Monday, February 11, 2008

Triple Header: Book 2

Goosebumps Triple Header: Book 2Back Tagline: It's One, Two, Three Times The Scares!
(Judges? *buzzer sound*)

Official Book Description:
It's the story of a fortune-teller and a magic spell so dangerous it will make you fear the future....
It's the story of two rotting Egyptian mummies with faces meant to scare you to death....
It's the story of a strange school filled with students who have monstrous appetites....

Brief Synopsis:
This book is structured very strangely. The three novellas, which each run around 50-55 pages in length, are preceded by excruciatingly unfunny intros given by a three-headed beast, the titular "Triple Header." Though written in play-script, no one is going to confuse this for Noel Coward with lines that are about as rib-tickling as an episode of Yes Dear:

SLIM: You're ugly and you smell bad.
RIGHTY: I know by good qualities. I asked you what's wrong with me!
LEFTY: Hey-- I smell a lot worse than he does!

Though the interstitial material is awful, it's of course the novellas that are of primary interest. Oh but don't worry, they suck too. But don't take my word for it, take my word for it:

Ghoul School
Liam Erdman is starting his first day at a new school. As he walks towards his desk, he can't help but notice that the other kids are a little different. His first hint is when one kid has solid green eyes. Then the girl in front of her starts licking the wall. Another kid eats and then regurgitates a stick of chalk. I'm not going to make the "He obviously walked into the Special Ed Classroom" joke, so don't bother waiting for it. His teacher, Ms. Barker, however seems normal, with her horrifying trait merely being a mousy disposition and schoolmarm-looks.

At lunch, Liam sits with a kid who outside of wearing a dog collar seems normal, until he starts barking like a -- yep, you guessed it, like a seal. Liam runs back to the Room 5 classroom and asks Ms. Barker why he's not popular enough to sit at the ghoul kids table. She calmly tells him that it's because his classmates are monsters. After all, Liam is enrolled in Ghoul School! Ms. Barker insists that Liam's parents were quite insistent that Liam be enrolled in this school and that if Liam wants to survive, he should not let on that he's not a monster. Ms. Barker then shoos Liam out of her classroom so she can finish her ham sandwich in peace.

Out in the recess yard, Liam briefly tries to mingle with the kids and almost gets his arm bitten off. He retreats back inside and tries to sneak back into the classroom, only to discover that he misheard Ms. Barker. She's not enjoying a ham sandwich, she's enjoying a hand sandwich.

After somehow surviving the rest of the school day, Liam tries to reason with his parents, but they insist that they specifically wanted him enrolled in that school because it was closer to the house. Liam's dad, an undercover cop, gives Liam a special silver "panic button" which he is use only in an emergency.

Back on the school-grounds the next morning, the ghouls crowd around Liam and force him to prove he's a monster by eating dirt. This makes Peanuts so much more terrifying now. Since he won't eat dirt, the kids insist he transform into his monster form. He musters up all his effort and:

The kids are incredulous to his portrayal and it looks like curtains for Liam until a wild-haired girl named Marnie breaks up the angry mob by dragging the boy away from the rest. Marnie tells the angry crowd that she's seen Liam's monster-form and that it was an award-winning transformation:

See, Marnie explains that Liam can't show his monster-form at will as he only transforms when the moon is full. Holy smokes, another werewolf!

Marnie arranges for everyone to meet the next day at midnight on the playground, when the moon will be full. Liam tries to get out of the engagement by arguing that he has an existing conflict at midnight, as that's when the scarecrow walks. One of the ghoul-kids tells Liam that if he doesn't show up, the rest of the ghouls are going to throw a party and eat his entire family. Liam is relieved that he won't have to go grocery shopping for the party but is obviously still a little uneasy about the rest. Marnie tells him that she thinks he's just like her, which he takes to mean another normal human.

During a science lecture, Liam gets passed a note from Marnie, telling him to meet her after class outside the grocery store. Liam sighs, as now there's no upside to the promised family-eating party.

Luckily, Marnie only asked him to meet her there because she lives in an apartment above the grocery store. She runs upstairs and comes back with a box of halloween costume parts. Liam spends the next day practicing applying the werewolf disguise and gets the process down to seven seconds.

Marnie meets him at the playground at midnight. Liam tries to keep his distance so he can turn around and chance, but the ghoul kids run after him and he attempts to apply his costume while running. He drops half of his parts and all that's left is a wig he puts on backwards and plastic fangs. The other kids laugh at him and then transform into horrible monsters with tentacles and wings. Liam figures this probably constitutes an emergency and pushes the panic button. Suddenly he hears the sound of a police siren. Dozens of cops swarm the monsters and begin shooting them with darts. As the cops haul the monster kids into the police vans, Liam's dad explains that the silver button was actually a microphone. Liam's dad secretly works for PUMS, the Police Undercover Monster Squad and thanks to Liam, the cops can finally shut down the monster school. Oh, now the story makes complete sense-- ON OPPOSITE DAY.

But the Twist is:
Liam stops an officer from handcuffing Marnie and Liam walks her back to her apartment. Once inside, Marnie stops to eat a fly and explains that she's like Liam in that she's shy. Marnie advances on Liam and the story ends with the strongest implication of impending underage sex I'm comfortable reading in a Goosebumps book.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Liam Erdman and Marnie, who appears halfway thru the novella.

Questionable Parenting:
Liam's dad sends his son unarmed into a school of monsters. It's not the school of monsters I object to, it's him sending his son to a place that doesn't and could never exist.

Early 90s Cultural References:

Great Prose Alert:
Rachel slimed my sneakers when I walked by her desk.

This is exactly why I should save judgments like "Least plausible Goosebumps book ever" for when I really need them.

the Revenge
Amelia and her friend Isaac are playing with her dog Fluffy, tossing a glow-in-the-dark ball back and forth. Cory Calder, the improbably-named school bully, breaks up the fun by accusing Amelia of squealing on him. He calls her "A-Squealia," but wait, that's not the most crushing blow he'll land. Cory picks up the dog's ball and throws it into the busiest street in town, leaving Amelia to watch in horror as her dog rushes towards the busy intersection. Holy

Fluffy survives and Amelia vows revenge. Amelia briefly thinks about telling the police-- why is it that characters in these books only think about calling the police when there's a dog involved? She eventually remembers that Isaac (Or "I-Sick" as Cory calls him-- this bully really needs some tutoring on his phonetics) told her about a fortune teller he had met who promised that for $100, she could teach anyone the secrets of astral-projection. Remember that list with "church" and "sorcerer" on it? Time to mark off "astral-projection." Amelia withdraws the contents of her savings account, which just happens to be $100, and heads to Madam Margo's.

Isaac waits for her outside while she trudges up to see the fortune teller. Margo greets her at the door. An enormously obese figure, the woman struggles to take a seat across a table from Amelia. After getting every prediction about her wrong, Margo finally guesses that she wants to learn the secret of astral-projection. Margo explains that Amelia can only use astral-projection for a sum total of one hour. Aw man, but Amelia is a big Van Morrison fan and wanted to go for a couple of weeks! Margo warns that if she stays out of her body for longer than an hour, she'll be trapped in the spirit world forever. However, she can split up the hour how ever she wants. Margo suggests six ten minute trips, the exact time needed to make one pass of an all-you-can-eat restaurant. Margot says a strange chant, counts Amelia's money and then kicks her out. Outside the fortune teller's, Cory hits Amelia with his bike, bloodying both her knees. He then runs over Isaac's foot while shouting, "Death to all white sneakers!" Who is this kid, George Wallace's nephew?

The next day at school, Amelia puts her plan into action. She hides in the janitor's closet and floats out of her body. Her ultimate revenge? She floats into Cory's science lab and messes with his dissection frog, flinging it at the teacher and then dropping it down the back of his shirt. I guess Amelia and I have different concepts of what $100 is worth.

Back in her body she sees that she still has 46 minutes left to torture Cory. After school, Cory is preparing to play The Big Basketball Game, so Amelia locks herself in a toilet stall and goes out to wreak some more havoc. Amelia has a pretty heavy task ahead of her: how can she top that excellent frog revenge? By tying Cory's shoelaces together! That's about even with him trying to kill her dog. She's having so much fun that she doesn't notice that her astral-wristwatch has astral-stopped working. Amelia rushes back into the bathroom and astral-glides back into her body. Out in the hall after the game, Amelia is disappointed that her revenges haven't rehabilitated Cory, as he beats Isaac up again. Gee, I can't imagine how that whole "Piss off the already pissed-off bully" plan failed.

That night, Amelia sneaks out of the house and crouches below Cory's bedroom window. Amelia only has ten more astral-minutes left, so she has to use them wisely. The way her revenges are going, I sure hope she can get the shallow bowl of warm water ready in that time. She decides that since she's already sort of like a ghost in astral-form, she'll pretend to be a ghost and scare Cory. Man, pretending to be a ghost, that's gotta stop him from being a bully! Before she can leave her body she's stopped by Fluffy, who followed her all the way to Cory's-- dogs in these books either disappear, bark at ghosts, or follow the protagonist so they can disappear or bark at a ghost. She hugs the dog then astral-ogies into Cory's bedroom. She tries to scare him awake but discovers nothing works. Unexpectedly he feels a hand grab her astral-wrist: It's Cory!

Cory tells her that his Aunt Margo told him about her visit and that he plans to keep her in his bedroom until it's too late for her to return to her body. I'll give Astral-Cory credit, he is truly the biggest asshole in Goosebumps history.

As Amelia counts down the last minute, Cory suddenly loosens his grip and howls out in pain. What's attacking Cory? Why, it's Astral-Fluffy. Amelia recalls that she was hugging Fluffy when she made like a Lynnfield Pioneer and ascended to the astral-plane. The dog distracts Cory long enough for her to jump back into her body just in the nick of time. Unfortunately for Fluffy, she never makes it back to her body, but it all works out okay. Cory doesn't bother Amelia or Isaac anymore since Astral-Fluffy keeps him in line.

But the Twist is:
No twist, astral or otherwise.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Amelia and Isaac, who disappears halfway thru the novella.

Questionable Teaching:
Cory's science teacher Mr. Stockwell lost an eye while in the military. I assume he calls in sick for the peripheral vision lesson.

Early 90s Cultural References:
Isaac and Amelia love a movie called Ghost Patrol, which I'm pretty sure doesn't exist, so, Imagination.

Great Prose Alert:
"Your name. It's coming to me. It starts with the letter 'B,' no 'S.'"

This derivative blend of Be Careful What You Wish For... and How I Learned to Fly is slight but cute-- I mean, if you're going to rip-off other Goosebumps books, you might as well steal from two of the best.

the Mummy With My Face
No. Not another Egypt story. Please "RL Stine," give us a continuation of anything else. A Shocker on the Street Over From Shock Street. Chicken Chicken Chicken. The Legend of The Legend of the Lost Legend. The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena Goes To Camp.

Eleven-year-old (!) Norm and his older sister Claire are on a super-boring tour of an Egyptian pyramid. Wait, Egypt, boring? Suspension of disbelief granted.

Their parents are in Egypt on business, leaving the two kids to wander Egypt by themselves. Naturally they get separated from the rest of the tour and meet up with a bearded Middle Eastern man wearing a long white robe. He introduces himself as Ari and invites the kids to another, much cooler pyramid. Both kids agree that this is a fine idea with a lot of merit, so they go off alone with the strange man into an empty dark building.

Ari tells them some stuff about the pyramid that sounds awfully close to the back story from Return of the Mummy, with ancient curses and the like. Once inside the dark of the pyramid, Ari disappears, leaving the kids to fend for themselves armed only with a torch. The kids walk into a room where a mummy comes to life and then they pull a secret lever and fall down a sloped shaft into another room with more mummies.

In the second room they spy a framed photo on the wall of the tomb, showing Norm's picture. The caption identifies Norm as the late boy king entombed within the pyramid. Then there's some more mummies and they find another room, this time with Claire's framed photo identifying her as an Egyptian princess. Neither kid bothers to question why an Egyptian family would create picture frames thousands of years before pictures existed, probably because they soon find themselves under attack from more mummies. Norm takes out his father's cell phone (!!), which was given to him in case of emergencies. He figures he's got nothing left to lose and sends the text message "LOVE" to 74456 to see who his soul mate is.

He's unable to get a signal but as soon as he flips opens the cell phone and tries dialing, the mummies halt their advance. With no other course of action left, Norm confuses mummies with bears and tells his sister to lay down on the ground and play dead.

Now comes one of the craziest literary smash cuts ever, as we're taken inside a control room within the pyramid, where Dr. Martez watches a video monitor quizzically as the two kids lie down. He asks Ari why they're behaving that way and he shrugs his shoulder. Suddenly a wave of mummies attacks the control room.

Cut back to the kids in the pyramid who are attacked by some more mummies and then the mummies stop.

Cut now to outside the pyramid as Ari and Dr. Martinez are being led away in handcuffs. It is revealed that their plan for an Egyptian-themed amusement park called Mummyland has failed. I can't imagine why, especially since so many amusement parks are found in a desert inside a pyramid and contain no rides or attractions or concession stands and also depend on robot mummies whose mechanisms get scrambled by cell phone signals. Also how and why did these two get photos of the kids to frame inside the pyramid?

The story ends as The Hardy Boys Claire and Norm have a good wholesome laugh about their adventure with their parents.

But the Twist is:
None, unless you count the horrifying realization that there exists a mummy-related Goosebumps 2000 book.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Siblings Norm and Claire, whose tour guide Ari disappears halfway into the novella.

Questionable Parenting:
Norm and Claire's parents obviously never taught their children any life skills. If a guy drove up in a van offering free candy to find his lost puppy, these two would be like, "Here, maybe it'd help to take off our clothes!"

Great Prose Alert:
"After this pyramid adventure, I need something totally boring!"
(I have just the cure, Norm: remember your pyramid adventure)

This is exactly why I should save judgments like "Least plausible Goosebumps book ever" for when I really need them.

Can you believe this is the 50th Goosebumps book I've written an entry for? Here's to 50 more-- but hopefully not much more than that.


Anonymous said...

are you doing why i'm afraid of bees next?

Anonymous said...

LOL @ the heinous "Triple Header" dialogue. Also at "If a guy drove up in a van offering free candy to find his lost puppy, these two would be like, 'Here, maybe it'd help to take off our clothes!'"

Judging by the books listed on the right column, I see that you're planning to review the R.L. Stine biography ("It Came From Ohio"). You know, it would be a truly tragic thing if the literary quality of his LIFE STORY was equivalent to "Monster Blood IV."

Anonymous said...

good stuff, I can't wait till you review the other tales to give you goosebumps books

Greg said...

I'm still waiting for Gooflumps review.

Anonymous said...

That Monster reference is made of win.

Anonymous said...

MY name is Marnie! I'm glad that there's a book that actually acknowledges it as a real name, but I'm slightly disgusted that it's contained inside "Triple Header"

troy steele said...

I'm sure you're aware of the quite-underrated Hitchcock film, right? I even had a joke about it in this entry but I cut it because I thought it might be too confusing for people who didn't get the reference. But it was something like

But the Twist is:
Liam catches Marnie stealing from the safe and forces her to marry him.

Anonymous said...

No. Not another Egypt story. Please "RL Stine," give us a continuation of anything else.

OK, how does Monster Blood V sound? Anyway, this book certainly came out of left field, another I've never even heard of until now.

Anonymous said...

The tagline for this book should have been, "Once, twice, three times a (ma)lady..." You know, like that song.

Okay. Maybe not.

Good entry though, Troy.

Anonymous said...

I'm definitely aware of that movie, sometimes I wish it was my namesake. But that's really only for the part when Sean Connery says how much he'd like to go to bed with Marnie.

Also, that's a really good twist you came up with, but I can see why you'd leave it out.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious entry as always!

" Remember that list with "church" and "sorcerer" on it? Time to mark off "astral-projection." "

Now, I didn't click back and double check the "Beware the Snowman" entry, but I think church and sorcerer were on different lists. Church was on the list of words you never expected to see in a Goosebumps book. Sorcerer was on the list of words you hope you would never see in a Goosebumps book.

I'm assuming astral-projection is on the second list, eh?

troy steele said...

You're right on both accounts. It's good to know I can always depend on the Internet Gaffe Squad to keep an eye on things.

Anonymous said...

I didn't notice earlier that Stine's head appears to be superimposed over the blue orb at the top of this book's cover. Now that's creepy.

Anonymous said...

"He figures he's got nothing left to lose and sends the text message "LOVE" to 74456 to see who his soul mate is."

I LOL'd.

Anonymous said...

"Liam's dad secretly works for PUMS, the Police Undercover Monster Squad and thanks to Liam, the cops can finally shut down the monster school. Oh, now the story makes complete sense-- ON OPPOSITE DAY."

Wait! Are you serious? That's how it ended!? If the cops already knew it was an undercover monster school, why didn't they raid it before? It can't be because they didn't have enough evidence; putting a microphone anywhere near the building would have given the game away in literally a couple of hours. These are the least obstrusive monsters ever put in print! Seriously, what the Hell, man!?

Anonymous said...

I sort of remember reading this one. The only story I remember is the astral projection one. I read the first Triple Header, which had (what I thought was) a really funny story about a family whose obnoxious grandmother dies and the obnoxious grandmother ends up haunting them.

Anonymous said...

[QUOTE]I'm not going to make the "He obviously walked into the Special Ed Classroom" joke, so don't bother waiting for it.[/QUOTE]

Reply: Man, sometimes you can be no fun. Go reread "Chicken, Chicken" (the "Blogger Beware" way of saying, "Go f**k yourself").

Ivan said...

So...about that Revenge story: The dog really should have been able to come back considering that it had not been out of it's body for an hour. R.L. Stine must be atrocious at spotting his own plot holes, let alone the ability of the editors.

Unrelated: I think after tackling Goosebumps and other R.L. Stine-related books, you should take on the Bone Chillers series by Betsy Haynes or something. That might be a piece of work.

FlashGordonDude said...

The reason R. L. Stine is obsessed with werewolves is because look at Steven King's "Silver Bullet" from 1985, based on King's "Cycle of the Werewolf" novel.

Any time Goosebumps has referenced werewolves, I think it's been mostly inspired by the best scenes in Silver Bullet.

For instance: in Werewolf Skin, the whole idea of the door breaking open and a real-life werewolf having done it, reminds me a lot of Silver Bullet, which traumatized the FUCK out of me as a 3-year-old and put me in many bad all-natural trips.

Revengeofevan said...

"Isaac and Amelia love a movie called Ghost Patrol, which I'm pretty sure doesn't exist, so, Imagination."


Check the URL

M.A.VARGAS said...

I remember reading this, the most memorable story was monster school for me. That ham sandwhich image still lingers in my mind.

Necroman said...

Read all of these so far, and look forward to more! :D

Anonymous said...

Will you be doing the Give Yourself Goosebumps series?

Anonymous said...

The images on this entry aren't showing up for me. I'm using Firefox 15 if that makes any difference.

Also, do you plan on doing Triple Header 1?