Tuesday, February 28, 2006

#38 the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena

#38 the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena
Front Tagline: He's no fun in the sun!
Back Tagline: Forget Frosty!

Official Book Description:
Jordan Blake and his sister, Nicole, are sick of the hot weather in Pasadena. Just once they'd like to have a real winter. A real winter with real snow.
And then it happens. The Blakes are off to Alaska! Seems that Mr. Blake has been asked to photograph a mysterious snow creature there.
Poor Jordan and Nicole. They just wanted to see snow. But now they're being chased by a monstrous creature. A big furry-faced creature...known as the Abominable Snowman.

Brief Synopsis:
As the book opens, we are introduced to two siblings, Jordan and Nicole Baker, who are sweltering away in the Pasadena, California heat. We are told many times at the beginning of the novel that it's very hot in Pasadena. I believe this information was included as part of RL Stine's "Commitment to Education" in his Goosebumps series. In his defense, this information is still more practical than his earlier revelation that in fact, piano lessons can be murder!

Jordan is a prankster and he shows this by replacing his photographer father's latest film roll of bears with a roll of film featuring teddy bears. This moment is followed by a drastically disproportionate response by Jordan's father, who freaks out and comes about one step away from smothering the kids with a pillow and then throwing a drinking fountain through the dark room window. Nicole helpfully establishes herself as a Know It All by... well, I don't remember, but she does it a lot in this book. So we have the traits to help us keep the kids apart, we know their father has a fantasy occupation, we know it's hot (Stine 12). Everything is in place for an adventure!

But first the reader is introduced to a handful of neighborhood kids. There's Lauren Sax, who lives next door. She has no easily discernible affectatious personality trait, but I like to pretend she has a wonderful singing voice. There's the Miller Twins, Kyle and Kara, two horrible 13 year olds with red hair. What does RL Stine have against redheads exactly? One of the Miller twins stabs Jordan with a popsicle, and this turns into some sort of watergun fight and whatever, let's just skip ahead.

Jordan's dad gets a notice that he is wanted in Alaska to take photos of a mysterious creature locals have been spotting: the Abominable Snowman! And since he can't get a babysitter, he's taking the two kids with him! Jordan and Nicole are very excited about this, because they've never seen snow and now they finally will. It's very exciting.

The family arrives in Alaska and sure enough, there is a lot of snow in Alaska (Stine 31). They meet their sledsman, Arthur. Arthur is a gruff fellow, and he is very angry that the father brought his kids with him. To Arthur, the threat of the Abominable Snowman is very real. In his old fashioned way, he doesn't like the idea of the kids being eaten. Arthur tells the family several horror stories about various people and animals who were slaughtered by the creature.

Nicole greets Arthur as she exits the helicopter

Arthur introduces the family to his sleddogs. He names all of them, and I won't mention any of them except Lars, who is Nicole's favorite for no reason except plot convenience later in the book. He and the father also go over the inventory of items the dogs are dragging, such as a large empty cooler, and emergency supplies with enough food to last several days.

Lars, second from the right

The group begins their trek through the snowy wilderness towards a scientific outpost. On the way to a musher's cabin, which will serve as a rest stop midway, Jordan falls in a hidden 20-feet deep crevice. He is swiftly rescued but Arthur the guide is very upset about this, and seems to think he's in a Scooby Doo episode. I honestly kept waiting for Arthur to put on an Abominable Snowman costume to chase kids away from a competing amusement park. Arthur again tells the father that the group should head back, that the threat is very real, and that children should not be exposed to the danger. The father responds by taking Arthur's picture.

The group makes it to the cabin and they unload their sleeping bags and so forth inside. Jordan's father chastises him for trying to leave the cabin without his emergency supply backpack, and to help foreshadowing, he stresses that he should never leave the cabin without it.

The next morning everyone awakes to find giant footprints outside the cabin. The Abominable Snowman! Arthur insists that the group should head back to town. Jordan starts laughing and reveals that he made the footprints while everyone was asleep, that jokester! No one (including the reader) is amused though.

The group heads out towards the outpost. They see a herd of wild elk running in formation towards the outpost, then suddenly stopping in unison and heading back. Arthur sees this as a sign that the Abominable Snowman is close, and insists that the group head back. When the father declines, Arthur takes the dogs and heads back to the cabin anyways. The family follows him back to the cabin. They all sort of mill around a bit. Jordan sees a frozen stream and tells his father about it. He tells Jordan and Nicole to stay put while he heads out to photograph ice.

The dogs start to stir around and bark, so Arthur goes out to comfort them. The two kids get tired of hanging around the cabin and decide to head out to make a snowman. When they exit, they see Arthur stealing the sled and all the dogs. They try to stop him but he simply heads back towards town without even looking back. The two kids chase him for a while, but when they stop, they realize they have no idea where they are.

A blizzard forms out of nowhere and stops the kids from following their tracks back to the cabin. Then they fall into another giant hole in the ground. The two try to get out of the hole by screaming, which starts an avalanche, which fills in the hole, which forces the kids into a cave that was connected to the hole into which they fell. I'm not sure where the avalanche came from, the landscape is described as a valley. But that's okay, because what happens next makes even less sense.

The two kids see a light at the end of the cave. They go to investigate, and the light is never explained. They stumble into a small lair within the cave. The snow from the impossible avalanche fills in the passageway, trapping them inside the lair. In the corner of the lair: the Abominable Snowman. Frozen in a giant block of ice. I'm tempted to use a "What." here, but then I won't be able to use it at what comes next. The giant ice block breaks open, exposing a very alive the Abominable Snowman, a big ape like creature with long sharp claws and scary carnivorous teeth. The Abominable Snowman walks over to Nicole, grabs her by the backpack, slices open her backpack, and eats the trail mix inside. What.

the Abominable Snowman attacks

The Snowman then turns to Jordan, who quickly removes the trail mix from his own backpack and feeds it to the angry creature. This turns out to be the only food inside the emergency backpack. So it's a good thing their dad was so insistent that they wear them, just in case they had an emergency case of the munchies. The creature swipes up the two children and carries them under his arm as he climbs up the cave wall and up into the outside. Once outside, the creature hears an animal noise and drops the children on the ground as he scampers away. The children can see the cabin and they run towards it. Once inside, they hear sounds outside the cabin and figure the monster has followed them. They hide behind the stove and the figure enters the cabin: it's their Dad!

The father has no idea what has just happened. The kids fill him in on Arthur abandoning them, then on the Abominable Snowman. He is very excited at being told this, and insists the kids show him the lair of the horrible snow creature. He drags them into the cave, ignoring Jordan's perfectly relevant argument that there's a murdering monster inside. The family discovers the Abominable Snowman encased in another solid block of ice. The kids are as puzzled as the reader, which is Stine's way of making the characters identifiable with us.

Jordan's dad has a brilliant idea. He can't just take photos of the creature, he has to take it back to California with him. He takes the empty cooler he had been carrying around for no reason and the giant creaturesicle fits perfectly into the trunk. I know what you're saying, that makes no sense. How many times do I have to tell you guys, wait for it, because there's always something else that makes even less sense: The father enlists the help of Lars the dog to drag the trunk out of the cave. Lars the dog was already stolen by Arthur 40 pages ago when he made his escape. Did anyone proofread this book before it went to print?

the Father with Lars

The kids sneak four snowballs from the cave into the cooler, thinking it would be fun to throw snowballs at the neighborhood kids when they get back to California. When the family makes it back to the cabin, they discover that Arthur has taken the emergency radio. How are they going to call for hel-- oh wait, it was in the father's sleeping bag. I don't even want to know why.

Back in sunny California, the two kids are suntanning in the backyard. They tell their friend Lauren Sax that they've had plenty of cold weather! The father exits his darkroom, where the trunk with the creature is being stored. He's turned the air conditioning up in the room to keep the ice block frozen. I have no idea just how cold you'd have to set the A/C, but I think it's safe to assume that the California Energy Crisis was single-handedly caused by this one household. The father warns the kids not to mess with the trunk. So once he heads to town, the kids go mess with the trunk. They want to show Lauren their creature and once they open the trunk, he's still frozen in the ice block. The kids take out a snowball and walk back into the backyard.

Alright guys, there's about 20 pages left. Imagine all the directions the story could go at this point. Now throw all of that away as you marvel at what happens next. Nicole throws a snowball at Lauren but misses, and the snowball hits a palm tree. The palm tree is suddenly covered in snow. The snow falls onto the ground, causing the ground to suddenly be covered in snow as far as the kids can see. This is a pretty amazing thing, but Lauren seems pretty non-plussed about the occurrence and nonchalantly picks up some of the snow and throws it at Nicole. Nicole is turned into a solid ice statue. Lauren and Jordan take her into the kitchen and set her in front of an open oven to defrost her. What.

When the oven doesn't work, they drag her to a furnace shed in the back yard. They have a furnace shed. What.

The furnace doesn't defrost her. Then Jordan remembers how warm the Abominable Snowman was when he was carrying them. He runs into the kitchen and gets a bag of trail mix. The two carry Nicole into the darkroom. Jordan opens the trunk and waves the trail mix in front of the block of ice until the creature smashes through the ice. The creature eats the trail mix, then sees Nicole. He picks her up and hugs her until she melts back to normal.

I quit the blog.

The Abominable Snowman then escapes out of the dark room, runs up to the snow-covered tree, and wraps himself around it, transferring all the snow to his body. Then he rolls around on the snow-covered ground until all the snow is gone.

No really, I quit.

The creature looks up at the sun and screams, then runs away into the California wilderness. What.

The three kids decide to bury the remaining snowballs somewhere safe so that no harm will come from them. They drop them in a garbage sack and bury them in an abandoned lot. When their father arrives home, the kids explain the situation. The father is disappointed, but he tells them that he still has the pictures of the creature, that'll still be worth money. When he goes to develop the photos, there's only snow. No pictures of the Abominable Snowman survived.

But the Twist is:
Jordan and Nicole notice the Miller twins yelling in the abandoned lot. They've dug up the sack of snowballs. Jordan and Nicole try to stop them, but one of the Miller kids throws a snowball right at the other.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Jordan and Nicole Blake, two siblings whose sledsman disappears half-way thru the novel.

Questionable Parenting:
Jordan's father hears about a horrible snow creature in the Alaskan wilderness and thinks "Hey, I think I'll bring my kids with me for this!"

Dubious Relation of Previous Occurrences Alert:
Jordan tells the reader about a babysitter he once had who every night served for dinner liver, brussel sprouts, and fishhead soup with a tall glass of soy milk. No she didn't. No one ever did that ever. Why are you lying, Jordan.

Early 90s Cultural References:
Super Soakers, snow.

Great Anecdote Alert:
Jordan's father tells a story of a great prank he once played on his friend Joe Morrison, who was a photographer in Africa. He went to college with the head of a prestigious nature publication and had gotten together with her before she had a meeting with Morrison. During the meeting, after being shown pictures of gorillas, the publisher informed Morrison that he'd been duped, these were really men in gorilla suits. After Morrison panicked, the publisher revealed that she was only kidding and then buys his pictures. That is one great prank.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 3/4:
One of the Miller kids picks up a giant rock and drops it on Jordan's head! Oh no oh no oh it's a foam rock. Wait, what.

Great Prose Alert:
"I kicked Kyle off me and pounced on him again. This time I was so mad, I had the strength of two Kyles."

The first 80 or so pages of this one had me really excited. It was obvious Stine was trying his hand at a Hardy Boys Adventure-type story, and I thought it was a nice change of pace. But then he manages to somehow blunder every possible good direction the story could have gone, until the story breaks down with what could be the worst 20 or so pages in Goosebumps history. Even the ending is perplexing, since the twist only occurs against minor characters. The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena is an incredibly unsatisfying and disappointing entry in the series.


Anonymous said...

man, that sounds terrible! and frustrating! terribly frustrating, even. although i'm a big fan of the entry. hope you do "piano lessons can be murder" (is that what it's called?) soon. i barely remember that one, but for whatever reason suspiria reminds me of it. maybe because they both take place at schools.

anyway, good entry, sounds like a crummy book.

Anonymous said...

(Stine 12) had me lolling up a storm. Great entry.

- Th' Kev Mac

Anonymous said...

haha "the strength of two Kyles"

Anonymous said...

the addition of pictures was a good touch but dont overdo it

troy steele said...

Eight Below just lends itself to Stine-levels of credibility tho

Anonymous said...

Didn't this book open with, like, six chapters of nothing except kids running around fighting bullies?

Anonymous said...

Wow, I guess this proves the one stalwart facet of every piece of children's literature: If the characters in the beginning of the book begin bitching about any one inconvenience, no matter how reasonable, the writer of said literature will toss the hapless children in a decadently ironic situation, where the two half-wits will trundle down an implausible road of appreciation building. That'll teach the little shits for wanting to fuck with the air conditioner.

Paul E. King said...

I'm 10 seconds into this and loving. If anyone sees anything but genius in this blog they are fools.

Also, great refrence to 'One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest'

Anonymous said...

Something's funny about that hat.
I commend your photo selection ability.

Anonymous said...

I remember this being one of my favourites back in the day. I really don't remember that ending, though. I must have blocked it out to save my ten-year-old sanity.

But that's still the most memorable cliffhanger chapter ending for me. Oh, it's a foam rock. Because his dad is a director. So obviously he's going to keep random movie props hanging around the neighbourhood.

Anonymous said...

Bad book. Just like all the other Goosebumps.

Unknown said...

"No she didn't. No one ever did that ever. Why are you lying, Jordan." ROTFLMAO!!

Chaos said...

Heh. Wow. I've been reading this in order, and seeing the end of this particular installment come apart so spectacularly after the rather good Headless Ghost is discouraging and infuriating. Clearly there are some very good entries, so seeing some of them followed up immediately by something with this caliber of bullcrap at the end is... sad, I guess.

It's good to know that it's hot in Pasadena, though. I sure am glad I learned something today.

Anonymous said...

Just discovered this blog and have been reading through the books in order...I have to say, this entry made me laugh out loud several times. And I never do that. Keep up the good work.

Henin said...

man, that sounds terrible! and frustrating! terribly frustrating, even. although i'm a big fan of the entry. hope you do "piano lessons can be murder" (is that what it's called?) soon. i barely remember that one, but for whatever reason suspiria reminds me of it. maybe because they both take place at schools.

Millie said...

Minority Alert: The "Goosebumps Graphix" version of this replaced Jordan and Nicole with a pair of Hispanic kids. Unfortunately the bit with the boy having to defrost his sister remained ...

Anonymous said...

benny here. i thought this one was adventrous which is kind of boring but the end made it really good (i know but i think action/adventure is boring and horror is good). 6/10 good.

Crazy56U said...

I was reading your summary of the last 20 pages while listening to "Combine Harvester" by the Wurzels.

...the song managed to freaking FIT.

Anonymous said...

Few things I'd like to personally note about this book:

1. What's up with Stein and curly redheads?
2. No, seriously.
3. This is the point I remember as a kid where the books didn't really seem to satisfy any more and looking at the rest of the books left of the original run, I'm getting the feeling kid me made a good call.
4. I remember the first time I saw snow... and was nowhere near as excited as these kids.
5. I lament at the fact I will never have the strength of two Kyles.

Thanks for taking the time to read all these literary crimes and then make lengthy blog posts about them! It's certainly made my workdays easier and remembering them is pretty fun to boot.

Harry Manback said...

Does... does his hat say "ANAL" in that last image?

Anonymous said...

Benny here. Was not A Goosebumps episode. It was supposed to air in season 3 but it never did. It would have been so good just like the book was.

Anonymous said...

Lol this blog writeup was hilarious. A+ would lol again

Anonymous said...

Hey buddy, I also want to write a blog (about hardy boys) can I get some tips or something.

kontoculai said...

My parents gave this book as a birthday present
Even the 9 year old me (at that time) found the magic snowballs and the way the snowman cure the curse to be one of dumbest things ever written.