Monday, November 19, 2007

#23 Return of the Mummy

#23 Return of the Mummy

Front Tagline: He's back... from the dead!
Back Tagline: Dead...Or Alive!

Official Book Description:
After last year's scary adventure, Gabe's a little nervous about being back in Egypt. Back near the ancient pyramids. Back where he saw all those creepy mummies.
Then he learns about an Egyptian superstition. A secret chant that is supposed to bring mummies to life. Gabe's uncle says it's just a hoax.
But now it sounds like something's moving in the mummy's tomb.
No way a couple of dumb words can wake the dead.
Can they?

Brief Synopsis:
Considering the mummy had at best a cameo appearance in the last book, the title seems a bit misleading. But of course, unlike the ghostwriter who penned Return of the Mummy, I actually read the book this is supposed to be a sequel to, the Curse of the Mummy's Tomb. This is how I know that the previous book took place over Christmas vacation, not summer vacation as Gabe claims in the opening chapter and again every time he refers back to the events of the previous book. Whoever wrote this book at least remembered to age Gabe and Sari, meaning that at thirteen years old, the two are the oldest protagonists in the series (at least to this point).

Gabe is flying back to Egypt to attend the grand public opening of the pyramid Uncle Ben was excavating in the last book. He's flying alone, but of course when you've got your mummy hand in your shirt pocket, you're never alone. Uncle Ben and his daughter Sari pick Gabe up from the airport and they drive straight to the pyramids in Giza. Uncle Ben informs Gabe that instead of a hotel in Cairo, they'll be staying in the Pyramid Hilton, his hilarious name for the tents lining the exterior of the pyramid. Still better accommodations in a sandy tent than staying at Holiday Inn Express.

Now, I would think that even the most casual ghostreader of the previous novel would have at least picked up on the part where the three main characters discover a vast tomb, but in the sequel Uncle Ben wastes no time in announcing that he and his team are very close to breaking the seal on a tomb inside the pyramid. As Uncle Ben walks the kids to the pyramid's entrance, a mummy staggers out and attacks the three. Except it's not really a mummy at all, but a guy dressed as a mummy making a commercial for "Sticky Bird Bandages." It wasn't really a werewolf, it was my kid brother in a werewolf mask. It wasn't really a vampire, it was my mom cooking me breakfast. It wasn't really a ax-murderer, it was my dog bringing me my slippers.

Uncle Ben gives Gabe a necklace with a pendant made of amber. Inside the amber is a scarab, which Uncle Ben explains were sacred insects to their ancestors. Sari thinks it's a dumb gift, and she's right, but Gabe wears it with pride. Sari tells Gabe that the scarab beetle somehow came out of the amber and is crawling on him. Gabe feels a pinch on his leg and remembering that Uncle Ben warned him that a scarab bite meant instant death, he falls to the ground howling in horror. Except that the scarab never left his pendant and the pinch came from Sari, who knelt down and pinched his leg. Someone actually wrote this. Gabe's upset but Sari feels she shouldn't apologize so much, that it's jive, it's a crutch she uses when she's judged.

Over breakfast the next morning, Uncle Ben tells Gabe about the tomb they're opening. Ben believes it belonged to King Tut's cousin, Khor-Ru, and could be filled with millions of dollars worth of valuable jewels. Or it could be empty, a trick tomb to fool grave-robbers, Ben casually warns. After breakfast, Sari tells Gabe that she's worried about her father. He's really set a lot of his hopes on the discoveries inside the tomb making him famous and she's afraid that he'll be really depressed if there's nothing inside the tomb. Gabe opts not to remind Sari that more than enough happened in the previous book to make anyone famous, probably because he also didn't bother to read the Curse of the Mummy's Tomb.

Uncle Ben hurries over to the kids and drags them into the pyramid, as his workers are ready to break the seal. He gives the kids yellow hard hats with lights to wear, yet stops short of handing out canaries. The three don't make it very far inside the pyramid before they're stopped by a beautiful woman dressed in a white pantsuit. The woman introduces herself as Nila Rahmad. Uncle Ben tells her she has a beautiful name but she disappoints him by revealing she's named after the river and not the wafer. Nila is a reporter for the Cairo Sun and she wants permission to accompany Uncle Ben as he opens the tomb. Ben consents, as she claims to have run this idea past Ben's partner, Dr. Fielding. Nila asks Sari and Gabe if this is their first time to be in a pyramid and Gabe says it is. Did no one involved with this book being published bother to double-check anything? At this point I'm expecting Ben to open the tomb and discover Slappy the ventriloquist dummy inside.

Nila admires Gabe's pendant and shows him her matching necklace-- only hers doesn't have a scarab inside. Ben tells Nila a bunch of stuff about the pyramid in a clumsy attempt to impress her, though since she's a reporter on the Cairo beat, I suspect she's probably heard all of this before. Gabe complains that it's cold inside the pyramid and he should have brought a sweatshirt. Funny since Gabe mentions in the first book how cold it is inside the pyramid and how glad he is that his uncle made him wear a sweatshirt-- oh but here I am remembering something that happened again, totally missing the spirit of this book.

At least something carries over from the first book other than the names of the characters: almost immediately Gabe gets lost. Whoever wrote this didn't even try to come up with a plausible scenario either, Gabe just flat out is lost and doesn't know how or why. Gabe stops wandering the tunnels of the pyramid and leans against a wall. He then leans through the wall as he tumbles into yet another secret hidden chamber. Inside this chamber are thousands of white spiders. The spiders swarm over Gabe as a rope ladder finds its way down into the room. Uncle Ben and Nila hoist Gabe back up and Gabe takes out his mummy hand to make sure it survived his fall. Gabe is shocked when Nila asks him if it's The Summoner. It figures that the one character who would remember anything about the previous book wasn't even in it. As the other characters turn around to make their way back on course, Gabe looks down at the mummy hand and sees the fingers twitching.

Two days later, Ben's workers finally prepare to break the seal to the tomb. Ben gathers up the two kids and Nila and they head down the pyramid. Ben prepares to chisel away the soft gold seal when he hears a booming voice: "PLEASE- LET ME REST IN PEACE!" They all turn around and see a lanky man who is about as threatening as a child psychologist. The man crying out is Dr. Omar Fielding, Ben's partner. Dr. Fielding tries one last time to reason with Ben, to not break the seal. Dr. Fielding reminds Ben that the hieroglyphs on the door warn that anyone who repeats the ancient chant written on the door five times will return the mummified prince to life. Dr. Fielding refuses to be privy to incurring the mummy's wrath and flees the pyramid. Ben chisels away the seal and pushes open the door. Unfortunately, Ben's been egypped: the inside of the tomb is completely bare.

Undeterred, Ben makes the entire crew enter the bare tomb and begin work on removing the gold seal off of another door found in the room. After working all day, the workers remove this seal, and behind the new door they find a large mausoleum filled with pots and chests of treasure. The tomb appears to have once been a meeting room, as inside they find a long table, chairs, a large throne, and a yellow-paged copy of Who Moved My Cheese. The attention of everyone in the tomb soon turns to the stone casket resting against a far wall. Ben and three of his workers slowly lower the coffin to the ground and slide off the lid. Inside they find the tar-stained, mummified body of Prince Khor-Ru. Suddenly four men burst into the tomb, waving guns. They announce themselves to be with the Cairo police. Dr. Fielding saunters into the tomb and tells Ben he changed his mind and called the police to come and guard the tomb's treasures. Ben wearily accepts the help of the police, as he has no choice.

That night, Ben, Nila, and the kids are eating dinner around a campfire in the desert. Nila has her arm wrapped around Ben and wants him to tell her the six words that will bring the mummy to life. Ben finally gives in and reveals them to be "Teki Kahru Teki Kehra Teki Khari." Ben scurries away to do some work in the communications tent and Nila heads back to her office in Cairo. Back in their tent, Gabe comes up with a plan to scare Sari, to get her back for all her pranks. He recites the correct chant five times and Sari is visibly disturbed, probably because she's confused the chant with Riki Tiki Tavi and is afraid she'll turn into a mongoose.

A gruff figure accosts the children in their tent but it turns out only to be Dr. Fielding. He tells the two youths that he must find Ben and the two kids decide to follow him for adventure. As they watch from a safe distance, they can't tell whether Dr. Fielding is leading Uncle Ben towards the pyramid or just resting his arm on his shoulder as they walk quickly across the sand. Dr. Fielding appears to push Ben down into the pyramid's entrance and the two kids agree that since they don't have flashlights, they'll have to wait outside the entrance. Gabe tells Sari that he saw the four policemen leave earlier in the afternoon, meaning that Dr. Fielding and Ben are alone in the pyramid. After waiting about an hour, Dr. Fielding emerges, alone, from the pyramid. The kids try to catch his attention, to ask where Sari's father is, but Dr. Fielding just runs away into the night. Gabe tells Sari to stand guard at the entrance in case her father comes out while he runs back to the tents to grab some flashlights. When Gabe returns, Sari signals that Ben didn't come out. The two kids head into the dark pyramid, alone.

Sari can't remember the exact route that leads to the prince's tomb, but Gabe spots workboot prints in the sand and the two follow the tracks into the empty tomb. They see no sign of Ben until Gabe notices that the lid to the mummy's casket was now closed. It was open when they'd left earlier in the day. The two slide the lid off and find Uncle Ben tied and gagged inside. Dr. Fielding had left him to suffocate sealed inside the casket. Except of course didn't we learn in the last book that there's secret escape-ready passageways in caskets or something? But hey, why bother with continuity when we can have a cheap scare like this: Gabe and Sari realize at the same time that if Ben's in the mummy's coffin, then where's the mummy? Right at the entrance to the room, and he's heading right towards the kids!

Gabe tries to yell for his uncle to save them, but he's passed out inside the case. The two kids maneuver their way past the mummy and into the empty room. They run right into Nila. They beg her to help them but she gets angry at the kids, telling them that they've ruined everything. Nila produces Gabe's mummy hand, which she stole from him, and uses it to call the mummy closer. She reveals that the mummy is her brother and she is over 4,000 years old. Wow, she doesn't look a day over 3,999! Now, thanks to Gabe's Summoner, she and her brother can reign over Egypt again.

She calls on her brother to kill the children, but the mummy walks right by them and instead starts choking his sister. "Leave me in peace," the mummy groans as he assaults Nila. Gabe tries to break up the mummy murder and accidentally pulls off Nila's amulet. It crashes to the ground shattering into a thousand shards. She howls out and tells Gabe that the pendant was how she stayed alive all these years. At night she would revert into a scarab and climb inside the amber. Nila shrinks down into the scarab beetle and scurries away into the dark of the pyramid.

Dr. Fielding bursts in, surrounded by police. Turns out Dr. Fielding wasn't forcing Ben into the pyramid earlier, he'd just seen Nila trespass inside and wanted help in stopping her. Then when he ran to get the cops, he was so frantic that he didn't bother to stop and reassure Sari. Well, that's the end of that caper, gang.

But the Twist is:
Back inside their tent, Gabe is bragging about his accomplishments again. Sari jokingly warns that the Nila scarab beetle could still be after him and he should look out. Gabe climbs into bed and utters the novel's last line, "Ouch."

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Yet again we have Gabe and his cousin Sari, whose father disappears into the pyramid two-thirds of the way into the novel.

Questionable Parenting:
After almost being murdered the last time he brought the kids along with him into a pyramid, Uncle Ben shows no hesitancy in bringing them along again. Of course, silly me, again, that'd be dependent on acknowledging that the events of the first novel ever occurred.

Early 90s Cultural References:
Denim cut-offs, Bart Simpson, The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 13/14:
Ben and his team have made a terrible mistake. And that mistake is that they've made a great discovery.

Great Prose Alert:
I guess the pyramids have special meaning for me since my family is Egyptian.

As you might have guessed from the above, Return of the Mummy is a bad book made worse by retaining no material from the Curse of the Mummy's Tomb other than the appearances of the same first names and Frosted Flakes. What does the law of diminishing returns say when the original was already fully diminished?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Open Letter

Dear jerk who just outbid me on the Goosebumps Series 2000 eBay lot twelve seconds before the auction ended,
On the off-chance that you read this blog, stop. You are banned from reading the blog, ever. You should not even be reading this sentence, you should have already closed the window and walked away.
Troy Steele

Monday, November 05, 2007

#05 the Curse of the Mummy's Tomb

#05 the Curse of the Mummy's Tomb
Front Tagline: What will wake the dead?
Back Tagline: Something Dead Has Been Here....

Official Book Description:
Gabe just got lost-- in a pyramid. One minute, his crazy cousin Sari was right ahead of him in the pyramid tunnel. The next minute, she'd disappeared.
But Gabe isn't alone. Someone else is in the pyramid, too.
Someone. Or some thing.
Gabe doesn't believe in the curse of the mummy's tomb. But that doesn't mean that the curse isn't real.
Does it?

Brief Synopsis:
"Call me Ishmael."
"This is the saddest story I've ever heard."
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
Let us add to the list of great opening lines this bon mot:
"I saw the Great Pyramid and got thirsty."

Whiny 12 year-old Gabe is spending Christmas vacation in Egypt with his parents. Being in a desert and all, he asks for something to drink. His mom replies that they came to Egypt to see the pyramids, not get something to drink. Obviously he should have thought about getting thirsty before leaving America. Gabe's father quizzes him on how the pyramids were built. Gabe guesses with trucks. Now admittedly this is a bad guess and his father is right to mock him, but his father scoffs and claims the ancient Egyptians didn't even have a wheel. O R.L.Y?

Gabe's parents own a refrigeration company, so they're actually in Egypt for business (they don't have refrigeration businesses in Egypt?), not pleasure. I know, you're reading this entry and saying to yourself, "How can they possibly go to Egypt and not include a scientist relative?" Don't worry, not only do the refrigerationists get to see the pyramids, but they also get to drop in on their archaeologist relative, Uncle Ben! Aunt Jemima: unable to attend.

Back in al-Jizah (better known to most as Giza, but I guess kids love proper arabic), Bob Harris Gabe tries to relax in the hotel room, but the TV doesn't show anything in English. Gabe's parents get a call-- there's a refrigeration emergency in Alexandria, they have to rush out on a plane that leaves in an hour! A refrigeration emergency. They give Gabe an option: He can go with them to exciting Alexandria, or stay in boring Cairo with Uncle Ben. Gabe elects to stay with the archaeologist, even though he doesn't get along with Ben's twelve year-old daughter, Sari.

Since Uncle Ben is on his way to pick up Gabe, Gabe's parents leave him alone in the hotel so they can catch their plane. As he's waiting, Gabe removes from his jeans pocket a mummy's hand. Gabe had bought the grotesque bauble at an American garage sale several years ago and for whatever reason he just carries it around with him. He hears someone breaking into his hotel room: it's a mummy! Gabe throws the mummy hand at the mummy, who is revealed to actually be Uncle Ben in a mummy disguise! His cousin Sari and Uncle Ben start cracking up because... I don't know, maybe you had to be there.

Uncle Ben reveals that he's in such a good mood because he and his team have just discovered a secret burial chamber inside one of the Great Pyramids. And the best news of all is that both Gabe and Sari get to accompany him into the tombs because there are no other options. I dunno, seems like there are limitless options beyond taking twelve year-old children into a dangerous ancient tomb.

Uncle Ben treats the kids to dinner in the hotel lobby. As they eat, Uncle Ben prepares the kids for their adventure by giving out even more facts about the Pyramids, most of which sound made up.

The next morning the three trek down to the Pyramid. Uncle Ben flashes a guard his badge and the three prepare to head inside, but first Ben poses the following amazing question to Gabe:

"You don't believe in curses, do you? You know-- the ancient Egyptian kind."

Ben alerts the kids that his workers may have violated an ancient Egyptian decree and unleashed a curse. He also warns the two about getting lost in the tunnels several times, so the element of surprise is not really in play here. Each of the three are armed with halogen flashlights and the temperature drops significantly once inside the giant stone building.

As they walk along the dark corridor, Uncle Ben gives even more Pyramid facts. Since his crews just cut holes from one room to the next, there aren't any accessible stairwells that lead to the new chamber, so the only way to get to the room below is via a rope ladder. Ben goes down first so he can shine his light up at the entrance, and Gabe, wanting to show off for Sari, jumps confidently onto the rope ladder. However, he wasn't expecting the rope to be coarse and he draws his hands away in pain. Too bad Uncle Ben didn't spend all this time giving out facts about rope ladders, otherwise Gabe would have known that you have to hold onto them. Gabe falls down to his doom until Sari saves the day by grabbing his hand and guiding him back to the rope ladder. Uncle Ben tells Gabe to take his time and eventually all three make their way down the lower part of the Pyramid.

Gabe's shoelaces keep coming untied, and Uncle Ben makes a lot of really bad (as though there were other kinds?) mummy jokes as the three trek thru a downhill passage. This passage leads to a forked passage and Uncle Ben leads them through a tight, claustrophobic passage that they have to walk through sideways. This leads to the Northwest Passage, and the three enjoy some nice Universal Healthcare. Eventually they find themselves in a large, cavernous room with a high ceiling. Spotlights hooked up to generators hang from the walls, revealing four of Uncle Ben's workers excavating the tomb, plus one noticeably non-helpful Egyptian dressed in all white with a red kerchief. Uncle Ben introduces this quiet ponytailed figure as Ahmed, a man from "university" there to serve as a consultant on ancient curses.

Uncle Ben turns his attention to his workers and Gabe directs Sari's attention to the dirt inside the pyramid. This is one of the earliest books in the series and as such, it runs about twenty pages longer than most other Goosebumps books. Don't worry, the extra space isn't used to flesh-out the characters or clarify the plot. If that stuff was included, how would there be room for half a page of two kids looking at dirt? Sari yearns for more excitement and talks Gabe into exploring the pyramid. She insists that it's safe because she did it yesterday and all the passageways eventually lead back to the main room. Of course as soon as they make their way down a passage and Gabe turns around, Sari disappears.

Gabe continues walking down the tunnel, convinced that Sari is playing a trick on him. He comes across a small square room with a stone casket inside. Slowly the painted lid of the case slides off and Gabe sees the eyes of the creature within. If any of you think it's a mummy inside this coffin and not Sari, you're not old enough to read this blog. Sari throws a fit of hysterics at spooking her cousin. Uncle Ben barges in and yells at the two about wandering off in the pyramid, only to join in the laughter when Sari fills him in on her prank. Gabe sulks like an Egyptian and follows Ben and Sari out of the tomb.

The next morning, the three are eating breakfast in their hotel room. There's an extended passage about Arabic Frosted Flakes and other cultural references about one step removed from a Yakov Smirnoff routine are made. Uncle Ben has to conduct a little business inside the Cairo Museum, but proposes the two kids tag along so they can wander the museum while he works. No sooner is this mentioned than it is dashed away by a phone call. Apparently two of Uncle Ben's workers have fallen mysteriously ill and he has to go visit them in the hospital. He sternly tells the two kids to stay put in the hotel (they can leave the room if they want but not the hotel itself) until he gets back. As soon as he's gone Gabe tries to show off for Sari by proposing they go to the Cairo Museum on their own. Gabe writes a note for his uncle and the two head out.

Inside the giant museum, Gabe teaches Sari about the grotesque methods the Egyptians used to prep a dead body for mummification. Gabe lays it on pretty thick as he describes the Walter Freeman-esque process of first inserting a hook into the eyesocket or nostril of the corpse and then stirring the brain around until it's pliable to be scooped out with a spoon. This is all mostly accurate from what I remember from the semester-long Egyptian unit I took in fifth grade (oh the perks of being in the gifted and talented program--though I recall Steve Martin's "King Tut" playing a larger part than it should have in the curriculum), although Gabe starts to embellish around the time he gets to the part where the Egyptians would occasionally cut off a head and let the brains drain out through the neck (which is to say I don't remember that rhyming couplet).

Ahmed shows up at the museum and spooks the kids. They run away from him but he catches up with them and claims that Uncle Ben sent him to take them back to the hotel. Even though they  walked only two blocks to the hotel, Ahmed insists they drive back in his station wagon. Ahmed drives away in the opposite direction of the hotel, kidnapping the children.

Inside the car, Gabe signals to his cousin to run out whenever Ahmed stops. The plan works and the kids run like the dickens into the busy streets of Cairo, eventually seeking solace in a department store. The two are relieved to have escaped Ahmed's clutches but begin to panic when they realize they're lost in Cairo. They hail a cab and tell the driver to go to the Cairo Hotel but the driver doesn't pull out. He just sits in the front seat laughing at the kids. Not quite getting the joke, the kids begin to panic, fearing that the driver is in cahoots with Ahmed. Still laughing, the cabbie points through the windshield at the Cairo Hotel. Sari and Gabe trot up to their room and make it inside just before Uncle Ben arrives.

Ben's clearly distraught over the mysterious illness of his workers-- they won't reveal anything to him, leading him to suspect something wicked is afoot. He tells the kids that he gave the rest of his workers the day off but he simply must go back to the pyramid and investigate. He proposes the kids wait for him inside the hotel room but they fear Ahmed might return. Uncle Ben reluctantly agrees to take the two kids with him.

Outside the pyramid, Uncle Ben clips special pagers to their belts. In case the kids get lost or need to score a quarter-bag, they can press a button on the beeper and the device will transmit a homing device for their uncle. Before entering the pyramid, Gabe pauses to make sure he has the mummy hand in a segment that exists because only there is not yet technology in place that allows RL Stine to simply come up behind the reader and hit him or her in the back of the head.

Not like three minutes into the pyramid, Gabe gets lost. He stopped to tie his shoe and then when he looked up the other two were gone. He resists hitting the panic button because he thinks he can catch up with them. He comes across the fork in the path from earlier and he of course enters the wrong passageway and falls through the stone floor, crashing into a hidden burial room. As he looks up from the rubble he spots a mummy standing at attention, motionless against the opposite wall. Gabe gets up and shines his flashlight around the huge room-- the auditorium-sized room is at least twice as tall as the tomb being excavated by Uncle Ben's team.

Inside there are dozens of mummies in various positions and a table with the tools used to prepare the mummies. Gabe shines his light on a dark square in the floor the size of a swimming pool. He walks closer and discovers the dark spot is a pool of molten tar. Gabe questions how the tar could possibly be soft after all this time locked away in the crypt. Finally he's had enough adventure and decides to beep his uncle. Unfortunately, the fall crushed the pager. Gabe is on his own. It gets worse for Gabe as he becomes aware that parts of the room are moving. It's not the mummies though-- it's scorpions. A wave of the dangerous insects convenes across the floor and rushes towards a frantic Gabe. In his panic, Gabe trips and falls headfirst into the pile of scorpions.

Remember when there were only no sets of footprints in the scorpion pile? That was when Sari was carrying Gabe. Somehow, in a move that requires a suspension of disbelief that's pushing it, even for a Goosebumps book, Sari also got lost and also made her way into the cavernous room and just happened to grab onto Gabe just as he was falling into the scorpions. The two make their way to a non-Virgin Killer-occupied area of the tomb and Sari explains that she got split up from her father too and that he was so mad at Gabe for getting lost. Gabe reasons that she's lost too and that Ben will get over it once he sees the tomb. Sari directs Gabe to the tunnel entrance in the corner of the room that she came thru and the two make their way over. Gabe makes Sari page for her Dad so they can be saved. Shortly after beeping her father, Sari sees a light coming through the tunnel. Of course it's not Uncle Ben but Ahmed. And he has a torch.

Ahmed tells the kids that he tried to warn Sari's father about the curse, but he just wouldn't listen. See, the kids have violated the Sacred Chamber of Priestess Khala, and violating a sacred chamber comes at a price, and unlike a museum, there is only one suggested donation: death. Ahmed reveals that he tried to scare Uncle Ben's workers to prove that the curse was alive by showing them what it would feel like to be boiled alive in the tar pit. Ahmed in his duty as the descendant of Khala has punished all who entered the tomb. He reveals that the dozens of mummies inside the tomb consist mostly of recent violators of Priestess Khala's chamber-- and they were mummified alive! Now I know that wasn't part of Steve Martin's song.

Ahmed draws a dagger and makes his way towards the children. Gabe suggests making a run for it when a rope ladder drops from the ceiling. Uncle Ben swoops down and confronts Ahmed. Ahmed declines Uncle Ben's genial offer to go somewhere else and discuss the rampant murders Ahmed has committed. In an argument that could only come from a Goosebumps parent (in more ways than one), Ben tries to reason with Ahmed: "Ahmed, you are a scientist, and so am I." Somehow the Brotherhood of Man approach fails and Ahmed declines Ben's offer to handle the situation "scientist to scientist," opting instead to hit Ben as hard as he can in the head with his torch. Holy.

Sari runs over to her Uncle's bloody body and begs Ahmed to let them go. Ahmed pulls the torch back and swings it behind him, letting it drop into the tar pit. The pit bursts into bright flames. Ahmed turns around as a watched tar pit never boils and tells the kids they're going to have to wait for it to heat up. Had Ahmed bothered to preheat the tar pit, this book could be over right now.

Ahmed hoists Uncle Ben's body into a stone sarcophagus and closes the lid. Gabe worries that if he's still alive, Ben might not have enough air inside the coffin. He quickly stops worrying about Ben when he and Sari get shoved into a rotting, wooden coffin of their own. In a remarkable case of missing the point, Gabe notes that the coffin he's sharing with his cousin is filled with gross bugs. Hey Gabe, you know what's a little worse: being shoved in a coffin with bugs and then being boiled alive in tar. Prioritize.

Sari and Gabe are locked in a coffin, about to be murdered. The situation is pretty tense, so naturally there has to be an absurd, insulting moment of pure plot convenience. Sari and Gabe hear a rustling inside their coffin. No, it's not a mummy. It's not even the bugs. It's Uncle Ben. Inside their coffin. What.

See, the Egyptians built their caskets with escape hatches in the bottom so the soul can escape. Ahmed is so wrapped up in chanting an ancient spell that he didn't even notice Ben slipping out the hatch and into the other coffin. So the three are just sitting inside the rotting coffin, shooting the breeze about all of this. Ben tells the kids that Ahmed has slipped out of the tomb and the three slide out the secret coffin passage. They trot across the tomb and almost make it out when they spot Ahmed's torchlight. Ahmed draws his dagger and forces them backwards towards the tarpit. Finally he has them lined up with their backs facing the bubbling pit. He tells the family that they will have to jump one by one into the pit, which is still burning with a low flame over the boiling surface.

In a moment of panic, Gabe pulls out the mummy's hand from his jeans and lifts it above his head. Ahmed flips and cries out that it's the Hand of the Priestess. Ahmed starts chanting in a foreign language. Behind him all of the mummies in the room begin to move. They slowly scrape their way towards Ahmed. Ahmed circles around and cries out in horror. He throws the torch at an advancing mummy. The mummy bursts into flames but keeps walking towards Ahmed. A group of mummies foists Ahmed over their heads and lifts him above the tar pit. The family looks away as the mummies drop Ahmed into the pit. Strangely, when they open their eyes, the mummies are back to their original positions and they spot Ahmed running through the tomb's exit in terror.

But the Twist is:
Back at the hotel, Gabe is toying around with his mummy's hand. Jokingly he cries out to the ancient spirits, summoning them to life. Sari and Gabe hear a knock on the hotel door. When they go to answer, they discover... Gabe's parents are back. So while this book may have ended without event, the real twist is on all of us as there's still another 118 pages to spend with these characters in the book's sequel, Return of the Mummy... I guess that means it's not a wrap, huh?

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Gabe and his cousin Sari, who disappears into a pyramid a quarter of the way thru the book, and then again three-fourths of the way thru the book.

Questionable Parenting For Sari,
Questionable Legal Guardianing for Gabe:
Upon being frantically told that Ahmed is going to kill his daughter and nephew, Ben pauses to confirm the story with the murderer.

Minority Alert:
All central characters are Egyptian. This must be an early title.

Religion Alert:
When she's locked in a coffin, about to be boiled alive, Sari quietly prays, although in fairness that's the exact scenario that instigates most last-minute conversions.

Get Off the Stage! Alert:
"You don't get down from a camel," I said. "You get down from a duck."

Early 90s Cultural References:
Indiana Jones, Super Nintendo, Game Boy

Foreshadowing Alert:
At the end of the first chapter, Gabe reveals that he will eventually get sealed inside the pyramid, "probably forever." Probably not.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 14/15:
Gabe feels two hands grab his shoulders: A mummy! No, because that's slightly plausible Gabe: it's your cousin.

Great Prose Alert:
My tongue was the size of a salami and hanging down to the floor just like Elvis's.

Just because mummies are slow doesn't mean a book about them should be. After a while, I was cursing more than the mummy's tomb.