December 24, 2014

#51 Beware, the Snowman

So I meant to do my write up on Monster Blood III in November, but I didn't. Now it's December and instead of that, I'm going to read Beware, the Snowman, just in time for the holidays! I saw it at the thrift store and couldn't pass it up. Yes, at the thrift store. Even though this is a book from the original series I never had it as a kid. It was rather late in the series and by the time it came out I was about 12 years old and too old for Goosebumps. Now I'm 29 and I'll read whatever the fuck I want, including books trying to make a horror story for 10 year old about Frosty's evil buddy.

Judging a Book by its Cover

This snowman doesn't look scary so much as cranky. Like he is shaking his fist and telling the little snowkids to get off his snowlawn. Seriously, his expression is like, "your dog peed WHERE?!" Snowmen seem like a bad choice for a villain because they are thwarted heat. Like seriously, a sunny day could take him out. Given time and global warming he's doomed. Then again maybe he's some kind of all powerful snow wizard that is causing the frigid weather. That might be interesting though, so that's probably not what happens.

The cover really reminds me of a mash-up of two movies. It's like if you took Jack Frost the 1997 horror comedy about car crash with a genetics truck causes a serial killer to turn into a sentient snowman, and combined it with Jack frost the 1998 family comedy about a car crash that turns a father into a sentient snowman in the pinnacle of Michael Keaton's career. Whats with car crashes and sentient snowmen? Is this a part of snow-lore I have never heard of?

Taglines! I love/hate these things as you can probably tell from past reviews. I mean, the fact that I even mention them says something about them. They are so unnecessary and yet needed at the same time. Up front we got "He's got a heart of cold!" which is some solid pun work. I'll give it a B. "No melting allowed." graces the back cover. I don't get it. Is that some sort of phrase I'm unaware of? I mean, I know that "no _____ allowed" is a thing but... this one just doesn't make sense to me. I mean, sure snowmen can melt and obviously wouldn't want to... I give it an F.

So before we get into it here are a couple of stabs at what I think might happen. I am going to rule out a car crash causes someone whether serial killer or father becoming a sentient snowman. My first thought is that they'd go to Frosty route and have a kid build a snowman but have it come to life EVIL! That might be too straight forward though. Knowing RL Stine the snowman will actually secret be some sort of alien life form. It could also be that the snowman is a Scooby-Doo style costume and something more sinister is afoot. The one way I see the snowman being a reincarnated person would be if it was like, the ghost of a kid who died in an avalanche or something. Or maybe there was a deadly snowball fight. Who knows? Lets jump into it.

Getting Goosebumps

We begin with tween Jaclyn remembering a silly nursery rhyme about bewaring the snowman because he, "brings the cold." She is reminded of this old poem her deceased mother read her when she was little as she arrives at her new home with aunt Greta. It seems they've moved to the tiny mountain village of Sherpia. I assume that is a horrible play on the word Sherpa. In this snowy place Jaclyn wonders why she can't remember the second verse of the poem. Surely it will have no plot significance so I assume we can forget about it right now. Now why did they move to this desolate arctic place? Aunt Greta seems to dodge this question. At least there is a nice friendly snowman there to great them! Except... he actually doesn't look that friendly... and... is that a scar? Oh well!

Jaclyn decides to wander about this frigid town alone and gets frightened by some other kids sneaking up on her because it wouldn't be Goosebumps without false scares. I guess popping out from behind is the way kids like Rolonda and Eli welcome newcomers to Sherpia. Jaclyn spots a new nearly identical snowman and inquires to the new found friends about it. They skirt the question. When Jaclyn talks about walking to the top of the mountain that frantically inform her that she can't. Man, the locals are some weird people.

She parts with the strange kids and continues on her way. Further up the mountain she locates a lone dwelling. Wondering if anyone is home she naturally just walks right inside because why the fuck not. She grew up in Chicago, I can't imagine she just walked into random houses in Chicago. That would get your ass shot. And here, apparently, it gets your ass tackled by a wolf, because that's what happens. Thankfully it is a pet wolf and refrains from killing her. Its owner has some pretty ridiculous question for Jaclyn though like "who are you" and "why did you break into my house." Silly. She starts to run away and the wolf guy asks her where she is going, because apparently when you are running away from someone you are expected to tell them where you are headed to? Anyway, she informs him she is heading to the top of the mountain. Wolf guy thinks this is a bad idea and tells her to, "Beware, the snowman!" Eeeee! They said the name of the book inside the book! Yay! Anyway, apparently there is a big evil snowman at the top of the mountain so she runs back from whence she came and bumps into those weird kids again. The kids' theory is that the wolf guy named Conrad works for the snowman. Why he would warn kids about the snowman if he worked for him is anyone's guess. Regardless Rolonda is going to inform Jaclyn all about it the next day at the church. Back at home Jaclyn asks her aunt about the snowman. Like everyone else she seems to avoid the question and get nervous.

That night Jaclyn can't fall asleep due to howling outside. Doing the only logical thing a 12 year old in a frigid arctic wasteland full of creepy people and wolves, she goes outside alone late at night. Those queer snowmen litter the town, and she feels the presence of something following her, so she quickly heads home. She wakes up her aunt who doesn't seem thrilled by the notion of a 12 year old girl being outside in this place alone. Can't imagine why. Also, it seems Jaclyn's obsession with that snowman poem continues.

The next day rolls around and Jaclyn meets her pal at the church to learn about the snowmen. According to her, the evil snowman was created by 2 sorcerers who were fooling around one day. Their magic couldn't stop it. I don't know why they didn't just try heat. A flame thrower oughta do the trick. But anyway, the creature was imprisoned into a cave made of ice the locals creatively refer to as "the ice cave." After this happened Conrad the wolf guy moved into the cabin by the mountain and no one knows why. Now all the villagers build snowmen that look like the evil one to try and appease him. Now, he hasn't asked them to do this or anything, they just figured it would be a good idea. I mean what else would an evil sentient snowman want except a lot of inanimate copies of himself in everyone's yard? Makes sense... right? Jaclyn thinks its all a joke until Eli fake jump scares his way into the scene. He tells her that he has seen the snowman with his very own eyes, and the snowman saw him too. And because no kid would ever make shit up, Jaclyn starts to believe him. At home Jaclyn questions her aunt some more about the snowman but gets no answers. Her aunt, however, makes her promise never to go up the mountain.

She goes up the mountain. Of course she fucking does, lying-ass kids! She cons Eli and Rolonda into helping her out in exchange for building a snowman which seems like a crap deal. They are gonna distract wolf guy Conrad while Jaclyn goes up the mountain. At the top she discovers that, holy shit, the snowman is real. He is cold and angry sounding and demands to know who she is. Upon hearing her name he informs her that he is not just a snowman... he is... her father! Then she screams, "Noooooo, that's not true! That's impossible!" and then falls down a shaft in the Death Star. Ok maybe that last part didn't happen, but the snowman is claiming to be her father. Mr. Freeze's story is that Jaclyn's mom and aunt are sorcerers. Her mom turned him into a snowman and then they left the village when they could not turn him back. However, Aunt Greta want's to keep him a snowman and came back after 10 years to renew the spell. I don't know why simply being a snowman would cause a wife to leave, I mean if it was sentient you'd think she would learn to live with it, and if she just had to wait 10 years?  Anyway, reasoning doesn't occur to 12 year olds, and apparently Jaclyn can stop this all but the only clue she gets of how to do it is the first stanza of the poem she obsesses over.

Well naturally it's at this time that her aunt shows up with her own version of events. Her story is that her sister and brother in law were sorcerers and accidentally created the snowman that is in fact an evil monster. Greta asserts that she herself has no magical abilities. Now what makes more sense, that a wife accidentally turns her loving husband into a snowman and then leaves him to deal with it on her own, or that a husband and wife accidentally create and evil beast and leave when they can't undo it? Once again the 12 year old doesn't think and instead reads from the book of poetry the aunt brought with her to presumably renew the spell to keep the evil guy in ice. But the second stanza, apparently, frees the monster within the snow. Frosty no longer, a horrible red-skinned monstrosity is loose. How will they ever get saved? Because Conrad sends all the villages snowmen up the mountain to push the monster back into a wall of ice? But that's stupid you say? Well that's what happens. Conrad is Jaclyn's dad. He stayed there to make sure the the monster never got set loose. Now isn't that a happy ending that doesn't at all make you wonder why the fuck Conrad lived without his daughter for 10 years without making any contact whatsoever, especially after her mother died? Indeed, what a happy ending.

What I Thought

They say sequels are never as good as the first one, and I guess the 51st in a series just can't hold up to the 50 in front of it. Seriously though, this felt like a book slapped together by a guy who is running out of ideas and perhaps just doesn't care. I mean, I know Goosebumps were never great works of fiction, but this book just feels like the series ran out of any steam. I have often joked that RL Stine doesn't really write his books anymore but just inserts key ideas into a computer program that writes the books for him. This kind of felt like that.

So my major problem is that nothing really made sense. There is no reason for the reader to be scared of the snowman. We know that the villagers are scared of him... but why? They claim he's evil, but what has he done? What does he do? Does he freeze people? Is he the one making the place so damn cold? Seriously, give the snowman some supposed evil acts that he has done. Maybe claim that kids that go up the mountain mysteriously go missing. Also, while I'm on the topic, doesn't it take a fairly long time to climb up a mountain/ This book makes it sound like walking to your mailbox. Anyway, off topic. So seriously if this snowman is so evil what has he done? Does he eat people's pets? Curse people with snow voodoo? Murder drifters? Maybe he turns people into the snowmen you see all around? Without having any actions attributed to him, why should we be scared of him? Snowmen aren't typically scary, and just being a big living snowmen isn't menacing.

Then there are all the flaws in logic I have already pointed out. Why doesn't the father have contact with the child? Why does the aunt bring the child there if she doesn't want anything bad to happen to her? Why do they have move there if she just wants to redo the spell? Can't they just take a short vacation? Why do the villagers get it into their minds to make snowmen? That makes no sense unless you can attribute one to actually protecting people, but you can't. Wouldn't the aunt know that the father is still there and try to make contact with him? Why would a child side with a sentient snowman that growls and yells instead of her caretaker of the past 10 years? If you can capture it in a prison why live it in a prison of ice? Why not construct a prison out of metal? Why not sell tours to the evil snow man, showing it off like King Kong... well I suppose that story ended badly. Also if Conrad was one of the wizards that made the monster and trapped it there, why did the other kids say that he didn't move into the place until after that? Wouldn't the villagers know him?

Sometimes I feel like I am nitpicking a children's book, but I feel like there were serious flaws with this one. It would have been better if they did Scooby Doo this shit. The monster was really a robot built by Conrad to keep people away from his gold mine in the mountain. Aunt Greta is into the supernatural and hears about this living snowman so she goes to Sherpia to investigate. It'd be better than this crap. How did this book manage to make wizards with snow golems seem lame?

Bottom line is that this is a sub par entry in a series that isn't particularly known for literary excellence. With so many books they can't all be winners but I can't help but feel that he could have churned out a little better tale about an evil snowman. Perhaps if he stuck to writing only 1 or 2 books a year instead of 10,000?

Rating: 1 snowball out of 5

Up Next

Well, I did this book for Christmas. Now that I'm done, I promise, for like the third time, that Monster Blood III is up next. We will ring in the new year with some more Monster Blood. Also in the new year expect some more of the other series of Goosebumps. I've been thrift store shopping and found some Goosebumps 2000 and Goosebumps Horrorland. I've also got some Give Yourself Goosebumps left in my collection, and I'll be on the look out for even more. Perhaps I'll even remember to update frequently next year? Who knows! It could happen... Anyway, have a great holiday everyone.