Monday, February 20, 2006

#09 Welcome to Camp Nightmare


#09 Welcome to Camp Nightmare

Front Tagline: It's the little camp of horrors!
Back Tagline: Those Scary Stories About Camp Are All Coming True....

Official Book Description:
The food isn't great. The counselors are a little strange. And the camp director, Uncle Al, seems sort of demented.
Okay, so Billy can handle all that.
But then his fellow campers start to disappear.
What's going on? Why won't his parents answer his letters? What's lurking out there after dark?
Camp Nightmoon is turning into Camp Nightmare.
For real.
And Billy might be next...

Brief Synopsis:
Billy (no last name, no one has any last names in the book) has just been sent off to Camp Nightmoon by his mom and dad, who are explorers and scientists and I don't know, superheroes and movie stars too. While on the bus to camp, Billy encounters many delightful stereotypes characters, such as Mike, the fat kid who's scared of everything; Colin, who wears sunglasses and a red bandana around his long brown hair; Jay, the jockish kid with wild curly red hair, so he's clearly mad at the world and will serve as the "bully" of the group; Dawn and Dori, two girls from the Girl Camp faction of Camp Nightmoon. The busdriver stops the vehicle in the middle of a desert on the way to the camp and orders everyone out of the bus. He unpacks everyone's belongings then drives off, abandoning the children in the desert. The children are suddenly surrounded by a couple of wildcats who prepare to slaughter the children until a man shows up on another bus with a rifle and shoots it at the wildcats. If none of this makes any sense, that's okay, since it's never refered to ever again.

The man who saved the children introduces himself as the leader of Camp Nightmoon, Uncle Al, and he is given the physical characteristics of Art Garfunkel by RL Stine. Uncle Al invites the children onto his bus and in a case of supreme ineffeciency, drives approximately five minutes to the camp from where they were dropped off. Stine makes it easy on the reader by having his characters question this decision outloud, but unlike the reader, the characters seem to forget anything that happened in the first 30 pages of the book ever occured once they arrive at camp. The girls head off to their camp and based on my calculations, outside of counselors and Uncle Al, all eight boys from the bus make up the entire population of the camp.

Mike and Jay and Colin all bunk together, and while preparing their cabin, Mike finds a pair of poisonous snakes in his bed. Jay jokes around and play pushes Mike into the snakes. The punchline to the joke is Mike getting bitten on his hand, which then starts copiously bleeding. He runs off to find the nurse while Billy devises a plan to rid the snakes by wrapping them up in a bedsheet and throwing them outside. This plan is heralded as brave for reasons unexplained to the reader by their bunk's counselor, Larry, who then laughs when he is told that Mike went to find the nurse because there is no nurse. I guess that's kind of funny. Mike returns and as his hand is described as bleeding profusely onto the floor of the cabin, Larry tells him to just wash his hand and wrap a bandage around it.

The boys go to eat dinner around a campfire, where Uncle Al tells them the rules of Camp Nightmoon. The campers have to write home every day to tell their parents what fun they're having. They're not allowed out in the woods or along the river that runs between the boy's and girl's camps. This is peppered with a warning by Uncle Al that the woods are dangerous and infested with Tree Bears. What.

Uncle Al also informs the campers that they're not allowed to ever enter the Forbidden Bunk, so that's why he's mentioning the thing they'd never have even known existed were it not for Uncle Al warning against it. Jay decides after the fire that he wants to sneak out to see the Forbidden Bunk. Larry overhears him and tells him he probably shouldn't, as the Forbidden Bunk is where the Sabre lurks, a red-eyed monster. Then the boys hear hideous howling from the Forbidden Bunk. Could Larry be telling the truth?

The next day the bunkmates are all enlisted to play something call Scratchball, which entails one person throwing a ball as far as they can, then attempting to run all four bases of a baseball diamond before someone catches it. I'm not a sports nut, but I'm pretty sure I know this game under it's other name: Running. Mike sits this game of Scratchball out, as his hand is swollen. Larry plays his spot and after Colin makes a move he doesn't appreciate, Larry loses his temper and throws the ball directly at the back of Colin's head from about 30 feet away. I'm not a medical sciences nut, but I'm pretty sure if you threw a baseball as hard as you could at the back of someone's head from 30 feet, they'd die. However, Colin is merely knocked to the ground and Larry helps both Mike and Colin to the main cabin to see Uncle Al.

Billy and Jay go back to the bunk and work on writing their daily letters home. Larry enters with Colin, who is miraculously just a little sore. Billy asks where Mike is but Larry just shrugs and leaves. Later, Billy discovers all of Mike's belongings removed from the cabin, and no one will tell him where Mike went.

Later that nite, Jay introduces Billy and Colin to some kid named Roger who is mentioned for the first time ever only when a plan is devised for the two to sneak into the Forbidden Cabin. I bet things work out well for this Roger. Billy and Colin decline the invitation to sneak out and Jay and Roger leave for a short time. Then there are screams and Jay runs back and tells Billy that Roger was attacked and mauled by the Sabre. The three boys lock themselves in the cabin until morning.

When they do leave, they don't see any traces of the previous nite's attrocities. They find Larry and tell him what happened to Roger. Larry seems a little confused but agrees to talk to Uncle Al about the missing camper. Billy goes down with some campers to the river for a swim, where he is met by Larry, who tells him that Uncle Al searched the Forbidden Bunk but couldn't find any traces of foul play, and what's worse, Uncle Al has no record of there ever being a camper named Roger at Camp Nightmoon. Then Larry changes the subject to WHO WANTS TO GO FOR A SWIM?

At the river, Billy is accosted by Dawn and Dori, who have swam over from the girl's camp and hid in the bushes for hours on the hopes that Billy would walk by exactly where they are on the campgrounds. If this makes no sense, remember, nothing in this book does. The girls tell Billy that campers are disappearing from their camp as well, and they plan on making a break for it very soon. The three agree to meet again and Billy takes off back towards the bunk. On the way, he spots a payphone by Uncle Al's offices. He plans to call home to his parents and beg for them to come to the camp and rescue him and all his friends, yet the phone turns out to be a plastic decoy. Uncle Al walks out of the Plot Convenience Bunk and informs Billy that campers are not allowed to use the phone. And also Billy's going on a canoe trip tomorrow.

When Billy makes it back to the bunk, he tells Jay and Colin about the girls and the three of them decide to write to their parents and tell them precisely what is happening and hope for a speedy rescue. Larry stomps into the cabin and tells Colin and Jay that they are going on a special two camper hike with a counselor named Frank. If this were the real world and not Goosebumps world, this is when the book would turn into an SVU episode. However, in the book the two campers and the counselor all mysteriously disappear with no explanation. After trying and failing to get answers out of Larry, Billy stumbles into Uncle Al's office and finds a burlap sack full of all the letters he and his fellow campers had been writing, which have clearly never been mailed at all.

When Billy returns to his bunk after dinner, he meets his two new bunkmates, Tommy and Chris, who will also be joining Billy on his canoe trip tomorrow. I bet these two will have fun canoeing and nothing eventful or murderous will occur. Tommy and Chris also tell Billy that Uncle Al announced that Visitor's Day has been cancelled, so no one's parents will be arriving anytime soon.

The next morning, Larry takes Billy, Chris, and Tommy out to the canoe and the four head off downstream. Larry (in an exciting preview of Goosebumps #19: Deep Trouble) decides he'd like to look at the fish in the river and leans too far out of the canoe and falls in and drowns. What.

Billy bravely abandons his two innocent, child bunkmates in the canoe, and leaves them to float downsteam to their deaths while he rescues the drowning counselor responsible for numerous camper murders. Billy pulls Larry to safety and the two walk up the bank of the river back to camp. Larry tells Uncle Al that Billy saved his life. Billy keeps trying to get either Uncle Al or Larry to acknowledge that the two bunkmates were in the canoe, but Uncle Al finally pays attention and scolds Larry on losing his favorite canoe.

The next day, Billy is awoken early by Larry. Apparently Uncle Al has called a surprise morning hike and the whole camp is required to attend. Billy and what's left of his campmates are walking in the woods when Uncle Al instructs his counselors to remove rifles from their bags and pass them out to the children. Two girls have escaped from the girl's camp, Uncle Al informs the campers, and Billy is excited that Dawn and Dori made it out. Uncle Al then instructs the children that they are to find the two girls, who are presumed to be hiding in the woods, and shoot them. Billy refuses this order and instead turns his gun on Uncle Al and fires.

But the Twist is:
The gun doesn't go off and Uncle Al gets very excited and declares "You've passed the test!" Dawn and Dori appear from within the woods, as does Jay and Colin and everyone else Billy had met at the camp. Then his parents show up and give him a big congratulatory hug. Billy is told that his parents wanted him to go with them on their next big exploration, but first he needed to be tested by the government to see if he was ready. Uncle Al tells Billy that he passed the test by Obeying Orders (not going into the Forbidden Cabin), Showing Bravery (rescuing Larry from drowning), and Knowing When Not To Follow Orders (refusing to shoot the girls). Uncle Al doesn't mention how shooting his counselor, almost being eaten by wildcats, and letting his friend get attacked by snakes factor into the final test score. Billy is told the exciting place they're going to be exploring is Earth. Oh wow, they were aliens or something.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Billy and Dawn, who disappears until the middle of the novel.

Questionable Parenting:
Billy's parents subject their child to psychological torture just to take him to Earth. Hey, my parents never made me watch my friends get murdered and I've lived on Earth my whole life.

Questionable Counseling:
What the hell are tree bears?

Word Choice Alert:
Number of times a character is described as grinning: 23.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 1/2:
The bus driver is a monster! Wait, he's a monster who's pulling his own monstorous face off! Wait, no, it's a mask. If it was up to me, Billy would fail his test right then.

Great Prose Alert:
"Then everyone laughed.
'You won't be laughing if a bear claws your head off,' Uncle Al said sternly."

Conclusions:
This was the first Goosebumps ending that really bothered me as a child, but reading it now I feel a little less cheated than I did back then. It's still a big middle finger to the reader, but compared to similar entries that tried the same sort of massive twist at the end (A Shocker on Shock Street), this one isn't so bad.

32 comments:

mehan said...

i LOLed pretty hard at your assesment of 'scratchball'

man troy, if you keep up this pace, you'll have blazed through the entire series in a matter of months

Anonymous said...

nice entry. i'm seriously looking for goosebumps books now because of your blog.

Ryan-san said...

man, memories of a fourth grade obsession are rushing back. love the blog.

Anonymous said...

I fucking hated that ending too. Also, I remember watching the episode adaptation and at one point the main character (Billy?) ran out of his cabin, and the camera did this weird 360 degree upside-down movement, which really bugged me. My mom was in the room and we discussed the shoddy camera movements through out the whole episode. I was 8.

- Kev Mac

Anonymous said...

Hey, your entry really helped me do my summary of this book..well thanks alot

Anonymous said...

God this blog rocks.

ryan noel said...

I personally liked camp jellyjam over camp nightmare....

you should read scarecrow stalks at midnight--freaked me out in 2nd grade.

Anonymous said...

Great blog! This is bringing back so many memories.

I remember thinking Colin was just about the coolest character in the world when I read this book. Come on, I was only eight.

Soutik said...

When I was 7 I was in boarding school. I let my friend borrow it when I was half way through this book. He lost it. I was never knew the ending of the book. Until today-I am thirteen by the way.And do you want to know what I thougt about the ending. I thought it was stupid. I hated it.

Anonymous said...

They already revealed the twist and resolution at the end, it had all been a test so Billy could join his parents on a Government experiment.

Now, why did he have to add the, 'We're going to Earth...' thing at the end, i.e. they're aliens.

That last part was retarded an un-called for. Not to mention, wow...they look like regular people. And they think people are going to be bad? Obviously, these aliens displayed the same traits as humans, fear, cowardice, anger, violence, not much different from us humans.

Zak said...

Hey... I dunno if you'll notice this since it's in an old entry, but Billy's last name is "Harlan". It's never stated directly in the book OR the episode, but in the "TV book" (you know that little series that describes the episodes) the back cover blurb is always a little first-person commentary by the main character, and at the end it says their full name. So it's "Billy Harlan". I dunno if Stine writes the TV books or if the show producers do, but wherever they got it must have been from an official source. Anyway, love your reviews, keep it up!

Ryan Ferneau said...

I saw the ending of the TV version, and I thought it was funny how Earth was plainly visible in the daytime sky. So... I guess they're on a terraformed Moon?

Anonymous said...

In the TV show they actually showed earth in the sky.... which makes no sense unless they live on the moon, but the moon doesn't have trees and air and there's less gravity....

Technophobe said...

okay, I had originally just read a few of these and thought they were hilarious, but I just decided to start reading all of them and oh my gosh, you are hilarious. These are the best. I particularly love the 'what.' I crack up frequently and my roommate gives me odd looks, but I don't care. I'm going to continue reading and probably cry when you finish all of the books.

Dai Zhon said...

very impressed with all the summaries and literature points made for the goosebump books.
=)

Noah said...

I knew it! It was all a ploy by the Patriots!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is hilarious!

Too bad the ending of this book, just like the ending of the Di Vinci Code, makes me want to chuck the book across the room and say, "What. The. F."

Anonymous said...

wow that story was soooo weird

Anonymous said...

wow the ending was so uhh

Anonymous said...

As a kid, I also felt cheated by this ending. But as an adult, I can appreciate the artistic value of the middle finger to the audience. That gave this book (and a few others) an almost surreal quality, like a written version of Un Chien Andalou for kids (except for the fact that I couldn't see RL Stine putting an eyeball slicing scene into a children's book or that sexual scene that followed, first he cuts her eyeball open, now he wonders why she's refusing his advances).

As a side note, when I was a kid, I always disagreed with the storyline that pushed Dawn as the "pretty one" (she did sound pretty, but only second prettiest of the two girls in that tiny government camp), to my kid self, Dori sounded much more like my kind of girl. Especially the fact that she was a redhead (red hair and freckles = yum!) and the bright sunshine caused her to have that facial expression that resembles a smile but isn't that some folks have as a reaction to bright sunshine (that Stine described as "her face twisted from the sun" because nobody knows what it is or what to call it, but everyone I've seen who had a facial response to the sun seemed to be smiling), it could possibly be called "wincing" but nah, that isn't quite it. I don't know why, but I always like when girls have that character trait, since it looks like they're smiling at all times when out in bright sunshine.

But then again, I usually find the "less attractive" girl more attractive than the "pretty one". Yeah, I'm weird. But in a good way (so I like to think).

VNightmare said...

The TV episode made me laugh, and I just finished the book this morning. I never got to read this one as a kid, and I found I liked the twist ending. At least this one pulled the twist off a lot better than "My Best Friend is Invisible." I -hated- that book.

In any case, it did bug me that some of the things mentioned in the beginning never got brought up again (I think the TV episode fixed this a little, but I would have to watch it again). I think Stine could have done more with Saber and the Forbidden Bunk in general.

Also:

"Uncle Al walks out of the Plot Convenience Bunk."

That made me bust a gut. XD

TJ said...

"In any case, it did bug me that some of the things mentioned in the beginning never got brought up again"


BIG LIPPED ALLIGATOR MOMENT!

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm the only one, but I loved the ending. I had to read it couple times to understand it, but once I did I was amazed.

squirrl said...

Careful the Tree Bears! I hated this book just because of the stupid ending and the "Tree Bears".

Anonymous said...

benny here. the tv show was just like this but it was worse. so this is another 5/10 okay. AND WHAT ARE TREE BEARS?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JFinley91 said...

Maybe tree bears are native lifeforms of the planet (or moon) that they live on. Love this blog by the way. I get to relive my childhood and laugh at it.

Anonymous said...

A superb ending for the book! Never anticipated that it will end in this fashion. R l Stine Rocks dude:)

Jake said...

I love this blog- I love the cynicism in it and it's often hilarious. However what I also love is that Troy is not out purely to rubbish the series, he's satirising it but still acknowledges any (even if small) meritorious aspects to any of the instalments. I agree Werewolf Skin is close to the best read in the series.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your posts after reading Goosebumps books online. It makes the experience so much better.

Also, for this book I was bothered by how many times the world "shrill" was used. Ridiculous!

Anonymous said...

"Tree bears"? Are those supposed to be like "drop bears" or those other fictional animals that natives always try to get foolish foreigners to go hunting after when they come to their country?

Muhammad Jassim said...

What a stupid ending.. The story simply doesn't make sense.. If everything was an act that means all the campers and counsellors that were working hard.. Swimming,playing tennis,scratchball that was nothing.. Just an act.. A test fr Billy.. Simply doesn't make sense

Anonymous said...

Yes I definitely felt cheated by the ending as a kid, but this is definitely one of the few Goosebumps books that you gain greater appreciation for as you get older.

When you think about it, it really succeeded in that it's probably the most memorable book. This is the book with the ending that everyone remembers, and when the topic of Goosebumps comes up, this is usually one of the first books someone mentions. So props to Stine on the legacy he created.