Monday, January 28, 2008

#62 Monster Blood IV


#62 Monster Blood IV

Front Tagline: This blood is bad to the bone! (What.)
Back Tagline: It's Four Times As Evil!

Official Book Description:
Evan Ross can't forget about Monster Blood-- the evil green slime that never stops growing. It can turn ordinary pets into ferocious animals and twelve-year-old kids into freakish giants.
But now there's a new kind of Monster Blood in town. It comes in a can just like the others. Only difference is this slime is blue instead of green. And instead of just growing, it's multiplying-- into terrifying blue creatures with razor-sharp teeth....

Brief Synopsis:
In the past 48 hours I've read Monster Blood IV and spent five hours in a dentist chair getting emergency dental surgery. I only look back on one of these events fondly, and I'll give you a hint-- it ain't the Goosebumps book.

Monster Blood IV doesn't begin with a dream, but rather a nightmare for the reader: the promise of another 118 pages with some of if not the most obnoxious characters in the Goosebumps universe. Andy stopped being a worthwhile character after the second book and that her role in this book is basically to wear neon colors and act like every other female character before her is the biggest indictment against Stine and this series I can muster. Turning one of the few good things to come from Stine's poison pen into a bland preteen via reverse-alchemy is only the first of many nails in the coffin of this series. For make no mistake, Monster Blood IV is not a bad book. It transcends bad. It makes the worst books in this series seem retroactively competent. Monster Blood IV arrives on the same plane with Chicken Chicken, as a repulsive abomination against literature.

If the last two sequels in this series were only thinly-veiled regurgitations of what preceded them, fret not-- Monster Blood IV is more of the same. In fact, at a certain point it reads like a parody of the series itself. Hey, remember how Evan was like a giant twice and also there was a giant hamster and stuff? Well cool, because no one else seems to mention it except in passing.

Evan's parents are going out of town for a week to Tucson-- wait, are Evan's parents Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the Savages? Inbreeding would explain a lot with this character. Because you must be This Old to visit Tucson, Evan is dumped at his cousin Kermit's house. If you think this means more "hilarious" cribbing from Dexter's Laboratory science experiments, well, these entries sometimes write themselves don't they? Kermit's latest experiment is to place tarantulas on Evan's head. Guys I've heard of Spider-Man but this is ridiculous! But seriously folks, this book sucks shit.

Kermit's mom cooks a lot of spicy food, which leads to a passage wherein Evan anticipates Paris Hilton by seven or eight years by realizing that the spaghetti he's being fed is hot. How hot is it, Troy? It's so hot that Evan's lips swell up like "twin salamis," in yet another example of Stine giving a preteen character Borscht Belt dialog.

Speaking of meatheads, Evan naturally runs afoul of Kermit's next door neighbor, the school bully Conan. Conan stomps his sneakers on Evan's feet and complains that Evan has just gotten the bottom of his new sneakers dirty. Conan avenges this injustice by pulling on one of Evan's sweater-sleeves. This is a good example of something to mention the next time someone defends this series.

Andy comes over to visit Evan and the three kids have a Super-Soaker fight. This is a lot of fun until Kermit sprays Conan's sneakers with water. Conan crosses the yard and sees that Andy has a can of Monster Blood. He forces her to give it to him and, I shit you not, he opens the can and paper snakes come out. Conan doesn't beat the kids up, probably because he's embarrassed for them.

Kermit brings his collection of mice out into the yard and sets them free. Evan can't understand why Kermit thinks the mice won't escape, especially since they are escaping. Kermit tells Evan he's installed a wireless electric fence along the perimeter of the yard. Only, he forgot to turn it on! Evan walks to the edge of the yard and Kermit turns the electric fence on, causing Evan to spastically dance from the shock. Hey guess what, wireless electric fences don't work like that.

Conan comes over to see what the hubbub is all about and he too gets shocked. Rather than protesting that what just occurred could not have physically happened, he merely beats up Evan. This was in the dark days before the internet gave kids a non-violent outlet for their rage. Had the book been written today, perhaps Conan would have not used his fists at all but rather his typing-fingers, channeling all his rage into bitching on the Rotten Tomatoes message board.

Kermit is sympathetic to Evan's plight and presents him with the perfect revenge: he's developed a hair-growing formula. Oh great, now Stine's cribbing from the Peanut Butter Solution. Kermit tells Evan that they could put some on Conan's hands, giving him "werewolf hands." Did you think this series would pass up a chance to somehow include werewolves one last time? Evan thinks giving Conan Robin Williams hands is a great idea, and the highest dramatic question of the book becomes "Will a preteen character grow hair where there was not hair before?" Watch out, Judy Blume.

Andy shows up at Evan's window in the middle of the night. Evan's such a loser that he can't even make a move and the two end up talking in Kermit's yard. Andy shows him another can of Monster Blood that she found in the dumpster behind a science lab. She wants Evan to get revenge on Conan by using the new Monster Blood. Kermit shows up for no reason and opens the new can of Monster Blood. Hey, speaking of people showing up for no reason in the middle of the night, Conan also comes out into his yard and tries to take the Monster Blood, only to be shocked again by the fence. Conan retreats into his house and Andy tries to put the lid back on the Monster Blood, which is blue instead of the usual green.

Except the liquid Monster Blood has morphed into a small blue creature with black eyes and a big-lipped mouth filled with sharp teeth. Andy thinks the gelatinous creature is cute until it hops across the yard and latches onto the water spout. The creature swells up like a balloon with water until it explodes, sending a wave of blue slime over the kids. Where there was one creature there is now two. And it goes on like this for at least thirty pages, with the creatures running round in the yard, wreaking havoc and ingesting water to multiply. The creatures continue splitting, with each subsequent pair becoming meaner than the creature that spawned it.

The creatures start attacking the kids, trying to suck the water from their bodies. One latches onto Andy's face and another on Evan's shoulder. The kids try to force the dozen or so creatures into a plastic garbage sack. Kermit takes the sack into the house to hide it as Kermit's mom comes out to blame Evan for all the damage the creatures have wrought on her yard.

The next morning, Evan asks Kermit where he hid the sack of creatures. Kermit doesn't appear to be much of a boy genius after all, as he hid the sack of creatures in the spare bathroom. Evan freaks out because the bathroom has four water fixtures and as the two boys make their way towards the bathroom, they can already hear the havoc being wreaked within. Oh and also that spare bathroom is where Kermit was hiding his hair growth formula, so when the door is finally opened, the two are greeted with the sight of dozens of angry hairy creatures. Slime covers the walls and every few seconds there's another sickening *pop* and wave of slime as new creatures are formed.

Evan decides to round up the creatures and then lead them out into the yard to zap them on the invisible electric fence. As the peeved piper leads the monsters to the edge of the yard, Evan is shocked alright-- shocked to discover that Kermit forgot to turn the fence on. The horrible little creatures escape into the neighborhood. Naturally the first place they head is Conan's house, where Conan has of course just stepped out into the yard again-- does he just wait by the front door for any excuse to come running out? The creatures swallow his can of Coke and start multiplying and exploding slime all over him.

Andy shows up and her and Evan track down the moving wave of monsters down the street as they head towards a public park. Along the way the monsters almost kill Kermit's dog and finally engulf Andy and Evan until-- they all swarm off and huddle into one big pulsating ball. The monsters are so vile and evil that they've started to attack each other. One by one they eat each other until one until there are no creatures left, which isn't possible unless one of the monsters ate itself but hey who cares about that because look who just showed up looking for the blue monsters: A scientist wearing a space suit. He introduces himself:

"I'm Professor Eric Crane. From the Science Institute Downtown."

See, this batch of Monster Blood was the result of ten years and $50 million of investment in the development of an underwater fighting force. He apologizes for being so careless. After all, Professor Crane learned a valuable lesson: you should never throw away horrible slime monsters, you should recycle horrible slime monsters.

But the Twist is:
Conan comes out into the yard, again, and tells the kids that he found that blue candy they were hoarding. Then another Conan comes out of the house. Well, at least now they can alternate shifts.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Yet again, Evan Ross and Andy, who stopped being interesting halfway thru the series.

Questionable Aunting:
Evan tries to tell Kermit's mom about the monsters, but even characters within the story are too bored to pay attention.

Early 90s Cultural References:
Brad Pitt, Super-Soakers, Monster Blood

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 10/11
There's a giant mouse at the window! No, that's just the one person who looks less like a mouse than anyone ever has, Andy.

Great Prose Alert:
"It's candy," he told Conan. "Blue Fruit Roll in a Barrel. We saw it on TV, and it's awesome."

Conclusions:
Imagine it is 1997 and you are RL Stine's biggest fan. You're only between the age of eight and twelve but for as long as you can remember, you've read RL Stine's Goosebumps series. Through the good times and the bad, you gave Stine more chances than anyone has ever deserved. You bought every Goosebumps booklight, calendar, and Curly-emblazoned trinket available. You hung around your elementary school book fair and leaned in to tell the cute members of the opposite sex which Goosebumps books were the spookiest. You somehow, amazingly, made it all the way to Monster Blood IV, the 62nd and last Goosebumps book. What was your reward? A big "Get Fucked" from RL Stine.

Rejoice, our long national nightmare is finally at an end. See you next week!

Monday, January 21, 2008

#29 Monster Blood III


#29 Monster Blood III

Front Tagline: Evan's growing up way too fast!
Back Tagline: It's The Slime That Never Dies!

Official Book Description:
Evan can't stand baby-sitting his genius cousin, Kermit. Kermit refuses to play video games. He won't even play Frisbee! All he likes to do is hang out in the basement doing strange experiments and playing mean practical jokes on Evan and his friend Andy.
But now Andy's found something that will teach Kermit a lesson once and for all.
It's green. It's slimy. And it comes in a can marked... Monster Blood!

Brief Quiz:
That Monster Blood III is bad was probably a given based on the quality of the two books that came before it. But unfortunately it's bad in a really boring, predictable way. How predictable? Why, take the Monster Blood III Quiz and see:

01 Monster Blood III begins with
A The promise of a refund
B A story about an evil bank teller that RL Stine thought up at the last minute while standing in line to cash his royalty check
C Evan dreaming about Monster Blood
D Werewolves

02 Andy tricks Evan into thinking she put Monster Blood in his sandwich. Evan reacts by
A Turning into a giant, gets drafted by the Sonics
B Laughing it off. After all, she's his friend and he's no idiot
C Screaming and panicking. After all, he's an idiot
D Turning into a werewolf

03 Evan has to babysit his younger cousin Kermit. Kermit conveniently lives next door to what Monster Blood II character?
A Mr. Murphy
B Cuddles the hamster
C Conan Barber
D Robbie Greene, who was a werewolf

04 Kermit performs complex science experiments, even though he's only in grade school. This is plausible because
A The Atlanta school system is generally considered the barometer by which academic excellence is measured
B Kermit's mom was Rosalind Franklin's lovechild
C It isn't plausible, this is a Goosebumps book
D Werewolves have a keen interest in science. Because Kermit's a werewolf you see. Get it, all the D answers involve werewolves

05 Kermit concocts a potion to cure his dog's case of
A Amnesia
B Bubonic plague
C Hiccups
D Werewolfitis. See, I told you, werewolves again!

06 Kermit's potion
A Succeeds. Kermit is scooped up by Pfizer, forced to wear ladies' lab coat until he hits puberty
B Fails. The dog explodes like that girl in Cloverfield. Oops, ***Spoiler Alert***
C Succeeds then fails, as the dog starts running around like... a dog
D Turns the dog into a werewolf. These are kind of getting stupid by this point

07 Oh I almost forgot, Kermit's dog is named
A Wolfbane
B Silverdog
C Dogface
D Werewolf the Dog. I'm going to quit doing werewolf answers

08 Andy is really nice to Kermit because
A She's a good person, like Michelle Williams in Land of Plenty, only without an Apple giftcard
B She's trying to bilk him out of money via an elaborate Ponzi scheme
C She wants him to do her math homework
D She's a werewolf. Gotcha, you thought I was gonna quit but then, BAM, another werewolf answer

09 Conan hassles Evan because Evan
A Is Evan, it's just inevitable
B Was looking at Conan's lawn
C Both A and B
D Is a vampire. See what I did there, the ol' switcheroo!

10 Andy discovers that Kermit gave her the wrong answers to her math homework. Her logical conclusion is that in retaliation, she and Evan should play a trick on him involving
A Shivs in the prison shower
B Andy's twin sister whom she only just met at summer camp
C Monster Blood
D Werewolves

11 Kermit gives Andy and Evan a concoction that causes them to
A Pop and Lock in time to the beat from Kermit's boombox
B Pee just a little
C Laugh uncontrollably
D Werewolves

12 Kermit sprays Conan with a liquid that causes Conan's shirt to
A Become bedazzled with hundreds of exquisite rhinestones
B Turn from a 100% cotton tee to a 50/50 blend
C Dissolve
D Werewolves

13 Conan beats up Evan. Since he refuses to hit girls, Conan retaliates against Andy by
A Borrowing her widescreen copy of Mean Girls and returning the fullscreen version
B Spoiling the series finale of Designing Women
C Throwing her high atop a tree
D Holy cat, do you realize that was the correct answer

14 Andy sneaks some Monster Blood into one of Kermit's potions while Evan distracts him by
A Regaling him with the plot of Aces: Iron Eagle III
B Getting beat up again, this time by the mailman
C Eating a chocolate bar
D Performing a traditional Mummenschanz routine

15 The Monster Blood causes the dough Kermit was mixing to
A Turn into delicious banana nut bread
B Turn into lousy banana nut bread
C Explode
D Grow fists and beat Evan up

16 Evan accidentally ___________ the Monster Blood mixture
A Marries
B Fondles
C Swallows
D Buys the wrong size sweater for

17 The Monster Blood causes Evan to
A Achieve self-actualization. Andy gives him a congratulatory plaque for achieving the highest level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
B Consider the lasting impact of the Treaty of Taipei on Taiwan's independence
C Grow
D Question whether or not Best New Music holds any weight

18 Evan escapes out of the house and spies Conan terrorizing some neighborhood kids in a surprisingly violent fashion. What is Conan doing to the kids?
A Throwing chainsaws at them
B Summoning lightning bolts in their direction
C Waving a baseball bat and threatening to hit them
D Playing them the new Mars Volta album

19 Conan reacts to Evan's huge size by
A Making a lewd joke about horses
B Making a wholesome joke about horses
C Mocking Evan
D Quipping, "How's the air up there, Kevin Bacon?"

20 Giant-size Evan uses his new-found height to
A Swat away satellites like gnats
B Form lakes with his tears
C Play a baseball game
D It's a good thing you know C is the right answer because look at that

21 Conan gets revenge on Giant-Evan by
A Beating up his little toe
B Taking Monster Blood-- on a date. That'll make Evan so jealous!
C Calling the fire department to hose-down Evan
D Jesus christ

22 The firefighters and police think Evan is
A Really lame
B Too large to be David, too small to be Goliath. They consult Biblical scholars for another, more appropriate scriptural reference
C An alien from another planet
D An alien from Mexico, where's his green card

23 Evan runs away and hides
A In Chelsea, opens a hip mattress store
B On a train with an all-woman band, "forced" to dress in drag
C Behind some lumber
D In plain sight, makes noises like a building

24 Evan thinks of a solution to his predicament by recalling that earlier, Kermit gave Andy a potion that
A Somehow caused Evan to die in a fire, making Andy the lead character
B Turned even her skin a Day-Glo color, thus fulfilling her lifelong dream
C Shrank her mosquito bite
D Induced her first period

25 While Kermit gets to work concocting a new shrinking potion for Evan, Andy has her priorities straight: She
A Decides it's now or never to start reading the Brothers Karamazov
B Calls the local five and dime to see if they have Prince Albert in a can
C Cleans up the mess they made inside the house so Kermit's mom won't be upset
D Stops to consider the plausibility of the events occurring, resulting in the universe folding in on itself

26 Kermit's mixture doesn't cause Evan to shrink. Instead, Evan
A Sees a shrink and talks out his feelings
B Agrees, Pepsi-Cola is the better tasting beverage
C Turns blue and can't stop hiccuping
D Gets beaten up by Rodan

27 Kermit fixes the potion. This time the potion
A Turns Evan straight
B Shortsheets Evan's bed and stifles its laughter from the top bunk
C Causes Evan to grow feathers
D Does some other shit to pad the page length

28 Just as the cops pull into the driveway, Evan is given a third potion. This potion
A Lacks the tangy zip of Miracle Whip
B Makes him snort like a pig, causing the cops to draw their weapons
C Shrinks him back to normal size, thus ending the extended the Sword In the Stone homage
D Turns him into a werewolf

BONUS QUESTION
After another (!) dream sequence, Evan awakes to discover that to his horror
A The wheels have come off his race car bed
B It's still several years until Two Guys, A Girl, And a Pizza Place will be created
C He's still shrinking
D RL Stine actually gets paid for this garbage

PENCILS DOWN

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 9/10
Evan agrees, they must use the Monster Blood. Evan disagrees, they must not use the Monster Blood.

Great Prose Alert:
Out of the corner of his eye, Evan saw a monarch butterfly fluttering over the low hedges. I wish I were a butterfly, he thought.

Conclusions:
There's a reason no one could remember what happened in this one beyond what the Honey I Blew Up The Kid-aping cover promises. Monster Blood III is probably the least-plausible book in the series, and sister, that's saying something.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Oh hey, guess what yesterday was


Happy Second Anniversary, Blogger Beware

Friday, January 18, 2008

#18 Monster Blood II


#18 Monster Blood II

Front Tagline: He's one hungry hamster!
Back Tagline: It's Baaack....

Official Book Description:
Evan Ross can't stop thinking about Monster Blood and what happened last summer. It was so horrible. So terrifying. Too bad Evan's science teacher doesn't believe him. Now he's stuck cleaning out the hamster's cage as punishment for making up stories.
Then Evan's friend Andy comes to town, and things go from bad to worse. Because Andy's got a present for Evan. It's green and slimy and it's starting to grow...

Brief Synopsis:
With there being only three more shopping days until Martin Luther King Jr Day, you're probably already in the holiday spirit and asking, "What Goosebumps book can I read that has the most dream sequences?" Perhaps you remember the mind-blowing double dream sequence in the first Monster Blood? Well, Monster Blood II starts things off right by unbelievably featuring another double dream sequence.

In keeping with the tradition that whoever ghostwrites the sequels must keep as tenuous a relationship with the original text as possible, the age of Evan's dog Trigger has actually decreased. Ponce de Leon Evan is playing with Trigger when he notices his dog has gotten larger. Ever the keen observer, he picks up on this while inside his giant dog's mouth. Evan frantically begs Trigger not to bury him in the backyard. These cries of protest are another brave tribute to the slain Dr. King. But Evan's teacher Mr. Murphy doesn't kinder to his progressive city folk ways. Evan is after all a recent transplant to Atlanta and is not used to their strange customs, like not falling asleep in class and then broadcasting what happens in your dreams by yelling. Mr. Murphy mocks Evan for having fallen asleep in his class. The book posits that the reader is supposed to feel sympathy for Evan, but of course a teacher is right to mock a student who falls asleep in class. Evan musters all his wit and calls his teacher dumb. Whoa there Evan, save that barb for the Friars Club.

Mr. Murphy punishes Evan by forcing him to stay after class to clean out the cage of the class hamster, Cuddles. Evan defiantly walks up to the hamster cage, plucks Cuddles from the wire structure, and hurtles him out the open window. Oh but then that is also dream.

In the hallway after class, Evan is tripped by a bully with the unlikely name of Conan Barber. Evan helpfully informs the reader that everyone refers to him as, you guessed it, Genghis Sean. When Evan first arrived to Atlanta, he tried to tell Conan the Barbarian-- as he is obviously called, and which should be a joke but isn't-- the story of his adventure with Monster Blood. However, after careful consideration of Evan's story, Conan declared that he "doesn't like wise guys"-- it's safe to assume that Evan didn't accurately represent the events of the first book if anyone is throwing around the word "wise" in response-- and beat him up. Well at least some positive elements have been carried over from the first book.

After helping Evan up off the floor, Conan offers him a free punch in retaliation for the tripping. Evan gets unrealistic notions of grandeur and lightly taps Conan with his fist as Mr. Murphy wanders by. Mr. Murphy scolds Evan for taking out his aggressions on innocent classmates and sends him back into the classroom to begin the hamster cage cleaning.

Evan is even worse at cleaning a hamster cage than he is at not being a total loser, so he manages to lose the hamster. Eventually he tracks down the little guy and then proceeds on a chase that is neither funny nor exciting, For the skeptical:

The fat hamster isn't getting away this time! Evan decided jumping up and starting to chase after the creature. I'll catch him if I have to sit on him.
A picture flashed into Evan's mind of Cuddles, flat as a pancake after Evan had sat upon him. A little, round, furry hamster rug.

Oscar Wilde, Evelyn Waugh, Stella Gibbons, Dorothy Parker, RL Stine.

Evan must have been channeling Nostradamus earlier because Cuddles escapes out the window. This leads to an even unfunnier chase in the playground:

"Know how to catch him? " a joker named Robbie Greene called out to Evan. "Make a sound like a sunflower seed!"
"That's an old joke!" a girl called out to Robbie.

That's an old joke where, a David factory in the Catskills? Eventually Conan catches the hamster and demands that Evan sing a song to get Cuddles back. This is one erudite bully. Before Evan can emasculate himself any further, Mr. Murphy shows up again and prissily repossesses the hamster.

Walking home from his miserable day, Evan runs into Andy and not a moment too soon, because I'm not sure I could handle one more page of this loser without Andy there to make fun of him. Fitting with the common Goosebumps motif of abandoning your children, Andy's parents are living overseas for a year. She tells Evan she just arrived at her aunt's and will be starting at his school on Monday. Andy reveals that she's also brought something else with her from home that might help Evan out. No, not a stack of Sassys, it's the old tin of Monster Blood. The two friends examine the empty can in the middle of the woods, only to discover that the can has now magically filled with Monster Blood, again, for no reason other than that this book is called Monster Blood II. Andy and Evan bury the tin in the woods.

Back at home, Evan visits his father, who has been crafting giant abstract sculptures out of sheet metal in the garage. Evan pauses in front of a giant aluminum cylinder that his dad calls "the Wheel," which has been accepted into an art competition held at Evan's school. Wait, his father entered a middle school art show? I sure hope he can beat crayon Thundercats drawings and construction paper chains!

The next day at school, he bumps into Andy in the hall, but can't chat because he's on his way to try out for the basketball team. Andy doesn't take the bait but I will: Evan has about as much a chance of making the NBA as Stine does. As soon as he enters the gym, Evan is felled by Conan, who throws a basketball into his face.

If you thought Conan's name wasn't improbable enough, meet his friend, Biggie Malick, who tells Mr. Murphy (who is also the basketball coach) that Conan was just tossing Evan's face the ball in a friendly manner. Mr. Murphy's coaching style consists of his yelling things RL Stine overheard on a TV in Foot Locker, like "Defense, I want to see defense!"

After practice, Evan shows Andy his hand, which had been crushed by Conan in condolence after he failed to make the team. In yet another example of why Andy is the best character ever, she tells Evan his hand looks like "a wilted petunia." Andy comes up with a plan to get back at Mr. Murphy: They'll dig out the Monster Blood and feed a small bit of it to Cuddles, just enough to turn the hamster into the size of a dog. However, when the two go to retrieve the Monster Blood, they discover it's been swiped, presumably by Conan. Evan accuses Conan of stealing the Monster Blood and Conan retorts by stuffing Evan into a locker, which is totally plausible.

Andy and Evan decide to break into Conan's house to steal back the Monster Blood. Evan complains that it's too dark to see anything and Andy snaps back that "It usually gets dark at night." I'll say it again, why is she not our protagonist?

After Conan and his parents leave, the two prepare to sneak inside when Trigger arbitrarily shows up. Leaving the dog outside, the two sneak in and make their way upstairs to Conan's room. Andy spots the tin of Monster Blood next to Conan's tennis trophies (the school bully plays tennis?) and Evan decides to open the lid and stick his fingers inside for no reason other than to get them stuck inside the can. Naturally Conan and his parents arrive home while the two kids are still inside, forcing Andy and Evan to sneak out the window and cling perilously to the concrete ledge outside Conan's window. Conan turns on some rap music and begins singing and dancing. Mercifully, Conan's parents call him downstairs to enjoy some cake and ice cream, presumably because they heard him chanting "It's your birthday" and believed him. Evan and Andy sneak back inside and make their way out of the house.

Andy manages to pull the tin of Monster Blood off Evan's hands and Evan makes Andy promise to bury the Monster Blood. She reluctantly agrees. The next day, Evan stays home sick, so he's quite shocked upon his return to school to see that Cuddles has grown to the size of a rabbit. Evan knows the Monster Blood is responsible, but Mr. Murphy blames Evan for overfeeding him. Evan feels betrayed by Andy, whom he is sure is behind the hamster's growth.

The next morning, Evan sneaks out early to check on Cuddles. As soon as he enters the science room, Cuddles breaks out of the wire cage. Evan thinks quickly and grabs a dog leash (Why was there a dog leash in a science room?), tethering the dog-sized hamster to Mr. Murphy's desk. Evan skips class and meets Andy after school. She cops to having fed Cuddles the Monster Blood and insists she did it as a goof. Apparently Mr. Murphy became very proud of his giant hamster and was showing him off.

Evan meets Andy outside her aunt's early the next morning so the two can check in on Cuddles before class starts, but Andy has to change clothes and they end up arriving at school on time-- just in time to hear Cuddles, who is now ten feet tall, break free of Mr. Murphy's leash. Mr. Murphy tries to hold off the giant hamster like a lion tamer. He brandishes a chair and uses the leash as a whip. Cuddles simply takes the chair from the teacher and chews it to bits. Evan remembers that his father's sculpture is in the gym and it resembles a giant hamster wheel. For those of you who saw this coming, congratulations, you're not an idiot!

Andy and Evan wheel the giant sculpture up to Cuddles, who rather than run on the wheel, tears it apart. Then the giant hamster picks up Conan and prepares to eat him. Conan cries like a little girl and I guess the reader is supposed to achieve some form of satisfaction from this, but I think if a sixth grader is about to be eaten alive, it's okay for him to cry. Evan comes up with a new plan: He'll eat some Monster Blood, grow bigger than Cuddles, and then lock him in the supply closet. Well, I actually can't find anything in that plan to make fun of. Oh wait, I mean, What.

Evan and Andy run to her locker, which explodes open with a wave of ever-growing Monster Blood. Evan scoops a big handful of the goop and shoves it into his mouth. He starts to grow and makes his way towards the classroom. He confronts Cuddles, who is now roughly the same size as Evan, and the two start to wrestle. Unfortunately, Evan stops growing and the hamster easily overpowers the 10ft Evan. All hope seems lost when suddenly a loud popping noise is heard and both Evan and Cuddles shrink back to normal size. Evan walks over and easily captures the small hamster. What caused them to return to their normal size? Andy picks up the can and sees that the current date is also the Monster Blood's expiration date. Ultimate What.

But the Twist is:
Evan is haled as a hero for the way he ate some stuff and Mr. Murphy even rewards him by giving him Cuddles as a gift. Andy has also received a gift from her parents, a can of Monster Blood they found in Germany. Andy promises she won't use it, but she did already open the tin to sneak a peek. The book ends with Cuddles eating more Monster Blood. No one cares.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Evan Ross and Andy, who reappears halfway thru the book.

Questionable Parenting:
No, really, you're allowed to take your children out of the United States.

Questionable Teaching:
Why does Mr. Murphy nonchalantly accept Cuddles' growth spurt? Wouldn't the science teacher be the first person to acknowledge that hamsters don't grow to the size of a dog overnight?

Early 90s Cultural References:
Day-Glo clothing, Michael Jordan, rap music, cake and ice cream, Monster Blood

Number of Dream Sequences:
5

R.L. Stine Preemptively Sticks It to the Blog Alert:
"Sarcasm is the lowest form of humor," Mr. Ross muttered with a frown.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 16/17:
Evan is falling off the ledge. Evan is not falling off the ledge. Suspense!

Great Prose Alert:
He wanted to wipe the grin off Conan's handsome face with his fists.

Conclusions:
An astonishingly bad book, Monster Blood II is twice as bad as the first book and it takes almost forty pages before Andy shows up to salvage what's left.

Monday, January 07, 2008

#03 Monster Blood


#03 Monster Blood

Front Tagline: It's a monster blood drive!
Back Tagline: Blood, Blood, Everywhere...

Official Book Description:
While staying with his weird great-aunt Kathryn, Evan visits a funky old toy store and buys a dusty can of monster blood. It's fun to play with at first. And Evan's dog, Trigger, likes it so much, he eats some!
But then Evan notices something weird about the green, slimy stuff--it seems to be growing.
And growing.
And growing.
And all that growing has given the monster blood a monstrous appetite...

Brief Synopsis:
First let me talk to you about Juno, In Theaters Now. Just joking.
In another lovable Goosebumps twofer, the book opens with both a new house being purchased and the child protagonist spending time with a distant relative. 12 year old Evan is being dropped off with his creepy old aunt Kathryn for a few days while his parents go house-hunting in Georgia. Kathryn is an eighty-year old deaf woman who never learned to read lips or use sign language, so she is naturally the first person you think of when looking for a temporary guardian for your child. When we first meet Kathryn, she's busy cutting up meat in the kitchen and greets her guests with a bloody knife. Man, everyone was cashing in on the OJ trial in the mid-nineties.

Evan has brought his cocker spaniel Trigger with him for company, and there are some tense moments where Evan thinks his aunt is going to kill and eat his dog, but that's a different book. Evan's aunt wants him to tie up the dog in the backyard so it won't chase around Kathryn's black cat, Sarabeth. Evan decides instead to take Trigger for a walk around the neighborhood, where he meets a cute girl his age. Andrea is dressed in yellow and black spandex and leggings, so it's no surprise that Evan crushes on her since what is more attractive than dressing like the Bee Girl from the Blind Melon video? She flirts with him in that way kids do by calling everything stupid, including her full name. She tells him she goes by Andy, which is apparently less stupid? When Evan "hilariously" tells her his name is "Evan Stupid," she giggles and proclaims it's really stupid. Also the dog is stupid.

Evan gets all excited because no one back home ever laughs at his jokes and so he readily accepts her invitation to accompany her into town. She rides her new bike quickly to town, forcing Evan and Trigger to run alongside the entire way. Never fails that the bitchiest characters in these books are always Blogger Beware's favorites.

Once in town, Evan quickly takes inventory of the shops. There's a video store, but he figures his aunt probably doesn't even have a VCR. Hey, I have a pretty good idea what movie Andy would rent. Andy reveals that she has to buy a gift for her cousin's birthday (it's unclear if it needs to be a stupid gift), so they stop in one of the two (!) toy stores downtown. Inside Wagner's Novelties & Sundries, the kids find a metal can with the label "MONSTER BLOOD: SURPRISING MIRACLE SUBSTANCE." Shockingly, this is not considered stupid by Andy, and she throws a fit when Evan buys the only tin of Monster Blood. The shopkeeper tries to stop the purchase and warns them not to return the tin if they take it home and discover it doesn't work. This of course begs the question, how would one know the difference between working and faulty Monster Blood? "I took this home and well, frankly, I think this Monster Blood is broken. It has the potency of Creature Blood at best."

Evan takes Andy back to Kathryn's house so they can investigate the tin of Monster Blood. Andy thinks Kathryn's house is super cool and dreams about being able to read all the leather-bound books on magic that line the shelves. Andy's stupid/not stupid cred is in serious danger by this point. Upstairs the kids uncap the tin and discover a Gak-like glowing green substance. It bounces, glows in the dark, and is cool to the touch. Because the Monster Blood leaves stains on the floor and wall, they decide to take it outside. They roll the blood up into a ball and bounce it back and forth amongst themselves. There are pages and pages of these two playing with Monster Blood, and they are every bit as exciting as you'd figure. Finally, Trigger grows weary and decides to further the plot by eating a gob of Monster Blood.

The next morning, Trigger isn't feeling well so Evan treks out into the neighborhood by himself. He runs into two fourteen year old twins. They're dressed in black and are the type who would have worn JNCO jeans and Juggaloed their faces had they been born five years later. Rick and Tony Beymer harass the wimpy Evan, who tries to joke with the two bullies. Unfortunately Rick and Tony don't laugh like Andy because they don't have a crush on him-- though they do want to crush him.

Luckily for Evan, Andy comes to his rescue. Andy tries to scare away the twins but they just turn their attention to pestering her. Thankfully, the twins just swipe her bike and don't hit her, because what kind of worthless human being hits a girl-- but she does get knocked down in the scuffle. Infuriatingly, Evan doesn't get involved. He just stands there and watches the whole thing. She runs home to clean her scraped leg but she probably leaves just as much out of embarrassment for Evan.

Back home, Evan finds Trigger choking in the backyard. It seems either the dog's grown larger or the leash has grown smaller. I swear to God it takes Evan like forty pages to make the connection between his growing dog and the Monster Blood it ingested. Oh wait, I'm sorry, ***SPOILER ALERT***

The next day, Evan helps Andy rescue a cat from a tree. And by help I mean he does what he does throughout the novel, stand around while someone else does something. He also spouts very credible dialog, suggesting they should call the "ASPCA"-- because twelve year olds often drop that particular acronym in casual conversation. After Stine finishes cribbing from childhood story-lines that make Denis the Menace look fresh, the kids abandon the cat and go back to Evan's to play with the Monster Blood some more. Oh good! More pages of kids playing with stuff!

They discover the tin of Monster Blood is now overflowing with the green goop. Also, the gelatinous substance is no longer cool to the touch, but instead feels disturbingly warm. This is not enough however to discourage the kids from having a Monster Blood fight. The two fling Monster Blood at each other inside Evan's room. I can see how this book inspired three sequels.

After their fight, which is described as "hilarious" in the book, the two start to clean up their mess when they hear a horrifying howl from down below. Evan rushes to the window with Andy right behind him. Andy points out that Evan's dog has doubled in size and indeed he has. The dog, who is now the size of a pony, rushes out of the backyard. Evan and Andy try to run after it, but they don't get very far before Trigger turns into a horrible monster. And then Evan wakes up.

Now, I know that's a pretty insulting dream sequence, but it looks like Spellbound compared to what comes next. Evan wakes up from the dream and realizes that the bed he's in is too small. He's a giant monster or something! Then he wakes up again. Now, not to get all Primer on you, but I have a hard time figuring out whether what came before the earlier dream sequence was a dream or not, and at what point reality ceased-- because the cat in the tree adventure was not what I'd call a phantasmagoric sequence of events.

I read so many terrible dream sequences in these books that I thought it only fair to add a dream sequence to this blog entry.

BLOGGER BEWARE DREAM SEQUENCE
Evan wakes up and tells Andy he's moving to Georgia. He hands her the Monster Blood and says, "I'm going away forever to be passive and whiny in another state. Here, since you're the best character in Goosebumps history, you take over the book and the three that come after it-- readers will like you a lot more than they like me, some annoying wuss."
Then the car he leaves in explodes. As his spirit leaves his body and ascends into Heaven, Heaven explodes, ensuring that Evan can never, ever appear in another Goosebumps book.
BUT THEN IT WAS ALL JUST A DREAM

But actually, what follows might as well be a dream for how little is shares in common with reality. Evan and Andy take Trigger to the vet. By themselves, these two kids just schedule and show up for a vet appointment. The doc tells them the dog is just having a rare growth spurt and sends them on their way, no charge. I had no idea this book was taking place in Mayberry. Andy rushes off to her piano lesson, apparently unaware that The Werewolf of Fever Swamp.

Left alone, Evan decides to buy himself an ice cream treat at the local market. He leaves Trigger tied up outside. When he returns with his ice cream sandwich, Ricky and Tony are stealing his dog. Evan whines about how they probably shouldn't and one of them knocks the ice cream sandwich out of his hand. The reader probably shouldn't be applauding this action, but I know I was. Trigger gets angry and once let loose, chases after the twins. Evan becomes terrified as he remembers how this happened in his dream-- except for that it didn't happen at all like that in his dream. Evan worries that he might turn into a monster. I hate this kid so much.

Back home, Evan calls Andy and asks if he can see her. He says it's an emergency. Once he arrives at her house, he shows her his bucket full of Monster Blood. Apparently the Monster Blood is growing at such a rate that he had to transfer containers. He's right, it was an emergency.

He begs her to take some of the Monster Blood. She agrees to take a coffee can's worth. However, when she scoops the can into the bucket of Blood, the Blood scoops back. Andy freaks out as the Blood sucks the can right into the middle of the bucket. When Evan fishes his hands in to retrieve the can, he tells her he can feel the suction, like it's alive. She tells him to stop talking, not because what he's saying is frightening but because Jesus Christ he is so annoying.
As Evan is leaving Andy's house, the twins surprise him by beating the crap out of him. And they literally beat him up and it's described in more violent detail than these books often give. The reader isn't supposed to enjoy this scene, but did I ever. If we're stuck with this loser for three more books, I hope these twins come back three times to kick his ass. The twins scatter as Andy comes out to play Hero to his Damsel In Distress again. As she helps Evan scoop the Monster Blood back into the overturned bucket, Andy comes up with a foolproof plan: they'll just return the Monster Blood to the toy store! Um, I seem to remember something about No Refunds, which coincidentally should have been the tagline for this series.

Evan sneaks back home and realizes he needs to find a new container for the ever-growing Monster Blood. He empties the bucket into an old bathtub in the garage. Suddenly Sarabeth, the cat, pounces on him and he falls into the tub of Monster Blood. Evan narrowly (rats) escapes getting sucked into the muck.

The next morning at breakfast, Evan decides he has to tell someone else about the Monster Blood. He writes Kathryn a brief note on a legal pad and she just laughs at him and his imagination. Evan calls Andy to see if she's ready. She suggests he use a plastic lawn sack to carry the Monster Blood. The two drag several lawn bags worth of breathing Monster Blood down several blocks to the toy story, which turns out to be closed forever. I guess that two toy stores in one small town business model was bound to backfire eventually. The two lug the sacks all the way back to Kathryn's house. Well, that was a fantastic ten page scene that had no relevance to or impact on anything that came before or after it. The two empty the lawn sacks into a metal garbage can. As soon as they clamp shut the lid, Kathryn runs out of the house waving a yellow sheet of paper. Evan's mother just sent a telegram that she'll be coming to pick him up that day. Wait, a telegram? Maybe this is set in Mayberry.

Evan is so excited that he runs to tell his dog the good news. Wow, what a wonderful sentence. When Evan opens the gate, he sees that Trigger has actually doubled in size 4 realz y'all. The beast leaps out of the backyard and into the streets. Evan runs after him but trips and knocks the trash can over. The large mass of Monster Blood spills out and tries to swallow him. Evan moves out just in time and he and Andy run down the street as the large rolling ball of Monster Blood moves quickly after them. They run into the twins who make some fairly non-credible threats, as they are shortly swallowed up by the Monster Blood. The kids stop to stare at the still outlines of the twins' bodies inside the giant heap of Monster Blood. The kids split up so that at least one of them have a chance, but Kathryn chooses this time to stick her head out of the house. The Monster Blood rolls into the house after Kathryn.

Now, I've read a lot of these books, and I can often predict what's going to happen, but every once in a while there comes an ending so spectacularly stupid that no sane individual could have foreseen it. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present the conclusion of Monster Blood.

The kids run into the house to save Kathryn, or at least Andy does and Evan is there to watch. They spy her trapped in a corner, the huge round blob of Monster Blood about to engulf her. She cries out that she's responsible for the Monster Blood and she'll have to pay with her life. Evan gets pissy and accuses his great-aunt of trying to kill him by casting a spell on the Monster Blood. Kathryn insists it wasn't her who cast the spell. She points towards the other side of the room and cries out, "It was her." Andy is the one who cast the spell.
Except, no, wait for it.
She's pointing to Sarabeth the cat. The cat did it. What.

The cat turns into a beautiful young woman wearing a black cape. Kathryn explains that twenty years ago, Sarabeth cast a spell on her that made her a slave. She also made her deaf and refused to let her learn sign language or lip-read so she could control her better. How was Kathryn able to do evil bidding if she couldn't even hear orders? Oh wait, here I go asking logical questions again. Sarabeth didn't allow Kathryn to have any visitors, and so when Evan showed up, Sarabeth insisted she cast a spell on the Monster Blood to get rid of him. Kathryn tells Sarabeth that she's going to end the spell by letting the Monster Blood swallow her, thus ending Sarabeth's hold on her. Sarabeth tells her that she's still going to kill the kids.

Sarabeth raises her hands and commands the Monster Blood to kill the children. Andy and Evan brace for their murder when suddenly Trigger leaps through the door and pushes Sarabeth into the Monster Blood. Sarabeth is completely engulfed in the ball of Blood. Trigger quickly shrinks back down to normal size and the kids look over at the dwindling ball of Monster Blood. The two twins get spit out and they immediately run from the house. Let this be a cautious lesson for bullies everywhere: Don't pick on kids who deserve it because you might get murdered by a sorceress's enchanted gelatin. As everyone takes a breather from their adventure, Evan's mom wanders in and asks why those two boys just ran from the house. Knowing those two, they're probably running off to go lean on some cars.

But the Twist is:
Andy and Evan say their goodbyes. Evan tells her he would like to write to her and she says she'll be busy washing her hair. Actually she seems to really like him, so I guess nobody's perfect. She tells him that her father has one of those phone cards so she can call him. It's pretty cute even if this loser doesn't deserve it. She asks him one favor though: she'd like to keep some of the Monster Blood as a souvenir. When they go to collect the Monster Blood, they discover it has vanished.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Well it ain't platonic, but Evan and Andy, whose bike disappears halfway thru the book.

Questionable Parenting:
Evan's parents are aware that they allow children in the state of Georgia, right? Actually, I don't blame them for wanting to dump him off for a week.

Early 90s Cultural References:
Indiana Jones, VHS tapes, Monster Blood

Early 1890s Cultural References:
Telegrams, Novelties & Sundries

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 2/3:
Evan has gone blind! Oh wait, no, a cat has just landed on his head.

Great Prose Alert:
"Oh. Look. The Monster Blood."

Conclusions:
Monster Blood is a terrible book and guilty of all of the worst traits in this series. The protagonist is easily the most unlikable of any Goosebumps book and I dread the next three weeks I have to spend with him. This is somewhat countered by Andy being the best character in a Goosebumps book, but even she can't save the ludicrous plot and horrible prose. I remember liking this one as a kid, I imagine most of you reading did, but sometimes the blog shows us the bitter truths behind our false memories. Thank God Andy comes back for the sequels, I don't think I could go it alone.