosh on that theory Sticks comes out and throttles the scarecrow, which is in fact a real walking scarecrow.

It turns out, according to Sticks, that simple ol' Stanley learned how to bring scarecrows to life from his book. He made an army and used it to control the Grandparents. That's why they serve things he likes, and don't tell scarey stories, which he hates. They are terrified of him. Because they started appeasing him he undid the spell, but clearly some scarecrows are still alive. Sticks wanted to keep it secret so Stanley didn't redo the spell but good ol' dad overheard the convo and went off to do just that. All the scarecrows have to be brought back to life so they can be controlled! Sticks talks his Dad out of it but Mark has great timing and shows up in his scarecrow costume. Stanley reads the incantation with a horrified Sticks looking on. He finally comes to his senses and gets the kids to run and warn the grandparents. The whole lot of them end up getting chased back home by an angry mob of living scarecrows. It seems they wont obey Stanley. Jodie's sneeze that makes Mark jump shows who they will follow. Mark. Dressed like scarecrow. He pulls off his scarecrow head to make them all do the same. It doesn't work though. Imagine that, beings with no internal organs brought to life by magic don't need their head connected. What actually saves the day? Sticks and some good old fashioned torches. With the scarecrows in cinders, Stanley proclaims that never again will this happen.

In the end, despite raising an unholy army of Scarecrows in order to exert his will on the grandparents they seem to keep him on at the farm. Very forgiving of him. Also, despite the horror his superstition book brought he continues reading it, just not the scarecrow chapter. Finally able to enjoy the stay at the farm, Jodie sits and relaxes. Wait, is that taxidermy bear moving? DAMN IT STANLEY!

 What I Thought

The bulk of the book is like every single Goosebumps and it's almost not worth talking about. If I was motivated I would make a checklist. Lets just run down a small list of details it had. 90's references (Walkman, Gameboy, Nirvana), generic tween main character, 1st person narration (which seems to have become the norm), trying to scream but no sound coming out, spooky dream sequence, someone being scared simply by someone grabbing their shoulder... So it comes down to focusing on what is unique about this book.

Firstly, what is unique would be the monsters. Scarecrows can be kind of creepy. A magically enchanted one can be extra creepy. It has to be sort of sinister though. These were just sort of aimless meandering piles of straw. They were also thwarted in the most obvious way possible. In a way I kind of liked that though. It's sort of like the Indiana Jones fight where the bad guy does a really fancy display with his sword and then Indie just shoots him. Instead of a very clever solution the simple straight forward burning up the guys made of kindling was the ultimate solution.

Also unique is that the "bad guy" wasn't really so bad. That is, if you consider Stanley to be the bad guy since he is the one who summons the scarecrow minions. I mean, he was a douche because he tried to force the grandparents into accommodating him. But making him "slow" made him a bit sympathetic. Regardless it is complete lunacy that they kept him hired at the farm at the end.

If you consider the scarecrows to be the badguy, well, they are disappointing. They don't do anything interesting and they are thwarted with ease. Even before Sticks gets the fire he manages to incapacitate one bare handed. They have no motivation as evil entities. Do they want to be scarecrow overlords of the world? Do they want control of the farm? Do they just want some corn? Do they want anything at all? Nope, they just roam around looking kinda spooky and being vaguely menacing.

One minor note I'd like to bring up is the title. It shouldn't be the scarecrow singular. It should be the Scarecrows Walk at Midnight. Actually it should be The Scarecrows Walk Whenever. The time of day didn't seem particularly important to their walking activities. I suppose that isn't as spooky a title though.

In the end this book is a forgettable entry to a vast collection of books. Nothing stands out as particularly interesting. Still, like all the books it's a bit of fun with a spooky slant. If you like Goosebumps it's just another book to read, and if you don't this isn't the book that's going to convince you they are great.

Rating 2 out of 5 scarecrows

Up Next!

I have gone through the first 20 Goosebumps books! Assuming I paid full price for these back in the day that is roughly 60 bucks worth of literature. Crazy! And what I am I gonna do now that I have gone through the first 20? 

 I'm gonna read Goosebumps #21 Go Eat Worms! I like books with exclamations in the title! Worms are kind of gross. The title sort of reminds me of the book How to Eat Fried Worms. That was a pretty good book. Will this be anything like that? Undoubtedly not! Until then, Happy Birthday to me and thanks for reading.

May 8, 2013

#19 Deep Trouble

Judging a Book by its Cover

Jaws. It's pretty damn hard to look at this cover and not think of Jaws. Sure, it's a hammerhead instead of a great white, but still. Jaws. It has the clueless innocent swimmer above and the toothy monster shark beneath. I am pretty sure they knew damn well they were evoking the notion of major motion picture Jaws and made it a hammerhead to make a little distinct. Plus hammerheads look pretty cool I guess.

The taglines are just what you'd expect. "Just when you thought it was safe" though they omit "to go into the water." Pretty cliche none the less. "Don't go in the water!" is on the back, and it's pretty uninspired. I want some bad puns dammit! How about "It's so scary, you'll wet yourself!" They shoulda hired me instead I tells ya.

Will this shark be the end of generic 12-13 year old main character? Let's take a look!

Getting Goosebumps

The book begins with William Deep Jr. (get it, DEEP Trouble, William DEEP. Clever shit here) looking for a giant stingray that has attacked several humans already. Our brave hero thinks he sees something lurking but wait! Someone has tampered with his air supply! He struggles to the surface, only to be heckled by his diving partner. His sister Sheena. He is a 12 year Billy on summer vacation, playing make believe. Really he is just snorkeling from the boat uncle "Dr. D" and assistant Alexander who are marine biologists. A fake-out beginning, who saw that coming? Everyone? Right.

Well Dr. D tells the kids to stick together and watch out for sharks that have recently been sited. Most importantly he tells them to stay away from the reef. Billy, however, is eager for danger and excitement. He goes closer and closer, until he gets grabbed by something and dragged away! Dr. D comes to the rescue and thinks it was just his nephew's overactive imagination again. They swim back to the boat, but Billy just can't stay away from that reef, he goes to it and steps on it to rest, but apparently it is fire coral. Ouch!

Later, on the boat Billy eavesdrops on his uncle talking to people from a nearby zoo. They are offering Dr. D 1 million dollars to catch a mermaid. Seriously? Only 1 million? I am pretty sure that a real live mermaid specimen, as it would shit all over science as we know it, would be worth way more than a million dollars. Hell, a run of the mill athlete makes more than that. Plus mermaids? I thought this was gonna be like Jaws, but it is turning out more like Splash. (The movie starring Tom Hanks not the tv show with a belly flopping Louie Anderson.) Anyway Dr. D agrees to do it, as he is in bad need of funding for his research. Bill accidentally crashes through the door and is sworn to secrecy by his uncle.

Naturally Billy is super enthused to catch the mermaid. He wants to be world renowned and hey, who doesn't? So he sneaks off and swims toward the lagoon. There he is grabbed, once again and he sees what is doing it. A slimy sea monster! Oh no! He is getting pulled under! He is... waking up. It was a dream off course. Undeterred by this, he sneak off to the lagoon for real. This time he is grabbed... by his sister! She knows he isn't supposed to sneak off. She is going to narc on him, but suddenly they see a fin out of the water coming toward them. Like an intelligent person, sister swims away. Billy on the other hand, goes towards it because clearly it must be a mermaid. Unfortunately it isn't. It is a hammerhead shark. It begins circling him, as Billy desperately swims toward the reef. He gets caught up on the fire coral and the shark bites down on him. Something however comes to his rescue. Another fish battling the shark? Nope, a real live mermaid! She fights off the hammerhead and Billy is thrilled. Then Dr. D shows up and nets the mermaid. As a reward for her good deed she is doomed to live in captivity!

Now Billy is a little remorseful. Despite being gung-ho about finding the mermaid after having it save his life he doesn't seem thrilled about them keeping her confined in a tank on the ship. She seems to communicate a bit like a whale, and mostly mopes around crying. How you can tell someone is crying underwater, I am unsure. Billy tries to communicate with her, and feed her. First he tries giving her chocolate chip cookies, because what tastes better than soggy cookies? Surely they have chips ahoy in her natural habitat! Later, assistant Alexander makes them some squid and Billy opts to give it to the mermaid instead. She seems to prefer this vastly. Shocking.

Billy seems to regret the mermaid capture more and more. At night he is mulling it over when he hears something. Kidnappers have come aboard to shanghai the mermaid! Billy, Sheena, and Dr. D are all powerless against them. Surely the strong assistant Alexander will come to the rescue! Unless of course they've been.... DOUBLECROSSED! They have been, apparently instead of a measly million Alexander has been offered 20 million by these unscrupulous folks. They make off with the mermaid and throw the kids and Dr. D in the mermaid tank, which they push into the ocean for good measure.

Stuck in a tank of water, sinking in an ocean of even more water our main characters are pretty fucked. Sheena is so afraid she literally says, "I'm so afraid." Now that's just great writing. I cant think of how they'd get out of this unless perhaps a whole gang of mermaids show up to save them. That of course is exactly what happens. Instead of being pissed about the fact that these are the people that caught their mermaid friend in the first place, they lead the crew to the kidnapper's boat.

Confronted by a marine biologist and 2 kids, one of the bad guys utters the most maniacal phrase ever, "finders keepers!" They start Dr. D's dingy on fire but the mermaids managed to free their friend. The pissed off mermaids then begin work on tipping over the boat, as Dr. D and crew put out the fire and escape. The next day the zoo shows up with a check for a million dollars, and Billy is worried that Dr. D is going to let them know that mermaids do indeed exist. Instead Dr. D lets them know that mermaids are just myth by confused fisherman. None exist. An ecstatic Billy goes back to the lagoon one more time to say thank you and goodbye to the mermaids. Instead he is confronted by the slimy tentacled sea monster that grabbed him earlier! Oh no! The end!

What I Thought

This was a bit different from other Goosebumps books which in some ways is a little refreshing. On the other hand, it wasn't very scary. I mean, none of the Goosebumps books are very scary, but they have supernatural elements that are meant to be frightening. Mummies, aliens, monsters and the like that our out to kill (or some similar motivation.) This on the other hand, had a friendly mermaid. The change is somewhat welcome but a little out of the spirit of the books. Still it has other things to be scared of like a shark and the deadliest beast of all, MAN!

Now while I assert that this book is a bit difference, it still has like 90% in common with all the other Goosebump's books. It stars a generic tween and a sibling that gets on their nerves. It has a scientist guardian which is pretty common, though marine biologist is a bit unique and makes for the setting of the boat on the ocean. That is pretty neat. While a lot of ones mimic the life of real kids with real problems, school, camp, bullies, this allows for an experience almost no kid can relate to. What 12 year old has snorkeled with marine biologist in the Caribbean? Besides 12 year old Caribbean kids...

The biggest creative difference is the big twist. You'd think mermaids would be the big twist, but no, the twist is the betrayal of Alexander for money. It's a bit of an ethical conundrum for kids. Do you allow the fairly obviously sentient, but weird, being to be put in captivity for money? Billy wrestles with this, as the fishlady saved his life. And then we see the depths people will go to for money. Alexander not only has no qualms about that or about murdering his boss and some children as long as he gets 20 million dollars out of it. So while ghosts or robots may be the villain in most Goosebumps, this villain is just a regular old greedy douche bag.

Now the biggest drawback to this whole tail is the drawback to all of these books and the reason you have to remind yourself these are simple books meant for young kids. It is all pretty generic. It ads nothing new to the notion of mermaids. They do nothing unique with them. You don't learn anything about them. They just have one in a tub and it's sad, then her friends come to the rescue. Hell, I don't know if they even wore anything. Were these topless mermaids or did they have shell bikinis like the little mermaid? INQUIRING MINDS NEED TO KNOW!

Also, there was the fact that Billy never got to save the mermaids in return. She saved him, they captured her. Badguys kidnap her, and will probably be even worse to her. In thanks for her rescue, you'd think it would ultimately be the kid that saves her but the mermaids are the ones that free their friend. All the humans manage to do is get their boat caught on fire. Then the mermaids tip the bad guy's vessel in revenge, and to help Dr. D and crew escape. Sure, ultimately the mermaids are free and in an act of goodwill Dr. D lies about their existence to protect them, but I can't help but feeling that the mermaids came out way ahead in the "not being a douche" scale.

Anyway, what I thought was gonna simple horror story about a shark, took a left turn to be about mermaids. While still being entirely a Goosebumps book it managed to tread some new ground (or tread water, right? right?)  and that is appreciated. Ultimately however, I can't help but feel with a few tweaks of uniqueness these books could be far less generic and far more memorable. And I don't mean by bullshit terrible twist endings either (I'm looking at you Welcome to Camp Nightmare.)

Rating: 3/5 mermaids

Up Next!

The scarecrow walks at midnight! Scarecrows even have scare in the name, so this must be a scary book. Their sole purpose to exist is to scare things. Crows mostly, but I am sure they can manage to scare other things especially if they magically come to life... I'm sure that wont happen though....