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?


Anonymous said...

Nice work.

Fun fact: This book and its predecessor are the first to be adapted into full length feature screenplays, with the part of Gabe being beautifully played by Brendan Frasier.

Anonymous said...

Haha, hilarious, I love the Great Prose Alert in this one!

I can't believe Stine made so many mistakes in what is supposed to be a direct sequel to one of his earlier books. Do you think he bothered to re-read the first one?

Anonymous said...

yay nellie mckay reference!

troy steele said...

Good work Anonymous #1, though wouldn't he better suited to play Uncle Bren?

Anonymous said...

Another stellar entry, troy. Except for the egypped joke. I'm faintly sure I've heard that one before...
Of course you missed, "Reader beware--you're in for a scarab."

troy steele said...

You guys are coming up with some pharaohly good puns, nice work!

Anonymous said...

Didn't Uncle Ben's mummy ever tell him not to buy into those pyramid schemes? I'll bet she also never told him never to eat Ra meat.

Being a mummy would be handy if you want to break the law, as you would have no fingerprince to leave behind as evidence.

This could get very painful, very fast.

Anonymous said...

King Whatsankhamun with the first book again?

Anonymous said...

ARGH! I can't think of any puns!

Anonymous said...

Are you also on strike?

You suck if you are.

Zak said...

to the last anonymous, he said he'd be doing it every other monday. It hasn't been two mondays yet since the last one, have patience my friend.

Unknown said...

perhaps the first book was actually a dream sequence?

Anonymous said...

Another plot hole - in Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, Sari is older than Gabe, in RotM, it's the other way around.

Anonymous said...

It always seriously disturbed me as a kid that Gabe [presumably] died at the end of this...

Anonymous said...





Anonymous said...

it is a different pyramid this time.

Anonymous said...

Love the Riki Tiki Tavi reference.

Necro Critic said...

Fun Fact: "Scarab" is just another name for the dung beetle. Also, they are absolutely NOT poisonous in any way.

I'm pretty sure that Stine had the world's worst ghostwriter.

Unknown said...

Good work!

Anonymous said...

benny here. just as bad as the last one. 4/10 bad.

JFinley91 said...

This was the first Goosebumps book I ever purchased, at one of those Scholastic Book Fairs they have in grade school. I think it helps I didn't read the first one either.

John Deering said...

I just bought this book again recently, and realized that, in the first few pages, the main character, now 13, "really likes" this blonde-haired stewardess in the airplane, assumedly an older lady. Hmm. How did I not pick up on this kind of stuff when I was a little kid?

Anonymous said...

r.l stine totally copied the title from a movie

Tafadhali said...

Oh my god, Nellie McKay reference FTW.

jbwarner86 said...

I don't think the continuity errors are as glaring as you've made them out to be. It's stated several times in the book that this is a different pyramid than the one from the last book. So it makes sense that they haven't been in this tomb yet, and Gabe's being honest when he says he's never been inside. (The summer vacation goof, though, I'll give you that one.)

Anonymous said...

Probably one of my favorite entries because all of the unbelievable lack of continuity. I mean, what were they thinking when they published this one?!