Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Series 2000 #12 Brain Juice

Series 2000 12 Brain Juice

Front Tagline: A mind is a terrible thing to drink.
(What, no Juice your own adventure?)

Brief Synopsis:
Well, as you can tell by the picture of the ejaculating brain on the cover, this week's book was probably never going to be the one that delivered the elusive Newbery Award for Stine. Brain Juice opens with a prologue that sets the stage for hilarity, but forgets to draw open the curtains: Two aliens are hiding in a scientist's kitchen pantry. Morggul and Gobbul provide valuable expository details about their mission on Earth: to kidnap some smart human slaves to take back to their home planet. In the meantime they've chosen the scientist Dr. Frank King for observation, mistakenly assuming that due to his name he must be the King of all scientists. I think we all can all guess the outcome of their next mission to capture a Latifah.

The book thankfully leaves the aliens and focuses on characters who are not aliens... or are they? No, they're not. Step-siblings Nathan and Lindy have come to their Uncle Frank to seek his help. Bookish Nathan and vibrant redhead Lindy have paid this visit because they feel stupid and want to get smarter. The kids feel excluded from the world because they're not good students and they can't build a dollhouse. Please note: That these two could find their way across town to their uncle's house and can tie their shoes still makes them smarter than most other Goosebumps protagonists.

Uncle Frank thinks the kids are plenty smart but decides to slip them a placebo. As his disapproving wife looks on, Uncle Frank slaps a computer paper label on a bottle of grape juice, calling it, you guessed it, Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls. Well, it seems that just putting a label over another label on a juice bottle probably means he's meeting the kids halfway in their intelligence argument.

Unfortunately Frank forgets the first rule of drinking with a group, as he leaves the drink unattended. This gives the aliens an opportunity to slink out from the pantry and swap the fake Brain Juice with real Brain Juice, which is conveniently purple and existent. The aliens decide that the two children would be perfect slaves if only they were smarter. Boy, these kids are so stupid that even stupid aliens think they're stupid. And even that sentence wasn't as stupid as these kids!

The kids take the Brain Juice home and split the bottle. This leads to a pretty cerebral exchange:
"Do you feel any smarter?" Lindy asked.
"Duhhh... yeah," he replied.
That night while they sleep, the aliens come over to make sure the kids drank the Brain Juice. They've never fed Brain Juice to humans before and have no idea what effect it will have. So they decide to test their dangerous potion out on the two people they've singled out to take back with them? Is anyone/anything not stupid in this book? Oh and then one of the aliens climbs into bed with Nathan and watches him sleep.

At school the next day, neither child is smart. But neither is dead from the experimental formula either, so there's the silver lining. Nathan gets teased on the bus by a gang of nerdy kids who mercilessly bully him because he can't do the New York Times Crossword Puzzle. Boy I don't know about you guys but I love reading scenarios lifted directly from real life like this! The aliens spy on the children remaining stupid and decide that since the kids aren't getting any smarter, they'll just eat them instead. These creatures are really impulsive. Maybe if the kids can wait them out, the aliens'll just drive to Vegas.

Before they can be eaten, Lindy and Nathan conveniently get smarter. They ace a math test, which immediately draws the ire of their teacher, who assumes the two cheated. So he throws away their exams and makes them take a retest. I guess it never occurred to him that he might be a good teacher.

Naturally the kids ace the test again. And then they start showing off. It gets so bad that the smart kids start making fun of them for being too smart and their teachers whine to the school board that the kids are too brilliant to be in public school. Finally, social commentary from a man who has never written a Goosebumps book with a black protagonist!

This all leads to an extended passage concerning the kids being expelled for being geniuses and the ensuing media blitz that descends on them in the wake. Being asked to advertise breakfast cereals and sneakers and getting chased by the government for testing would hit a lot stronger if it wasn't lifted directly from How I Learned to Fly. Of course, when you're already ripping off Flowers For Algernon, I guess stealing from a book you at least wrote is the lesser evil.

Eventually the aliens show up. At first the kids don't believe the slimy creatures are aliens, so one of them "proves" it by grabbing a bird and biting the winged creature's head off. I always knew Ozzy's glazed appearance and slurred speech were masking something far more heinous than the residual effects of a lifetime of drug abuse! The aliens tell the kids that they are now smart enough to serve their emperor back on the home planet. The kids are somewhat resistant to the idea of being slaves for hideous creatures from outer space, so they run away.

The aliens catch up with the kids and threaten to eat their little sister, Brenda. The kids agree to be slaves if the aliens will spare Brenda's life. Unfortunately Gobbul already ate her. Luckily the alien hadn't finished digesting her, so he happily throws up the little girl. Well, if that isn't the ultimate vomiting scene in a Series 2000 book, I don't want to read whatever actually is.

Once in the alien's starship, knee-deep in the hoopla, sinking in their fight, the two kids find themselves locked in a large cage. One of the aliens throws them a stack of crossword puzzles to keep themselves occupied on the long trip back to their home planet. Nathan gets Across with them and won't back Down. He tries to tell the aliens that they're no longer smart, that their formula has worn off. He's telling the truth but the aliens naturally think he's trying to outsmart them. The creatures were expecting this, as they told the children that the Emperor is testing the human race based on these two. If the kids fail, the aliens won't bother to enslave Earth. Gee, no pressure.

The two kids try to do the crosswords they've been given, but they can't figure out whether they're supposed to write in the black or white squares. The juice has been zapped from their minds, and what's worse, they've actually been made stupider in the process. This causes them to do stupid things, like mistaking "D-O-G" for "C-A-T" and watching Knight Rider instead of Pushing Daises on Wednesday nights.

(That last zinger was part of my dual effort to both save the best show on TV and reduce the shelf life of this blog's references. I hope you enjoyed it. Now please watch Pushing Daisies. I'm not even being paid to say this. Barring a miracle, it's pretty much going to get canceled and I'm holding all of you reading this personally responsible if that happens. I mean, viewers are really watching a talking car and a Jay Mohr sitcom over PD at the rate of almost 2:1. Obviously the twist here is that America needs some Brain Juice)

The ship finally lands and the aliens lead the humans through several futuristic set pieces until they finally meet the Emperor. By this point the children are so stupid they can barely walk. The Emperor is furious with Morggul and Gobbul and immediately has them melted. Dude should get upset with a grilled cheese some time, he would totally cut down cooking time. Ah, Writing the Entry at 2AM Jokes, how I've missed you.

The Emperor has his henchmen chase after the stupid children, who have managed to hide in a closet instead of escaping. The Emperor is amused by their stupidity and sends them in a spaceship back to Earth. Once back at Earth, the kids meet up with Uncle Frank. He wants to go to the media, but the kids are tired of the attention. Since they're returned, their intelligence has returned to normal. They just want to be normal.

But the Twist is:
Remember when the book ripped off How I Learned to Fly? Hi. The kids were never stupid, they just very convincingly pretended to be to avoid damning the entire human race. Oh, well I guess I won't stay mad at them. Their con is revealed when Nathan accidentally solves an impossible equation their uncle is working on.

Oh Cool:
I've seen Good Will Hunting too.

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Nathan and step-sister Lindy, whose little sister disappears into an alien halfway through the novel.

Questionable Teaching:
Usually RL Stine undershoots the curriculum of a sixth grader, but I'm pretty sure he overcompensated for life with the following equation, given to the entire class of twelve-year-olds by Nathan and Lindy's teacher:
x = a - c + 125 (x + y)
No wonder he thought anyone who passed his test was cheating.

Minority Alert:
Stine insists on consistently referring to Uncle Frank as Dr. King, which would be bad enough except that Dr. King's solution to this predicament involves grape-flavored drink. Well, perfect. Of course the worst part of this happening is that it wrecked the "Brain Jews" joke that I'd planned for this section.

UFOh Burn Alert:
"Maybe we shouldn't have landed in New Jersey. Maybe there are nicer places."

Late '90s Cultural References:
The negative effect of the Juice being let loose is clearly a scathing reference to the OJ Simpson verdict.

Early 1900s Cultural References:
The kids prove their intellectual prowess by watching Jeopardy, resulting in what is likely the first and last instance of the Lusitania getting name-checked in a children's horror book. Oh and this scene ends with one of the aliens providing this witty observation:
"Final Jeopardy. Yes, I think that describes what these two humans are about to face."
Out of Context Text Alert:
He stood very erect, sweat rolling thickly down his emerald body.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 4/5
One of the aliens thinks their concoction has killed Nathan. Only it turns out that humans breathe through their faces. Whoa, sure you don't want to go back and make that the final twist, Stine?

Great Dialog Alert:
"Owwww! My heart!"

Great Prose Alert:
The class grew even silenter than silent.

Based on the number of times some variation of the word "stupid" was used in Brain Juice, the target audience must have been Andy from Monster Blood.


Anonymous said...

I laughed out loud. Good gods some of these books are terrible. I mean, I'd forgotten about the aliens and thought it was merely a bad book, but I always seem to be surprised.

What did the aliens look like, incidentally? Other than, I presume, emerald-green and phallic.

Anonymous said...

Oh and by the way, your side-bar link to Graveyard Ghouls is the wrong URL; it keeps asking me to sign into Blogger. And since I'm typing this now, HorrorLand #11 has been renamed "Escape From HorrorLand" and HorrorLand #12 is now "Streets of Panic Park." Source: The reissue of "One Day at HorrorLand." Hope I don't mess up your comments with nitpicking, but isn't that what the blog's about?

troy steele said...

They had two mouths and tentacles and one was fat and the other was something else, I don't even remember and I just finished reading this like an hour ago. These books have all the staying power of ice in the summer

Zak said...

Haha I knew from the start that you'd reference Andy!

And wow, I'm a math major and you'd NEVER see a problem like that even in high school.

Anonymous said...

Is there going to be a 2000 retrospective? I call for a Top 5 Vomiting Scenes list.

And I really didn't need that mental image of an ejaculating brain. I always thought someone was pouring juice on it, but now I can never look at this cover again.

delusion said...

The great prose.. It.. it can't be real. It's too amazing to be real. I trust you, Troy, that you aren't making things up.. but that is almost too brilliant a set of words to imagine.

God, I love this blog.

Joel Hook said...

Delusion, here here!

Is there going to be only one book then, that DOSN'T feature vomiting?

Anonymous said...

Wow, this sounds like it could be an episode of Jimmy Neutron, and even that would be partially ripping off the movie and first episode. It's pretty sad when you can recap the plot well enough that it sounds like a short story than a full-fledged novel.iz

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't describe Goosebumps books as novels. They're usually only about 130 pages. Which would be long for a short story, yeah...

Actually, though, how long are the 2000 books, on average? I forget if they were any longer with all the vomit padding the page count.

troy steele said...

The 120 Pages of So Vom

Anonymous said...

"The 120 Pages of So Vom"


Anon e Mouse Jr. said...

Interesting remark on Andy... and incidentally, did they ever mention her last name (or Kermit's) in MB4? That's the only Monster Blood book I don't own, and it's been driving me crazy for a long time.

Until next time...

Anon e Mouse Jr.

P.S.: Next week: Return to HorrorLand... this one is gonna be freaky.

Groggy Dundee said...

Not a bad review, you nailed most of the stuff you should have, but I'm only likely to read this entry 845 more times before I move on to homework.

Anonymous said...

I've read all of your reviews and this is one of the best in a while, kudos.

Anonymous said...

This blog is funnier than funny.

Anonymous said...

So why is it that aliens with brain juice have to come all the way to earth to use it on humans to take them back to their planet?

... Rather than just using it on themselves and saying "just fuck this humanity shit"?

... Goddammit how do you read these

Anonymous said...

Well, the aliens are already smart, right? So smart that humanity is too dumb to even be their slaves, so they need to smarten us up to good slave level. Now you may say that is silly because the aliens are appallingly dim-witted, but obviously they are actually super-extra smart really, and just make very bad choices.

Yep, it all comes together just perfectly. No plot holes here.

Anonymous said...

Return To HorrorLand should be fun. I remember its mad intertextuality fondly. I suspect that, after its review, I will remember it... less fondly. May well have set the stage for the new series, anyway.

Anonymous said...

GO PUSHING DAISIES! WTH WERE THEY THINKING WITH KNIGHT RIDER?! Nothing but fanfare and soft sexploitation up the hizzle...no, go Pushing Daisies.

troy steele said...

Pushing Daisies was up by 740,000 viewers last night. Good work gang!

Anonymous said...

You single-handedly did it, troy! So this is what heroism feels like. Feels too much like velour for my tastes. :/

Incidentally, I always envisioned the alien interlopers as resembling this pair:



Or better yet... Sangria for everyone?

Groggy Dundee said...

Aliens are always stupid. If you think about the motivations of any fictional aliens invading Earth, they almost never make sense.

Anonymous said...

I haven't commented in a while but this is easily in the top five blog entries here even just for the Juice is loose joke. Troy, now that you saved Pushing Daisies from cancellation, you should start watching The Wire. Oh, David Simon, have my babies.

Anonymous said...

Deak Zak,
I don't know where you went to high school, but that equation, while complex, is just Algebra. At my high school, we had Calculus and other such ridiculously more difficult math that I couldn't do then and can't do now. But we definitely covered that type of stuff in high school.

Great job Troy, this was an especially funny entry. I enjoy Pushing Daisies, by the way, but best show on TV? Check out Mad Men.

Anonymous said...

Out of Context alert...oh my god. HAHAHAHAHA.

Anonymous said...

Stine loses huge points for not going the Ministry reference "The mind is a terrible thing to taste".

That said i don't understand how you would have had time to listen to Ministry cranking out one book a week or whatever it was back then.

JQ said...

Pushing Daises is really in the red that much? God, I really hope they don't pull an Arrested Development on this show.

Groggy Dundee said...

Well, it's midnight on Wednesday. Time to start bitching about the next entry.

Hey Troy, where's the next entry you beep?

Anonymous said...

Uh oh. I smell an iStockPhoto attack on the horizon.

Anonymous said...

According to the time-stamp on your post - which I'm not sure is Troy's actual time zone - it's still Tuesday.

This post, I'm fairly sure, is on Wednesday, though.

Zak said...

Yeah... it IS Wednesday now.

This blog's the one thing I'm anticipating besides SAW V... hinthint

Groggy Dundee said...

Well, you did have a Horrorland book this week. I just hope you're unusually late, but in this case, at least, I'll be understanding of your decision to put this off... I hope it doesn't become a regular thing, though.

More pertinent a question thoguh, is: Where is the rest of the usual crew? Usually there are a dozen people begging for you to hurry on the new entry. I don't see anyone besides me last night. What gives? Were they all given Brain Juice and kidnapped by green phallic aliens?

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Well, it's kinda rude to demand blog entries like this, even if Troy is a lazy lazy man. Plus it's kinda the norm by now, right?

Groggy Dundee said...

It's kind of a tradition. He can't be THAT lazy, as he's been confirming comments over the last two days.

Brodie said...

I think it'd be great if he pushed back every update by one day "Updates now Wednesdays! No Thursdays! So on!" until he was back to Mondays where he started.

troy steele said...

I know it's frustrating but this is what happens sometimes. The update will go up late tonite. If it's any consolation, Christ is this week's book awful

Anonymous said...

Oww, my brain!

Brodie said...

Oh, Troy. I still love you not matter how late your update is.

Groggy Dundee said...

That certainly is consolation.

I actually like the Tuesday night updates, because I work the graveyard shift at the library (11-2) and need something to. At least when you post new stuff on time it gives me something to do at work.

Anonymous said...

Alright, so we have definitely established that it's currently Wednesday, yes?

And for the record, Groggy, you weren't the only one to post your concern last night. Give credit where credit is due....HOMESLICE.

I wish I worked at a library.

Okay, scratch that.

I wish I worked at a book store.

troy steele said...

I'm writing it right now so it'll definitely be up soon

Groggy Dundee said...

Library work is working out pretty well for me. I've got two pretty slow shifts and I get paid $7.25 an hour. Seven hours a week, $200 a month. Not too shabby, that, for a part-time job of course.

Sorry I didn't mention you, but your comments weren't showing up when I posted that... Dunno why.

Brodie said...

I get paid $20 an hour, $29 on Sundays (which is my guaranteed work day every week, with other random shifts here and there). I earn at least $190 a week, for doing supermarket work.

TxZ said...

"...and watching Knight Rider instead of Pushing Daises on Wednesday nights."

Thank you! I'm so afraid it's going to get cancelled too and it's such an amazing show. Maybe high DVD sales and reruns on adult swim will bring it back if it gets cancelled?

We can only hope.

By the way, the grape juice/Dr. King thing had me cracking up.

Anonymous said...

And here I thought I'd never get a Starship reference out of this blog. My life is complete.

Tayyab said...

Has anyone noticed the fact that the tagline of this book, "A mind is a terrible thing to drink" is similar to the tagline of Switched, another R. L. Stine novel, which is "A mind is a terrible thing to lose". Switched is the part of Fear Street series. I guess that this is just a coincidence.

Slick Dickbag said...

Im gonna try and solve the math problem, X=A-C+125(XY), um well A and C can be what ever i want and so can y, since they aren't used again. So ill make A=1, C=125, so 1-125 = -124, -124+125= 1, 1 times XY = x, so Y = 1 and X equals, i dunno five. There im a freshman in highschool, thats not so hard, it just looks hard.

Anonymous said...

That equation literally IS impossible. How the fuck do you work out X IF IT'S IN THE EQUATION ITSELF?

Questionable Teaching indeed.

Anonymous said...

@Steve: you would have seen stuff similar to that but a=a-c+125(x+y) isn't possible to work out.Which just shows that, like most things. Stine doesn't understand algebra or the idea of 6th grade ciriculums

Anonymous said...

benny here. what the heck, i started doing those equations while I was in the eight grade. I'm going to admit it i am currently in the ninth grade. and thats what i am doing right now.

Anonymous said...

God seriously why do you always make it sound like twelve year Olds are stupid?! They are a lot smarter then some 23 year old guy doing a fucking goosebumps blog wth fml