November 25, 2018

Goosebumps HorrorLand #2: Creep From the Deep

Judging a Book by its Cover

You may notice the cover above is not my usual slightly blurry photo of a book from my own collection. If you look close you'll notice it is the cover for the audiobook version of Creep From the Deep. Well that was an astute observation. For the first time ever I'm reviewing the audiobook version of a Goosebumps book! I thought it would be a unique experience. I am not really a big audiobook listener but I thought that one of these books would be short enough to keep my focus and the potential for audio spookiness could add a new layer to the story.

So what do we`ave here? It is number 2 of the HorrorLand series, Creep From the Deep. It is, I believe, a sequel to Deep Trouble which I have already read and reviewed here. There is also a Deep Trouble 2. Which I haven't read yet. I haven't read it yet because I don't own it. I generally like to own the books I'm reading. I made an exception for this audiobook because I got it from the library. It was also the only Goosebumps audiobook they had that I hadn't reviewed yet. Made my choice easy, that's for sure. I don't think I will be missing a lot from Deep Trouble 2 though because these HorrorLand sequels had a tendency to retcon other books in the series. A prime example of this would be that The Scream of the Haunted Mask disregarded everything that happened it The Haunted Mask II.  I have a sneaking suspicion the same thing has happened here (and I might have checked the wiki for it...)

Nevermind that though. I guess I should talk about the cover itself. It prominently features a rather mean looking eel. It's a rather big eel at that. Like... kinda bigger than I think eels get? I suppose that depends on how big the porthole it's busting through is. Deep Trouble's cover featured a shark in the open water. It made you think about how vast the ocean is, and how alone the victim was. This cover makes you feel cramped, claustrophobic, and invaded. It may be the nostalgia talking but I've never thought the later series's covers ever had quite the charm of the originals, but I don't have a lot of complaints about this picture. There is a creep, it looks deep, mission accomplished.

I noticed the reading is performed by Jeff Woodman. A quick googlin' showed me that he has done over 400 audiobooks so I am gonna go out on a limb and say he is probably pretty good at his job. I am optimistic for this reading... or listening rather. It's going to be my first audiobook experience since I was little and listened to a cassette of The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree (which might I say was plenty scary in its own right.)

So lets go back to the ocean (I assume) and see what is lurking for us there this time. Is it the eel on the cover? A megalodon? Is a sharknado brewing? Lets find out!

Getting Goosebumps

Meet William Deep Jr. Perhaps you've already met him if you read Deep Trouble (or Deep Trouble 2.) He also goes by Billy, or perhaps as his alter ego The Undersea Mutant. You see he is an underwater hero waging battle against the fearsome Albino Eel. Or maybe he's just a kid with an overactive imagination and the whole first chapter is a fake out fantasy sequence.

Really Billy is on a science boat called The Cassandra with his uncle Dr. D who is a marine biologist. It's a regular Sealab. He likes to try and discover new species like perhaps the infamous Albino Eel? Alas, it seems to be just regular seaweed. Never fear though, just in case he needs protection he trains Billy to man the harpoons. His first throw goes horrible and Billy fatally spears his sister Sheena. Nah, just kidding. She pretended to be hit by a spear. Younger sisters are like that I guess. And even though she may play tricks, she doesn't have quite the imagination Billy does.

So what is the marine biologist vessel doing out in the ocean this time? Hunting pirate treasure actually. Seems odd for a marine biologist to do, but hey, why not. Their target: The Scarlet Skull. Captained by the ruthless Long Ben One-Leg (a name that seems vaguely sexual) this fearsome pirate vessel sank over 200 years ago in a mysterious cloud of black smoke. While checking out a ship site sounds interesting, the real prize is PIRATE TREASURE, ARRRRRRRR. Shan't be easy to be obtaining that ther booty tho, tharrr be zombie pirates guardin' it.

So to explore they have a nice yellow submarine (a yellow submarine, a yellow submarine) called The Deep Diver with which they can explore. But first, the eel has returned to munch on Billy again, unless that's his imagination. Oh. It is. Nevermind then. All aboard! Billy, naturally, gracefully falls straight on his ass upon entering. Now it's time to dive, dive, dive.

Things do not go smoothly on our maiden voyage. There is some engine trouble. The a black cloud The Scarlet Skull. Well on the bright side at least they found what they were looking for. They also found a freakin' skeleton army that starts beating on the ship. The engines won't start. It is the classic moment in a slasher film when the murderer is coming and the cool convertibles ignition won't go. Thankfully Sheena is there to smack the console like Fonzie smacks a jukebox. Problem solved.
eerily like the myth of Cap'n Long Ben envelopes the sub. It is scary, and sickening to the stomach. Even brave Sheena is sacred. Is Dr. D scared? No. Dr. D is... GONE! How could he disappear when they are under water in the middle of the ocean?  Only one thing is for sure, they have to get themselves out of this mess. The kids get the engine going again, but can't control it and crash right into

They manage to steer themselves safe out of the depths, but on the surface The Cassandra is nowhere to be seen. There is an island though. Sheena swims for it, and Billy tries to but the clutz bashes his leg on the way out of the sub and falls into the water. On shore he needs a stick to use as a crutch. Ashore there is no Dr. D, but there is a strange man in a black cloak who turns out to be a corpse. Also there is a trail that looks like skeleton prints. One of the other nice features of the island is a massive pit in which they fall, and then the skeleton pirates capture them. The pirates like to speak in rhyme too. Kooky spooks they are. Anyway, the pirates captured Dr. D so at least he's still alive. Unfortunately they want the kids to give back what was taken from them, and the kids don't know what on earth they are talking about. It must be the treasure, but they don't even have the treasure.

Once again Goosebumps characters decide there is no problem on earth that can't be solved by running away. Unless you meet a big snake, like they do. Then you gotta solve your problems by flinging it the fuck out of the way.

Soon they discover two men on the island. Two LIVING men, which is a big improvement. They are Roger and Goldy, who are photographers and not pirates. They even want to help the kids, and after a fight with some skeletal pirates its off to their motorboat. They want to photograph the shipwreck to get that sweet sweet shipwreck photo money. Is there a lot of money on photographing shipwrecks? Apparently!

They reach the site of the submarine and it's scuba time! While the men are down below Billy uncovers some rifles aboard the boat. Why would photographers need guns? Well the photographers return with the treasure, so all the kids' problems are solved. But the men are actually undead sailors from the pirate ships rival ship which the treasure was stolen off of, and these undead sailors plan on keeping the treasure. So I guess problems not solved. They seemed to have fooled the kids by wearing masks. They must have been really good masks... After tossing the kids overboard Roger the skeleton man touches the red skull jewel on the chest to open it but it turns out to be a trap. It zaps both then men and fries them to ash. That is way more secure than a lock.

After that crazy happening even more crazy shit goes down. The Cassandra somehow just drifting on open water manages to bump into the motorboat. Then the sunken pirate ship rises from the ocean depth with Captain Ben and Dr. D his hostage. He demands what is his be returned, and the kids offer him the treasure but he has no interest in that. No, what Long Ben One-Leg back is the return of his leg. It seems the stick Billy found on the island to use on a crutch was actually the pirate Captain's leg. Sheena shrewdly asks how they can trust he will give back their uncle. The Captain proudly states that he won't give back the uncle either way and he'll murder the kids too. This doesn't seem like the most effective way to get what you want.

Now how do you kill that which is already dead? You throw its own severed leg at it like a harpoon, because your uncle gave you lessons on spear fishing. Why this works is anyone's guess, but it does. The Captain croaks, the red jewel cracks, the pirate ship resinks, Dr. D dies.

Wait.. Dr. D dies? Wait nah, nevermind, he's fine. He advises them that they must go back through the black cloud to return to the living world. Doing so is a success, but sadly the treasure is gone. Does that mean the treasure is dead too? I'm confused. Either way the skull jewel remains, and Billy seems confident it has no more power. All that is left to do is radio for help. The only help they get is dead pirates chanting in rhyme....

This is the end of the book proper.

Now for the HorrorLand section. At the end of each HorrorLand series book, the characters from that book enter HorrorLand and the episodes tie all the books together. Would it have made sense to review all this books in a row? Probably... But I didn't do that...

Soooooo, Billy and Sheena received a special invitation to go to HorrorLand. How could they refuse?

Early on they see two girls in distress at the front desk of the hotel for the park. Their parents have gone missing. Sheena assures them it is just a prank she overheard the employees play on the kids, by moving parents to another room. Traumatizing kids and getting paid for it... is this what being a clown feels like?

The girls are named Britney Crosby and Molly Molloy. I'm guessing their from the first HorrorLand series book but I haven't read that one yet. Either way, they are now worried about a creepy picture on their digital camera. It's of Slappy the Dummy but somehow he is IN HorrorLand and in a picture with all of them including Billy and Sheena. How the hell did that happen? Weird. Must be another HorrorLand Prank.

Their group goes off to quicksand beach and then immediately freak out because they are sinking in quicksand. Did they not understand what the premise of the attraction was? It is especially creepy for Billy because he hears the pirates chanting again. Finally the kids succumb to the sinking and get pulled down by the sand... into a totally wicked sweet slide. Best ride ever! Except... Sheena and Billy don't see the two girls that came with them. Oh well, they are probably not horrifically maimed or dead or anything.

Eventually Billy and Sheena make their way to the games arcade area. One kid with a strange gray keycard is kicking every game's ass and winning all the prizes. He is doing so good the Monster Police come to bust him. The kid sneaks Billy his card and runs away. Billy decides running away is a great idea too

Back at the hotel using the phone is no good because the only person they can dial is a creepy laughing pirate that may or may not be Captain Long Ben One-Leg. I hope it's not long distance.

The kid that gave billy the card turns up at the hotel. His name is Matt Daniels and apparently a strange HorrorLand employee gave it to him. They all decide to see if Britney and Molly are dead or not, which is very nice of them after spending some time at the arcade.

Searching turns up the girls at a cafe. Strange thing is that the door is locked, and it looks odd inside. Luckily the gray keycard opens the door. Inside, the girls are no longer there. In fact, no one is. But there is a mirror. Their reflection reveals Sheena is no longer with them either. But she assures them she is still there. In fact she is there, she is just... INVISIBLE.

My Thoughts

Even in audiobook form, Goosebumps are still Goosebumps. Though the format did alter the experience a bit, it still felt like basically the same old thing. It just made the book take over 2 hours to listen to instead of like a half an hour or so to read. Was it worth it though...

The audiobook aspects of this book were really good! The narrator did a great job. He had unique voices for the very characters that fit with their attitudes. There were nice effects to go with it, like some creepy deep zombie pirate chanting. Plus all the sound effects and really livened things up. It helped make tense moments feel genuinely tense. The whole thing added a level of polish to a foundation that is well... at its heart the generally somewhat average typical Goosebumps story.

If we take away the studio tricks and slick narration does the story hold up? Well, about as well as any other Goosebumps story does. The thing that makes reviewing these books starts to get the same over and over. So many of these books have the same strengths and weakness, the same flaws, the same structure.

So let me compare it to the most obvious title Deep Trouble. This being the sequel to that book we can point out some things. Like the first book, the main interest of the story ends up being supernatural rather than your typical sea creature. The first book had mermaids, this book has the ghost pirates. Unlike the dead swashbucklers in this book, the mermaids of the original weren't villainous. They were a plot aspect to allow man to be the true villain. They are both myths of the sea but have a very different vibe. The first had a bit more of a sci-fi vibe with a small bit of moral quandary (is abducting the mermaids for study ethically alright?) Creep From the Deep is a little more straight horror. Walking pirate corpses that want you dead. It is more scary but perhaps not as interesting.

The whole premise seems a little bit inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean. It's not like that movie was the first to have undead pirates, but the third Pirates movie came out just a year or 2 before this book. Was it an inspiration? Maybe...

Anyway, as a whole this book was a pretty fun piratey adventure. The audiobook aspects of it were really well done and added something to the experience. I won't say that I am an audiobook convert, I still like reading books the old fashioned way but I can see the appeal.

Rating: 4 out of 5 spooky pirates

Up Next

Honestly, the next review might take awhile. December is a pretty busy month for me, so this might be the last review for 2018. When I do finally get around to update again I will probably go back to the original series. Of course, something interesting may catch my eye by then. We'll see. As always, thanks for reading.