October 31, 2016

Give Yourself Goosebumps: #4 The Deadly Experiments of Dr. Eeek

Judging a Book by Its Cover

It's Halloween so I'm going to deviate from the original series to the "Give Yourself Goosebumps" Series. May I just say that that ape is going bananas! Har har har. But for real, that lab monkey seems to be in charge. He doesn't seem to be keeping his lab in very good order either. Whatever that liquid is seems to be spilling everywhere. Remember, in science the more interesting the chemical is, the more green it is. I think he is working on the formula for Hi-C Ecto Cooler which by the way is back and is still delicious. As you can see I had some while reading this book.

Once again I feel like the illustrator for most of the Give Yourself Goosebumps who took over the duties from the guy from the original series just isn't quite up to par. Something about the chimp's face is just a little off. Still it's a pretty good cover. It's a nice action shot. I am left wondering, is he Dr. Eeek? Or has he escaped the clutches of Dr. Eeek? Also, I didn't know they make lab coats in chimp sizes. I guess it is a little small as his biceps are busting out of it. This chimp must be shredded.

As per usual the "ooze" dripping graphic on the Give Yourself Goosebumps series is full of glittery shiny stuff. It gives off a fun vibe rather than a spooky one. I get why they did it, shiny objects impress kids. They're like magpies.

Getting Goosebumps

So if you are unaware "Give Yourself Goosebumps" is a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style of book. Instead of reading straight through you are giving branching choices. Like "if you eat the peanut butter go to page 11, if instead you eat the jelly go to page 93." Most endings usually result in death. There tends to be a couple "good" endings, and few endings where you don't die but everything is not great. I'll be doing 3 read throughs of this book taking different paths. Will I manage to get the good ending? Let's find out!


These books star "you" the reader. So I'm at Eeek Laboratories with my friend Sam. I'm looking for my mom who just started working here working with THE Dr. Eeek. While we're waiting for her Sam takes a glass of clear liquid from the receptionist's desk. He's sure it's just water but I'm not convinced. Because I'm a fucking idiot I think Labs just leaves chemicals in glasses on their receptionists' desks. He does a convincing Mr. Hyde impression before announcing it is indeed just water. First choice up ahead. Do I sit here and wait for mom or go and find her?

I'm feeling adventurous so I go out to track her down. We wander through the hallways and easily get sidetracked by a vending machine. While selecting our junk food of choice we are accosted by a chimp the size of a gorilla. Why it couldn't have just been a gorilla which is equally scary in its own right is anyone's guess. Turns out though, instead of wanting to eat us he just wants a candy bar from the vending machine. We can either follow him or go back to the waiting room and wait for my mom.

I will not be swayed by my quest by some sugar addicted ape. To the waiting room! My mom is there, but we're late and now we have to go straight to bed instead of going to the movies. I am also ridiculed for not having a sense of adventure. Well pardon me book for COMPLETING THE TASK THAT WAS GIVEN TO ME! I guess it would have much rather me died a horrible death!


Back in the lab with Sam waiting for my mom. Because I need to be adventurous apparently, I go off to find her, once again meeting the giant ape. This time, however, an inexplicable sense of ADVENTURE overtakes me and I follow the chimp. He leads us through the hallways until we meet a man in a lab coat who demands to know what we are doing here. A legitimate question given the circumstances. He seems to know my mom so things are cool. He introduces himself as Yzark (which is Krazy backwards the reader may notice) and the chimp is Oscar.

After introductions are over it's time to see his work. Apparently he has been teaching chimps to play checkers and video games. I bet he got a government grant to do it too. Oscar the chimp wants us to join the apes inside. As I am obligated to be adventurous, I go along with it. We get locked in with them. That seems a little odd an unnecessary. As soon as the door closes the apes close the shades and it becomes clear that Oscar is in charge here. Dr. Yzark get a treat and heads to his cage. Is this the beginning to a reboot of planet of the apes?

Yes it turns out that the apes are in charge here. This is a chance for them to study humans, an interesting and seemingly intelligent species. And it looks like they got two new specimens. Ok book do you see what being adventurous gets you? Locked up by damn dirty apes! I was mocked for getting home with my mom and getting to sleep in my own bed so now I'm in a cage. Thanks a lot!


Ok, in the lab with Sam. Waiting for mom. Instead of going off if the freakin' ape this time I'm just going to sit tight and wait for mom. Instead of mom a short lady named Vanessa greets us. She thinks we're here for some sort of Raster experiment. It will net us 50 bucks CASH. But I'm not here for some sort of experiment. I'm here for my mom. Vanessa goes off to get the infamous Dr. Eeek. He's wearing his lab coat backwards and has an odd squint.

He leads us to a genuine science lab with beakers and Bunsen burners and shit. It even has this weird green goo that the longtime Goosebumps reader (such as myself) might assume to be Monster Blood. He tosses the green goo which he calls G-substnce to Sam. It starts to grow up his arms and cover him all over. Dr. Eeek leaves, and we try to claw it off to no avail. Eeek returns and demands that we finally co-operate with the Raster experiment. We give in, and agree but the goo is still consuming us. Surely this is the end.

Luckily at the last minute Dr. Eeek whips out a sonic screwdriver that calms the goo. He leads us to a room with seats and headsets. Sweet, we get to test out the new Oculus Rift! I'm totally down for this. The graphics are great. We are in a tropical island. Falling. Wait what? Luckily I miss the rocks below and fall into the water. While drying off my virtual clothes I see a large Komodo dragon which is really dangerous. I mean not as dangerous as a Hungarian Horntail but still I probably don't want to get bitten. I could run, or I could freeze. You know I bet they are like a dinosaur and their vision is based on movement. I'm going to freeze.

It seems this isn't the way to go. The Komodo dragon appreciates the easy meal and starts chomping on me good. It seems I'm dead, in virtual reality. Does that mean I'm dead for real? It is remarkably unclear. Seriously, the book doesn't tell me. I did however get a "Game Over" so I guess I'm done reading.

What I Thought

I didn't do to well. Books like this are hard to review of course because unless you read every ending you really haven't read the "whole" book, but ain't nobody got time for that. So I guess I just have the 3 tries to go off of. I didn't get as far as I'd hoped.

So what was good? Well the setting was excellent. A crazy laboratory is the perfect setting for a book like this. All sorts of possibilities. Weird experiments, creepy doctors, so many things can happen! I mean even in my short read through I experienced cutting edge virtual reality, was attacked by a menacing ooze, and was made a lab human by a group of intelligent apes. Three very diverse sci-fi happenings, imagine what else could occur? Also I think the fact that it stars "you" works well specifically for this particular type of book. It may not be the best gimmick in the world but I bet young me loved it. Plus it's not like you have time to develop a protagonist anyway (not that Goosebumps protagonists are particularly well developed.)

The shortcomings? Well they are the same in this book as they are in every Choose Your Own Adventure style book. In an effort to get a couple dozen plot lines in there, you sacrifice quantity for quality. Also, your choices don't necessarily play out logically or anything. What you choose to do might as well be chosen at random because there is no real clue to make the "right" choice. It would be interesting if your knowledge of the main series of Goosebumps helped you navigate through these books. Granted that might make them sucky for people who don't have that knowledge.

So did this book particularly stand out among the legions of other books of its ilk? Not really. That being said it also didn't blow chunks. I had fun to the extent I read even though I didn't get a longer better ending story line. If I was young and dedicated I probably would have been driven to read every ending or at least until I got the best one. In fact, when I was a kid that's probably what I did.

Rating: 3 out of 5 science chimps

Up Next

I am hoping to get back to the main series and the next entry would be The Horror at Camp Jellyjam. I really hope to get it done in November. Will I? Probably not. I am terrible at remembering to do these things each month. That said, I INTEND to do it. Intentions, eh? This is at least the second "Camp" Goosebumps book after Welcome to Camp Nightmare. By comparison camp Jellyjam sounds delightful. Delightful? Wait no, I meant delicious!

October 18, 2016

#32 The Barking Ghost

Judging a Book by its Cover

It's a dog. There really isn't much else going on here. It appears to be some sort of Labrador or something. It doesn't seem to be pleased, probably because it is a ghost. Also the camera that took the picture sucks because there is some major red eye going on. The dog has some major Elvis lip curl going on. There is no scenery or background. It's just a dog head. Ok.

There is a little patch of spooge that boasts that there is a free terrifying tattoo in the book. Past me must have taken it and used it. Fuck you past me, I wanted that tattoo! The tagline is "Bad dog. REALLY bad dog." You see, because you say bad dog to punish your dog, but this one is also presumably murderous. Or at least not particularly friendly. You know they say ghosts stay on earth because the soul has unfinished business. What unfinished business does a dog have? Didn't pee on enough trees? Well the back proclaims "it's a dog gone nightmare" which is a particularly groan inducing pun.

Honestly this is one of the less inspired covers I've seen. One thing it has got going for it is that the two tone slime border matches the colors of the actual illustration pretty well. Overall it's not particularly interesting though. Oh well. Perhaps the contents of the book itself will be more interesting. Let's find out!

Getting Goosebumps

Meet Cooper. He is our tween protagonist for this book. He is also real chicken shit scaredy cat. I mean, I know false scares and cowardliness are frequently portrayed in these books but I'm on page two and he has already been scared by a tree and a cuddly bunny rabbit. No joke. Then he talks about how he just moved to this knew house with his family and explains his past of being scared shitless. Then to prove his point he gets terrified of a garden hose and throws a softball at it. To end this riveting scare-a-thon Cooper's older brother Mickey scares him from beneath the bed. I don't know why he went to the effort when he could have scared him with a garden hose. Mom and dad split it up and Cooper devises brilliant plans to get back at his tormentor. Genius ideas like "jump out from behind the shower curtain." Then to finish the night out he hears barking outside but doesn't seen any dogs. Because dogs could never be behind a bush or a tree or a rock or something.

Determined to start the next day out better than the last, Cooper decides to get lost in the woods. Good going. He tried looking for the phantom dog and immediately screwed up. His plan of wandering around aimlessly to find his house when he gets the shit scared out of him by a leaf. I am not even kidding. He gets terrified of a leaf. RL Stine has written cowards before but this kid takes the cake. Except he wouldn't take cake because he'd be terrified of the cake. He gets his pathetic ass saved by a neighbor girl named Margaret Fergeson. Everyone calls her Fergie, and since this is the 90s that name is associated with a duchess and not a Black-Eyed Pea. She knows his name because she was spying on him on moving day from the woods. Creepy. She must be the ghost dog! How does that make sense? It doesn't really, but this is Goosebumps we're talking about. She creepily whispers the word "dogs" and starts running away. Just what a ghost dog would do! Maybe. When Cooper Pooper confronts her about it she has no recollection. She does however assert that the woods are haunted and that he should move.

On his trip back he gets assaulted by 2 dogs. They don't necessarily seem to be of the ghost variety, mostly just mean. Of course when he gets to his house and his dad inquires about things the dogs have vanished... like GHOST DOGS! Pops doesn't seem to be swayed by talk of haunted woods though. Dang parents! Inside the house brothers exchange insults. Cooper with big droopy ears is dubbed Drooper. Mickey is pronounced to be known as Sickey presumably more for rhyming reasons than for frequent bouts of illness.

It's at this point I would like to withdraw my assertion that Fergie is the ghost dog. I don't believe she is connected at all with the ghost dog because they keep throwing out too many hints that she is so that can't possibly be true. It has to be something far stupider. The ghost dogs are probably just holograms, or robots, or aliens or something. Oh yeah, also,  the ghost dog strikes again in the house, leaving no evidence, and a mocking older brother.

Saturday Fergie arrives to throw a real wrench in the cogs. She claims to have been put up to lying about the haunted status of the woods by Mickey, ahem, I mean Sickey. She still plays dumb when he brings up the dogs though. Coops then startledly proclaims said dogs to have returned. But alas, twas a jest! These kids are so clever. They decided to hang out by a big rock... because I guess that is what kids in the 90s did. I personally don't really remember hanging out by many rocks but I guess I wasn't that cool. At the rock the kids come up with a plan to get back at Mickey which involves a plant that looks like poison ivy but isn't. I think a better plan would be to cover him in real poison ivy, but what do I know? Either way, Mickey arrives desperately ranting about the dogs before he keels over. Since we are only halfway through the book it is probably yet another prank.

It was.

Naturally after this encounter when Coop-dawg is all alone he sees the ghost dog again. In fact, he sees his own reflection as the dog's. Creepy! He becomes sullen and withdrawn. But it's understandable, who isn't bummed when they keep seeing ghost dogs and no one believes them? The next morning they return when there are no witnesses. Then they did the mostly ghastly thing of all.... they stole his lunch.

Next weekend Fergie, who by the way believes in the ghost dog shenanigans, sleeps over with Grand-Master-Cooper and they unleash their brilliant plan to scare his brother. It's a very deep detailed plan that takes a certain amount of coordination and genius to pull off. Layers within layers, frights within frights. They are going to put a rubber rat on a string and drag it across him while he sleeps. SOMEHOW he doesn't fall for this gag, sensing the ruse from the get go and instead giving Coopy Coop a spook of his own. Shenanigans!

Cue the return of the dogs. Fergie sees this time but mom remains unconvinced. They vow vengeance upon the beasts! Or rather, they decide to go traipsing outside alone to face these dangerous perhaps superhuman beasts of unknown power and origin. The furious monsters corner them but don't go for the kill. Instead of taking this as a warning or a sign of mercy, they decide these accursed creatures are like Lassie and that Timmy is stuck in a well. They follow them. What they find is a shack. A murder shack? No, apparently it is "the changing room." You see the ghost dogs were in fact people who were cursed. Through the magical properties of the shack they shall change places with the kids. Becoming an immortal ghost dog? Not only that but they are telepathic. Sounds like a win to me, but the kids don't seem to be fans.

Now there is only one thing that can be done. Murder the people who took your bodies. You have got supernatural powers and canine ferocity, it would be easy. But these dumb kids disagree and just want to swap bodies back. They try all sorts of dumb things like barking at the parents and attempting to write a message with a pen when their paws can't hold it. Worst of all they seem to be infested with fleas. Ghost fleas? Undetermined. Also even though they are ghosts they still crave food. What kind of shitty ghosts are they? Their ultimate plan is to just drag those imposters' asses back to the shack. Real creative. Mom and dad seem fine with these mysterious dogs pulling their children there. They want to see what the dogs want. Oh I don't know, to eat your children? You are shitty parents! Anyway they drag em back and get into the shack and baddabing baddaboom they are chipmunks.

Wait. What? You read that right, there were chipmunks in the shack. So they became chipmunks.


What I Thought

This book sucks. No really, even by the lax standards with which I judge Goosebumps books this book is bad. It's whole conception feels lay. Like RL Stine was ticking off a list of creatures he'd feature and was like "let's do werewolves... wait no I've done that... ghost werewolves? no, too convoluted... dogs! no, not scary enough... I got it! ghost dogs!" And then he drank some scotch and did a few Scrooge McDuck laps in his pool full of money.

For starters, Cooper suuuuuuuucks. He took the oh so common fraidy cat character and dialed it all the way to 11. He was scared of a leaf. A LEAF! I wont lie, I wanted him to be eaten by the ghost dogs. I wanted him to be torn limb from limb. I knew it wouldn't happen but oh how I would have enjoyed it.

As far as other characters? Fergie existed only because these characters need a token friend. She didn't really contribute anything. She went along with Mickey, felt bad, then went along with Cooper. Such stunning character development! Then of course Mickey is just like every other sibling to a fraidy cat in these books. He is the asshole tormentor. Could we PLEASE have some new character types in these books?

Then we have the ghost dogs. Not scary. Also... not really ghostly? Ok, so they could walk through walls if they want. That is a little ghostly. But they weren't undead. They were cursed. Also they had mortal wants and needs. Plus how can a Labrador with fleas be that scary unless it is rabid? In fact a rabid dog would have been waaaay scarier. Also this book probably has the least scary use of a shack in the woods of all time.

So what would I have done differently? Besides not write this book? Well if you were going to keep it mostly the same but tweak a few things I'd say get to them changing into dogs way sooner. Have a time limit for how long they have until the change is permanent. That way they get frantic about trying to bring back the imposters. Also, it is key to have a scene where the pound shows up and tries to catch them but they can't because of all their ghost powers. So often these books have the kids be afraid of something but the parents don't believe them and the parents never really find out scary things are actually happening. Have adults be afraid. If adults are afraid then it is probably actually scary!

Finally I would like to discuss the chipmunks far more than they need to be discussed. So are they GHOST chipmunks or just regular chipmunks now? I mean I think the shack just swaps people, not swaps them and ghostifies them. Like the only reason the kids had the ghost powers is because the ghost dogs already had them right? And the ghost dogs were originally people, that's why they had human intelligence right? So the kids are now just regular old chipmunks with human minds, right? Does that mean the new Cooper and Fergie have chipmunk minds? Are they going to start chattering and squeaking and hording nuts? Won't their parents get worried when their children can't speak English and defecate everywhere? A book about kids with the minds of chipmunks would be amazing. Far better than this book.

In conclusion this book feels lazy. The formula of Goosebumps has more than worn thin. The characters are lame rehashes. Cooper is the biggest chicken shit of all time. The "monsters" aren't interesting or scary. Maybe if this book hadn't been preceded by over 30 books with pretty much the same formula I would be more generous to it, but as it stands I just can't be.

Rating: 1 chipmunk out of 5

Up Next 

I know I have been failing at updating this page regularly. I would, however, really like to do a Halloween entry like I try to do every year. If I own a Give Yourself Goosebumps book I haven't done yet I'll try to go for that. I'll have to look through my collection. If not I have a few other ideas up my sleeves. I really really really want to get one done by Halloween, which gives me about a week. Hopefully I manage! anyway, thanks for reading.