November 16, 2019

Red Rain

So on this blog I put the title "Reliving the Terror of Youth." That has been the focus, the Goosebumps books I grew up with. Occasionally some other scary book for kids I grew up with gets reviewed, like that one time I did Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I have even strayed out into more modern Goosebumps books released recently after I was well into adulthood. So here is a real first for me, I am going to talk about a horror book... FOR ADULTS.

The novel Red Rain was released by Goosebumps author R.L. Stine in 2012. At this point in his career Stine had released literally hundreds of children's novels. Adult novels, however, he had only released perhaps a couple. Still, as he had perhaps reached the apex of his popularity in the 90s, it was maybe quite tempting to write a novel for those kids who loved him back then but had now grown up. Thus comes Red Rain.

Now I am not gonna give a full on treatment I give the kids books. It's a newer book, it's for adults, maybe you guys want to read it without me spoiling all of it. I do however feel like I have a want, nay, a NEED to talk about it.

I will outline the basic premise without hopefully giving too much away. Lea Sutter travels to an island to write about for her travel blog, leaving her kids and husband back home on the mainland. There she experiences a horrible hurricane, devastating the island. Emerging from the wreckage appear to twin boys. Orphaned. They have lost everything, and Lea feels an instant connection. She has an overwhelming urge to adopt the boys. Once home, strange things start to happen. Are these boys as angelic as they seem? (Spoiler alert, no.)

So how does this book shape up? Not well. Even though I love Goosebumps books I think in my reviews I have been the first to admit they are not "traditionally good" books. R.L Stine is not an excellent writer. He gets away with this by writing to children, with fun quirky monsters and villains. His writing style doesn't improve that vastly when writing for grown ups. Sure he can provide a few more details, but his characters are still pretty flat. In fact, I don't think I gave a crap about a single one. He also writes side plots for characters like cops that don't amount to anything. He tells us things we don't need to know and frankly don't contribute.

There is one thing that really weirds me out too. So he still writes in R.L Stine mannerisms. Like clearly is aimed for older people but it still feels very much like you are reading R.L. Stine... then a guy bangs his secretary over his desk and you are like waaaaait a minute. It feels so out of place. It's almost like he uses sex scenes and gore because that is what "grown up novels are supposed to do." It is no substitute for good writing.

But is it scary? No. The antagonists of the story are honestly no more frightening than Slappy the Dummy. They would scare an 8 year old, but not an adult. In fact, the only way in which they are "more" scary is that they are successful in murder, and there is some gore. But there essence is not scary. They spout childish mantras that could have been torn right from the pages of Goosebumps. Think when the Phantom of the Auditorium goes on chanting, "stay away from my home sweet home." They say stuff about that level of "scary" except this is meant FOR ADULTS! You can dress them up a little blood and guts but the reader will still come away from it thinking it seems childish.

Bottom line is, this book may be aimed at adults but if you cut out the gore and sex, and shaved off 300 unnecessary pages this could be a Goosebumps book... just not a very good one. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone expecting an advanced scare, nor would I even recommend it to adult readers of Goosebumps like myself. An adult can still get a laugh out of Goosebumps, and read it in a half an hour. This book will take you longer and you'll enjoy it less. I'd only suggest it to someone curious, but would advise you to have low expectations.  My real advice is to go reread the Night of the Living Dummy trilogy. It'll take you less time and you'll have more fun.

October 27, 2019

Goosebumps #38: The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena

Judging a Book by its Cover

My, my, my it has been a long time hasn't it? Sorry for, you know, completely abandoning this blog for almost a year. I'm back though, so let's get to it.

The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. Clearly snowmen are not supposed to be in California. You know the only reason I knew about Pasadena existing before this book was the Jan and Dean song Little Old Lady From Pasadena. I guess these are their 2 claims to fame?

So the Snowman is clearly out of his element amongst the palm trees and one wonders where the snow he is covered with is from. You know I always thought Abominable Snowmen were white furred and that is what distinguishes them from their Bigfoot/Sasquatch brethren. Maybe I'm wrong though. This brute is very top heavy. It looks like he skips leg day at the gym but his upper body strength is a site to behold. Just look at that street light! Also he is knocking over a mailbox which I am pretty sure is a federal crime. Not cool buddy, not cool.

You know what is cool though? Finally writing a review for a dang Goosebumps book again. Let's get on with it.

Getting Goosebumps

This time around our protagonists are the brother sister team of Jordan and Nicole Blake. Their dad is a photographer who just got back from the Grand Tetons where there was SNOW. Jordan and Nicole are mad jealous because, having never seen snow before, they don't know that it's actually terrible. Dad is developing his photos of the grizzlies. You see developing photos is what old people used to have to do before digital cameras were invented. You had to actually WAIT to see what the picture you took looked like. Crazy, I know. And for some reason all his photos of the grizzlies look like... teddy bears? That rascally Jordan pranked him. There has always gotta be a prankster in this books, always.

Speaking of pranking, in the next chapter the neighborhood bullies unscrewed the Blakes' bike handlebars and put them on backwards. That and a thorough Super Soaking (tm) really got the better of the duo. The grand finale was a rock smashing that turned out to be a movie prop. Surely these villains will never get their comeuppance later on!

Anyway dad gets great news that he gets to go shoot some photos in Alaska for a magazine. The normal babysitter is occupied so the kids get to tag along on a professional photo shoot in the wilderness. What could go wrong? The publication wants shots of a supposed Abominable Snowman but dad is skeptical and is fine just getting shots of the tundra. Booooring.

Cut to the flight in to Alaska. It is a mighty small town they land in and they meet their guide Arthur. He is a true believer of the Snowman and tells tales of people gone missing. He is not real fond of the idea of kids being brought along. Can't say I blame him.

As if to immediately confirm Arthur's feelings about the kids, 2 miles in to their 10 mile trek the siblings are horsing around and one of them falls into a crevice. Damn kids. They stop for the night after arriving late at an old musher's cabin. Not too late for Jordan to plant some fake Snowman tracks though. Dad and Arthur fall for it hard. The old guide flips out. I guess it's a reasonable response if you think something that's been eating all your friends is nearby. Count this as a prank that didn't land very well.

Next morning the sled dogs are scared of something. This makes Arthur doubly scared. Mr. Blake concedes and they head back to the cabin. Later on the dogs get spooked again. That night the kids sneak out of the cabin because they can't sleep and they spot Arthur abandoning them to be eaten by the yeti. Dick movie Arthur. Dick move.

The kids chase him because they are idiots and of course they get lost. They fall into another crevice, scream for help, cause an avalanche, stumble into a strange room, and then find the Abominable freakin' Snowman. He is big, he is scary, and he is... frozen in ice? That seems to be the case, even though fresh footprints lead right to the ice cube. Odd

Can ice stop a snow beast though? No it cannot. The ice cracks and he chases the kids, savagely attacking them, tearing them limb from limb and devouring the corpses... oh wait no, he opens their backpack and steals their trail mix. This is the fearsome monster that made Arthur almost piss his pants?

Once the snacks are gone the monster carries the children outside only to be scared away by dogs. The dropped kids return to the cabin and tell their father about the beast. He has the reaction any good father would have, demanding the small vulnerable children lead him to the huge unstoppable monster. They do it because they are kisd and they are idiots.When they get their the Snowman is back in his ice cube. Father of the year ignores his frightened children's please to leave the beast alone, and instead he decides to take the Abominable Snowmansicle back home to Pasadena. Jordan sneaks some snowballs in the trunk they lock the monster in. Wait a second, how fucking big was the trunk Mr. Blake took anyway? It can fit a whole damn yeti inside? Jesus! Anyway, no life or death situation is so serious you can't pack away some snowballs to throw at your childhood bully.

Back home in Pasadena the kids who couldn't wait to see snow are relieved to be back in the sunshine. Dad has to leave for business and warns the kids to leave the yeti trunk alone. Sound advice. Their friend starts hassling them about the trip and the Blakes quickly spill the beans about the Snowman. Their friend is reasonable skeptical and needs some hard evidence. Immediately they do the one thing their dad told them not to do. But hey, when you got a frozen yeti you gotta show it off.

Of course the yeti isn't the only thing in there. They sneak the snowballs out and throw them at their awestruck friend, missing instead hitting a tree. That detail is notable because the snow on the tree starts to spread instead of melt. In 100 degree weather the snow covers the tree and spreads  to the ground. The friend is thrilled to see the snow in Pasadena, because (and I've said this about many characters before) SHE'S AN IDIOT. The Blakes are rightfully concerned. The friend becomes more concerned when she lobs a magic snowball at Nicole and the girl freezes solid.

Trying to thaw her out in front of the oven didn't work. A reasonable solution though. The furnace is a no go too. Then a.... uhh... genius solution comes to Jordan's mind. He'll bribe the yeti with trail mix to warm her up. I fail to see how this could go wrong, so lets do this thing. After taking a bit of time to thaw out, the yeti indeed delights at trail mix. At first he seems to maul the frozen sister but he does indeed thaw her out. Wait... that plan fucking WORKED? You gotta be kidding me! The Snowman even goes outside and rolls around in the new magic snow to get it to dissipate. Then the beast takes his leave. They assume he will travel to the chilly mountain tops, but really it's out of their hands.

There is really one thing left to do. There are 2 of those magic snowballs left, and no yeti to dispose of them. They do the only logical thing and bury them in an empty lot.

Dad is understandable bummed that the Abominable Snowman escaped but takes solace in the fact that his kids weren't terribly mauled. At least he has always got the photos he took. I wonder how those turned out? Well all the pics of tundra and elk turned out fine... but every one he took of the Snowman just shows snow and nothing more. Guess he won't be making his millions.

And that is the end of that.

Oh wait, one of the bullies dug up the magic snowball and threw it at the other bully.


My Thoughts

Ok surely I could nitpick this book to death. It is formulaic in the way all Goosebumps are. There are silly solutions to monstrous problems. The trail mix being the key to salvation was ridiculous. There are at times desperate leaps of logic. These are things that seem to commonly plague the series.

There is one major thing I thought could be changed about this book though. The book is called The Abominable Snowman of PASADENA and it is only in Pasadena for like 2 chapters. It is somewhat interesting seeing the kids out of their element in Alaska, and certainly the isolation and wildness of the area makes it quite a great setting for a horror book... but that diminishes the interesting aspect of the "fish out of water" Yeti being in California. To me this book fails to deliver on the premise of its title.

I would like to pitch an altered plot to this book. The kids are at home sweltering away in sunny Pasadena with a broken AC while their dad is out having a wild adventure in Alaska. They receive a cryptic postcard in the mail about some mind blowing discovery. Their father returns soon but is acting strange. It turns out he is the sole discoverer of the world's first yeti, frozen in ice. He spends all his time in his dark room studying it, to the neglect of his children. Oddly, the usually balmy California weather in July starts to plummet. Can you believe that after only a week the temperature is below freezing at night? What ever happened to global warming? One morning the kids discover snow covering the ground outside as far as the eyes can see. And... are those giant footprints in the backyard? It turns out the yeti is on the loose. Their father sheepishly admits he was overcome with the strangest desire and knowledge to free the beast. You see, it is more than just a savage animal that time forgot, it is an arcane beast who brings the tundra with him wherever he dwells, with a thirst to finally be free upon the world again. Only the Blake family know the truth about the frigid weather in the city, and only Mr. Blake with his kids by his side can undo the horror he has unleashed upon Pasadena.

Why is RL Stine a millionaire and I'm just writing shitty blog posts? Life ain't fair! Still though, the book isn't like, absolutely terrible. It's basically on par with your average Goosebumps book. It doesn't hurt to believe it could have been so much more though.

Rating: 2 Yetis out of 5

Up Next

I really intend to write another blog post before the end of the year. At the very least, however, I promise to right another one before next October.

My lovely friends sent me some birthday gifts this summer. One is this awesome Haunted Mask blanket pictured above. Another is the RL Stine book Red Rain. It is a horror book he wrote for adults rather than children. I don't expect to do a full big post about it with a lengthy synopsis and everything, but I do expect to at least drop some brief thoughts and perhaps let you know if it's worth picking up.

Beyond that, I still have a giant pile of Goosebumps to read. I'll try and get to them as soon as I can. thanks for reading and happy Halloween!