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:

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.

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.


Anonymous said...

I hoped that this book, at least, would be good, but to my recollection there is nothing to look forward to in III and IV. No wonder the HorrorLand Monster Blood book has new protagonists.

Michelle said...

Found your blog off neonspandex which I got off Tiff's blog,

This was the first goosebumps book I ever owned and man, did I love it. Of course, now I weep from embarrassment about my love for this crap.

I do remember thinking how the "cliff hanger endings" were so dumb...even when I was little.

Anonymous said...

It was well worth the wait. I was cracking up; I had forgotten how terribly written this book was. Plus, Evan is one of the lamest douches in all of Goosebumps.

Anonymous said...

I never read Monster Blood IV, so I'm looking forward to that one. Somehow.

Anonymous said...

You know, until today, the only thing I remembered about the entire "Monster Blood" series was that a) a mutant hamster was involved somewhere along the line, and b)even at eleven, I couldn't imagine how anyone got the idea that hamsters could be terrifying.

Anonymous said...

Another book that suffers from bad pacing. I haven't read these in a while, but I recall an exposition that was too long. It's a shame, too, because you can really have a lot of fun with the idea of a giant hamster.

Did they play up on the Godzilla-style battle between Evan and Cuddles? They could have easily gone for a humorous route and made it a comic highlight! But, knowing Stine, he probably tried to make it dramatic, thus uninentionally funny...or stupid.

Well, at least Cuddles has become one of the Goosebumps mascots.

troy steele said...

The book acts like the events are perfectly logical. At least How I Learned To Fly has that great scene where the two kids try to show off their flying skills in front of their classmates and only end up horrifying them into a shocked stupor.

It's funny that the worst books inspired the mascots. I guess because the best books in the series don't involve "monsters"-- I mean, there was probably no market for a stuffed Fly Away Byrd.

Anonymous said...

a prize possession in my childhood was a cuddles joke i was so proud of it. its still tucked away my closet most likely (haha one up on you evan)

Anonymous said...

I just checked, and it turns out that I have one with a mummy face on it. I don't think I ever used it.

Nihil Novum said...

Are you planning to do the Give Yourself Goosebumps books? There's one of them at the Goodwill here for cheap.

Anonymous said...

Give Yourself Goosebumps got bad fast. Someone deleted the synopsis of The Curse Of The Creeping Coffin on Wikipedia because they thought it was spam, and that book was only the eighth out of over forty.

Rhomega said...

Happy 2nd Birthday, Blogger Beware. Good to see it come this far, and I can't wait for the rest of the books, particulary because they were so forgettable (I'm looking at you, Deep Trouble!). I learned about this blog sometime in September, and I've been reading ever since.

Bup said...

The Evan verse Cuddles climax lacked the grace and subtle surprise of the Harry verse Voldemort climax in The Goblet of Fire

Ryan Ferneau said...

Hang on, shouldn't Conann already know about Monster Blood from being on the plane with Evan? ...Oops, I guess that was just the TV show. I'm still not sure if "Monster Blood on a plane" was a better idea than what the book sequels did.

I couldn't imagine how anyone got the idea that hamsters could be terrifying.

Not even Twiggy from The Powerpuff Girls, or those deadly poisonous Zanzibar hamsters from Metal Gear 2?

Anonymous said...

i liked the book but mostly the parts with evan being a loser. The books are always so mean to the character.
He gets kept after class. triped by conan. gets in trouble by conan. twice and then conan pours water in his seat later. Then the teacher makes him sit down in it! god

Anonymous said...

David factory? Am I seeing AI references where I shouldn't be or is that an AI reference?

troy steele said...

Walk down the snack aisle at your local 7-11 and you'll get the reference

Garrett said...

So, the parents found a can in Germany? I thought that Monster Blood was something that the evil cat created in the first book to kill the children? Wait, continuity in a Goosebumps series? I don't know what I was thinking, I'm so sorry.

Anonymous said...

I remember lolling my ass off when I first read the part where Evan throws Cuddles out the window.

Anonymous said...

I just read monster blood 3 and 4, and they're even worse! Well at least 4 was, any way.

I thought that was one of the stupidest cliffhanger endings, too.

And,like sombody else said, why is a hamster scary? Nice blog, Troy.

Anonymous said...

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.

I dont remember that in the book...

Anonymous said...

After that "handsome face" line, it would appear that Evan has a bit of a gay crush on Conan. That explains a lot.

Anonymous said...

My god. That explains so much.

Anonymous said...

benny here. this one was just like the other one. 5/10 okay.

CheeseVision said...

That's strange the monster blood had an expiration date, it looks like RL Stine didn't consider that when writing the first book, because it was sitting on a dusty toy shelf for who knows how long!

Anonymous said...

The fact that the first book's big twist was that the monster blood itself WAS harmless, but this specific box had been cursed by a witch makes that plot point even dumber. I guess it's semi-acceptable that the curse stuck around after the witch's death, but why would the curse be related to some date on the box, and why is the twist ending that the hamster ate some unrelated and not cursed monster blood? Ooh, scary. Maybe it'll poop green for a while now.

JFinley91 said...

This is one case where I'm actually glad a sequel didn't follow the continuity of the previous book. Oddly enough, I also read this book before the actual first Monster Blood. Not that it really matters.

Sam said...

wrong! this was actually an amazing book and you know it!

troy steele said...

Oh shit, someone caught me!

Harry Manback said...

Troy, I'm sure you (Sadly) don't keep up on the comments as much anymore (come baaaaaaaack)... but, "Well, I actually can't find anything in that plan to make fun of. Oh wait, I mean, What." and "Ultimate What" are seriously works of linguistic art. I think I could read you say "what" in increasingly creative ways all day long. And I mean that in the least-crazy-sounding way possible.

Stephanie said...

Evan comes up with a new plan: He'll eat some Monster Blood, grow bigger than (Giant Hamster) 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?!"

That's the funniest entry Steele. I almost fell out of my chair laughing :) Also explains my fetish for giant/macro people. :3