Series 2000 #01: Cry of the Cat
Front Tagline: Dead cat walking...
Official Book Description:
The Series 2000 books contain no summary of their contents, only a brief, "terrifying" excerpt from the text. So, say goodbye to this feature along with the Back Tagline. Farewell, Blogger Beware elements. I'm giving you a military funeral in my mind.
While I'm here though, let's talk about where this series went wrong. Look at the cover. No. Simply no. It does not work. The first series was popular in-part due to its uniform look and cover template. No kid would want to collect this ugly, neon-green adorned book that screams "Little boys with anger issues, c'mon in!" But I guess someone forgot to tell Scholastic. Let me reiterate: these books look hideous, and this is actually the best cover of the lot. Reader beware indeed. Oh, that reminds me: No more "Reader beware, you're in for a scare." Nope, now it's "2000 Times the Scares!" Also no.
I was fully prepared to claim that the Goosebumps Series 2000 books were just regular Goosebumps books arbitrarily given a new name and layout to keep up with the changing market trends of 1998. Oh how wrong I was. Oh sure, Cry of the Cat is still very much identifiable as a Goosebumps book, but it also contains new elements not found in the sixty-two volumes which preceded it. Elements such as adults acting like adults, needless gore, and tornados made of cats. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The book begins with an extended scenario involving a monstrous, spittle-spewing feline attacking a child in the upper arm and back. I worked so hard on trying to come up with a way to make "a shoulder to Cry of the Cat on" work, but it just didn't happen. This sequence is revealed to be a scene from a film called, oddly enough, Cry of the Cat. Our heroine Alison is watching the flick with her little brother, Tanner, but the movie is so scary that he makes her shut the VCR off. Oh man, is that a nostalgia trip or what? Remember VCRs man, like, wow, totally takes me back to childhood and stuff. Check out this awesome new nostalgia blog for VCRs: http://vcr-u-srs.blogspot.com/
Alison's friend Ryan shows up and they both ride their bikes to school for practice. See, both are starring in something called the Princess and the Jewel Thief, and they're in such a rush to make it on time that Alison decapitates a cat with her bike. Wait, she does what? I wrote that sentence and even I had to go back and read it again. The force of Alison hitting the cat with her bike sends the cat's head flying out into traffic with a shocked look of surprise on its face. With an expression that wide-eyed and in awe, I bet I know what that cat was thinking: "They renewed the Nanny agaaaaaaaaain?!?!"
When Alison races over to the decapitated animal, she discovers that the cat has magically regained its head, but sadly not its life. She wraps the limp body of the cat up in her jacket. Alison figures it probably came from the big house full of cats across the street, which is a remarkable deduction.
Inside the cat house, Alison finds a saloon girl with a heart of gold. Wait, wrong cat house. She finds a young girl who introduces herself as Crystal. Crystal is furious upon being told that one of her cats has died. Luckily the cat chooses that opportunity to come back to life and scramble out of Alison's arms. Crystal changes gears and becomes furious that her cat is alive. There's just no pleasing some people.
Crystal freaks out that Alison killed her cat Rip, that she should have run over any of her cats other than Rip. Alison suggests that would have been great information five minutes ago but it's a little too late to go back in time and kill another of her cats and she'd kill another one now but she's late for rehearsal. Crystal screams that her mother is going to be upset and warns Alison that she shouldn't have killed Rip, that Rip is no ordinary cat. You mean cats don't usually come back to life after being decapitated?
Alison rushes off to practice. Ryan is waiting for her at the school, because like a true friend, he ditched her when the going got tough. Alison tells him about the cat coming back to life, but he just mocks her. She hears cat calls, and modestly pulls her skirt hem down to a respectable level.
Mr. Keanes, the teacher in charge of the play, initiates the practice and instructs Alison to get a scepter out of "the Royal Cabinet," which sounds like a supply closet to me. But Alison must have misheard his direction as "Get attacked by a dead cat," as Rip jumps out of the closet and gets tangled up in her hair. She pries the cat from her head and throws it as hard as she can across the stage. Wait for it. This startles the stagehands so badly that they drop the giant king's throne on top of the cat. The kids all gather around the flattened animal, only to have the cat come back to life and exit, stage-left even!
Mr. Keanes dismisses practice early because
"I can see you're all very upset about that cat. What a strange thing!"At dinner, Alison tries to tell her parents about how she killed a cat twice in one afternoon. Unfortuantely, they're not interested in anything other than the homemade chicken noodle soup Alison's mom made. Alison becomes less-enamored with the soup than her parents when she somehow scoops a big spoonful of wet cat fur into mouth. She tries to go to her room to relax, only to find her toy mice collection thrown all over the place. Her toy mice collection.
At school the next day, the decapitated head of the cat appears in her lunch bag and sticks its tongue out at her. She's disgusted, but some people enjoy having lunch with The Cat.
That night, Rip jumps on Alison's face while she's sleeping. She responds to getting smothered by gently removing the cat from her face and throwing it out the second-story window. If it didn't take itself so seriously I'd swear this book was a comedy. Alison goes outside to investigate whether the cat is dead or not. Three guesses. Rip scratches her leg but the wound draws no blood.
The following morning, Alison finds herself craving tuna fish. That's right, it's one of those books. At practice that night, she thinks she can land on all fours, so she jumps from the roof of the auditorium onto the stage. So a child can jump several stories down and nothing bad will happen?
Alison's cattiness gets worse, as she hacks up a furball and begins posting on ONTD. Sadly, half of that wasn't a joke and Alison really does hack up a furball. It's exactly as pleasant a moment as it sounds. She also starts licking the back of her palms like a cat. Get it, she's doing things a cat does. Like a cat. She's becoming like a cat. A cat. She's like a cat. Cat. A cat.
That night, she races off to confront Crystal about Rip. She is shocked to hear that Alison has killed her cat two more times and warns her to watch out, as Rip only has nine lives and he's now used up lives six through eight. Alison promises to avoid another cat-astrophe, but soon a strange force compels her towards a pet cemetery. Also Ryan shows up and follows Alison to the pet cemetery. Alison walks among the gravestones until she comes across the RIP RIP tombstone.
Perhaps you're saying to yourself, "No wonder she can't kill the cat, it's already dead!' Well, speculation like that isn't good enough for Alison, so she gets on her hands and knees and starts digging up the cat's grave. Gravedigging. Decapitation. Toy mice collections. We're in uncharted territory here, folks.
Alison finally digs up the cat coffin and opens it to find... the corpse of Rip, which springs out of the coffin and attacks her. If that weren't bad enough, Ryan draws her attention to the rumbling ground and smoke pouring out of the gravestones. Rip begins walking on his hind legs and commands the corpses of all the other cats out of their graves. The ghost cats are his slaves and he commands them to take the form of a giant black ghost cat tornado. The ghost cat tornado chases after Alison and Ryan as they race back to Crystal's house.
In a moment of karmic justice, Alison ditches Ryan in the chase and convinces Crystal to let her in the house. The young girl finally agrees just as the swirling wall of cats reaches the front door. Crystal tells her they only have a few minutes before the kitty twister breaks in. She whisks Alison to the other side of the house, insisting that only her mother can help them now. The two walk down the dark basement steps to meet her.
Gang, I know this book is blowing your mind, but are you ready to meet Crystal's mom? You'll like her, after all, she is a scientist. Oh, and she's also half-cat. The humanoid cat woman purrs with delight upon seeing Alison. See, Rip prolongs his life by stealing lives from humans. Every time he scratches a human, he takes away some of their life and replaces it with cat-life. Oh, now I don't see!
Crystal's mom did scientific experiments on all the cats from the graveyard and that's why they're now Rip's slaves. A-h--nah, that still doesn't make any sense. She also made a deal with Rip to be his sole human resource provided that he didn't harm her daughter. However, cat mom reveals that she no longer has any human life to give Rip, so she's sacrificing Alison to be his new living scratching post. She tries to tell her it won't be so bad, but somehow Alison is resistant to the idea of turning into a horrible half-cat creature. Probably mostly because it sounds like it still involves being a scientist and who has time for that.
The ghost cat tornado breaks into the house, led by Rip, who walks on his hind legs down the stairs. That sounds like the cutest horrific thing ever. Ryan shows up just in time to get scratched by the evil walking cat. All hope seems lost until Alison remembers that she has a toy mouse with her. She throws the mouse to the ground right in front of Rip. All the ghost cats turn their attention to the mouse and attack, killing Rip in the process and the ensuing chaos causes the tornado to disappear. Just like real non-cat-containing weather!
But the Twist is:
Alison and Ryan are still like cats and so they fight over who gets to eat a field mouse. Oh RL Stine, finger on the pulse, as always!
the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Alison and her friend Ryan, who disappears a third and two thirds of the way through the book.
Alison's mom practices her observational humor routine regarding women's blouses instead of listening to her daughter complain about becoming a cat. Sentences like that would never have been written without this book.
Questionable Manners Alert:
Crystal's mom thanks Alison for saving them from Rip. Um, that's nice and all, but did she never hear of "Sorry about willing to mutilate and sacrifice you to the evil cat"? What's worse, that exact quote is on like page twelve of Judith Martin's book, so this is an all too common faux-pas. That's looooow rent, ma'am.
Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Alison cries out in horror as she looks in her lunch and sees... that she accidentally grabbed Ryan's lunch. She must have had an unspeakably traumatic run-in with a Lunchable in the past.
Great Prose Alert:
Egg salad always reminds me of dog vomit.
Three letters come to mind: WTF