August 30, 2014

#27 A Night in Terror Tower

Judging a Book by its Cover

Mwa-hah-hah, the executioner is here. With his bulging muscles he looks a bit like a poorly conceived professional wrestler. Granted, even in a "no rules" match I imagine most wrestling organizations frown upon use of a battle axe. Also, the executioners tailor seems to be a bit inept. His clothes have the strangest stitched together pieces. Can't the executioners union bargain for decent uniforms?

So anyway, here we are going to spend a night in Terror Tower. The name evokes a Disney World ride but if
I remember right it is more based on the Tower of London. This is one of those "vacation" books where they go off to an exotic location... like England! A safe choice because 9 year olds have almost certainly heard of it before.

Lets have some hypotheses about what will happen in this book. My first thought is that the kid will take a tour and the actors portraying historical figures will be legitimately sinister. Of course, there could also be time travel involved. A tower lost in time? Maybe it'll be like Scooby Doo and some cranky old man who is trying to dig up ancient relics wears an executioners costume at night to scare away visitors.

Enough speculation. Taglines! The front one is, "It's gonna be a L-O-N-G night!" Which is neither funny nor clever. F. The back tagline reads, "ALl locked up and no place to go!" which is a play on a popular phrase. Also it takes on the funny aspect of literally having no place to go when one is locked up. B+.

Now it's been awhile since I've written here because I am terrible at doing this, but lets get to it!

Getting Goosebumps

Terror Tower is an old prison in England where people used to be tortured. Clearly, the perfect place for children like Eddie and his sister Sue to visit. Of course, they already saw Westminster Abbey and ate some bangers and mash so what is left to do but visit a torture chamber? Well, they could go to another museum but tour guide Mr. Starkes puts it up to a vote and Eddie demands to see Terror Tower! Apparently it was a fort built by the Romans, until converted into a prison. Twas the first debtors prison in England you see! The tour takes a dark turn when Mr. Starkes informs them that they will be imprisoned and tortured until they confess to why they wanted to come to such a place. Just kidding! Oh Mr. Starkes, you rascal!

There tour starts off well enough. They get to see all sorts of family fun like executioners axes and the torture rack. But then the kids see a mysterious, hatted gentleman who doesn't seem to be with the group. Also, when Sue wants to take a picture, she can't find her camera. Is it lost forever? Nope, Eddie stole it proudly proclaiming, "the mad pickpocket strikes again!" Sue didn't even get a chance to take her picture because they had to keep up with the group and behold the wholesome goodness of thumbscrews and spiked handcuffs. Being the consummate sibling, Sue gets Eddie back for his theft by feigning grievous injury at the hands of the torture devises. Hilarious!

Now we hit the part of the book that gives the plot away. They climb the tower and Sue can swear she's
climbed it sometime before in her life. Then she learns about the tragedy of Prince Edward and Princess Susannah. Eddie and Sue. Edward and Sussannah. I don't know if I picked up on it immediately as a kid but the clues were fucking crystal clear on this read through. Yay for being an adult reading a children's book! Anyway the young royalty it seems, were imprisoned in the tower and ordered to be smothered in their sleep. The rest of the story is unclear because of Eddie and Sue's fucking about. Then they lost the rest of the tour. Panicked they wonder what to do when the gentleman with a hat finds them and tells the kids they must follow him if they don't wish to be hurt. They assume he is a security guard until he begins acting like a lunatic. The only solution of course is, RUN!

They managed to run their asses right into the dungeon. "Abandon all hope!" proclaims a thunderous voice as they enter. Boney hands flail out from behind cells and bodies are chained to the floor. They are dummies, and the voice was a tape. I wanted to think of a clever way to revealed that but I couldn't. RL Stine couldn't either though, so no worries. The weird guy chasing them is real though, and he's still a'chasin'! He done chased em into the sewer where a legion of rats emerged. Luckily Mr. Hat is scared of rats too. While the kids manage to evade the rodents by clinging to grips on the sewer ceiling, the creepy Hatman has to run away. Alas, his hat flies off his head and gets chewed to pieces. RIP Hat.

When they get out of the sewer they discover that the tour bus left without them. A crabby, disbelieving security guard sends them off to their parents' hotel in a taxi. When the arrive there is a problem paying the cabby. He doesn't seem to think the money their parents gave them is real legal tender. He wants genuine British pounds. Luckily he allows them to go in and get "real" money from their parents. Trouble is, there parents don't seem to be in the room! Luckily, in a massive breach of security a hotel worker lets them inside.No luggage or anything is inside the room and the person working at the front desk says it is vacant. Worst of all, the kids can't seem to remember their last name. In fact, while sitting down to tea and trying to remember their last name they realize they can't even remember what their parents look like or where they live. Did I miss the chapter where Gilligan dropped a coconut on their heads? The only things they seem to really remember is their own first names and what they thought was their hotel room number, 626. They can remember what happened today but not yesterday. One thing they also forgot, though only momentarily, is that a pissed off cabby was waiting for them outside. As they try to escape him they run into... the hatless man!

Now, with this meeting of the no hat man, he is demanding that they "give them back?" Give what back? Turns out the pickpocket strikes again. Eddie had stolen some weird stones from the weird guy. He tries to bargain for their safety by giving the stones back but he is the worst bargainer ever. Eddie just gives them back and then the hatless dude somehow does some dimension bending and everything goes black. When they awaken they are in a very old looking hall. Must be a historic part of the hotel. A robed man, however, informs them that is the Abbey. He also tells them not to leave, and that he smells evil on them. What does evil smell like anyway? Anyway, he also tells them their time is near. Judging by the evil smelling comment I don't think the time nearness is a good thing.

Not convinced that they were indeed in an Abbey instead of their hotel they go locking for the elevator.
Instead they found a restaurant of some kind, but not the one they found last night. This one has blazing fires, wooden tables, and a whole deer on a spit. Everyone was dressed weird and eating with their hands. Must be a costume party and not time travel! Suddenly every stopped to look at Sue and Eddie. One man proclaims, "it's them!" and the kids use the only solution they know. They run.

Outside they finally get a clue that they've time traveled. There are no cars or tall buildings, just haystacks and cottages. Because they aren't bright children they still are determined to look for their hotel. A boy talks to them and doesn't seem to know what a hotel is. You can tell he is from olden times because he uses the word "ye."

Suddenly Eddie disappeared. Then the weird hatless man appeared. But he has a brand new hat on this time. Yay! But then an oxcart hurries by and his hat falls off! Oh no! In the chaos Sue escapes and tries to hide. She gets a peasant woman to hide her by bribing her with the money her parents gave her to get a cab. Turns out they are gold Sovereigns which, if RL Stine was using any historical accuracy would place this time period from the late 1400's on. Immediately the woman turns Sue over to hatman. What a bitch! Can you not trust people who take bribes anymore? As Sue gets taken away her betrayer tells her that she couldn't go against the wishes of the Lord High Executioner. Sue wonders what an executioner would want to do to her, because she is an idiot

They get let out at, of course, Terror Tower. They are locked in a room confused and alone. Then a purple robed purple eyed man enters. Is purple even a possible eye color? Anyway, he seems dismayed that they have "returned." They "don't remember him, but they will." He calls them Edward and Susannah, but their names are Eddie and Sue. If it took you this long into the book to figure out that they are the same people, then you are clearly some kind of idiot 8 year old. Hah hah. Bow to my superior adult mind! Anyway, purple eye's name is Mogred the wizard which would explain the purple eyes. Anyway, he explains the HUGE PLOT TWIST to the kids. Turns out Prince Eddie and Princess Sue's uncle king has ordered them to be placed in the tower. Denying the story Sue wonders if Morgred is crazy. Sure, you traveled in time and got put in a Medieval torture chamber, but the wizard who says your a princess is crazy. Oh anyway, also their parents are dead. Now the kids are going to be murdered. bummer. Morgred tried to stop it by sending them forward in time and changing their memories but apparently it didn't work. Then, even though he spent time explaining all this shit, he puts his hand to their heads and restored their memories. Wouldn't it have been easier just to do that in the first place?

Anyway, turns out those weird stones the execution hard were part of the magic that sent the kids forward in time. As luck would have it, Prince Eddie stole them back again! It's an easy spell to do, but Mogred can't do it because if he does it again the king would have him executed. He doesn't think about sending himself forward in time with them because he is... say it with me... an idiot. Well Eddie stole the rocks for a third fucking time and finally got their asses back to the present day (which was like the mid 1990s) They are with the tour and this time the guide explains that on the night they were set to be executed the prince and princess mysteriously disappeared. Morgred is even with them in the future. Eddie decided to bring him with. I don't know why, that guy was all set to let them die. He may be a masterful wizard but he was outsmarted by a god damn 12 year old. Annnnywho, that's the end.

What Did I Think?

First things first, lets start with the cover. That generic, hooded, hunchbacked executioner doesn't really appear in the fucking book. The Lord High Executioner or whatever he was called had a wide brimmed hat (that was tragically lost and replaced as I have mentioned) and a cape. Did the illustrator even skim this book?

But about the story. I think this is the first time travel book in the series. (Tick Tock Your Dead was time travel, but it was a choose your own adventure style book.) Time travel is fun. Usually it's more of a sci-fi thing. Sometimes it's magical, like modern people getting sent back in time (like Black Knight starring Martin Lawrence!) but this is like... ancient people being sent forward in time.... and then... back... and then forward again. It's simple enough though, easy for a kid to follow...

But... is it too easy? I pointed out how they give away the plot twist really early and really blatantly. Too blatant for a 10 year old? I don't know. I don't remember if I figured it out that early as a kid. Maybe Stine was right to hammer the reader over the head with the evidence right away. I feel like a kid might have gotten more from a small peppering of clues over time. An adult reader surely would have!

How about we talk about the characters. Well... There were some... I mean, you don't get any real in his delorean.
characterization from these books. Eddie was generic boy. I guess he was a little easily frightened and a bit of a thief. Sue was generic girl. Executioner guy was generic bad guy. Morgred was... An idiot. I gotta believe even 10 year old me wondered why this numbskull didn't think to send himself back to the future with the kids

So I dunno. This just seems to continue the tradition of this series being shallow simple fun. There can be depth to kids books. Look at Charlotte's Web. Hell, look at The Lorax, and that shit was aimed at kindergarteners. I guess not everything has to have any meaning or depth. It would be nice if Stine had tried a little bit harder though. Then maybe each book could be memorable on its own, instead of just a cog of mass produced 60 series long literature. But hey, I had fun with it then, and it was still kind of fun now.

Rating: 3/5 Executioner's Axes

Up Next

There is actually a sequel to this book called Return to Terror Tower. It was one of the Give Yourself Goosebumps series though, and not in the main series. I never read it, and I don't own it. So the next book up in the main series is #28, the Cuckoo Clock of Doom. I gotta say, I think my entries will be shorter from now on. Really they have to be. It takes me waaaay longer to write an entry than to read the book. I am starting to see it as a little bit of a chore, when I feel like it should be fun. So I'll try to still a good job of saying what happens, but maybe condense it a bit. Catch ya next time.