Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Series 2000 #18 Horrors of the Black Ring

Series 2000 18 Horrors of the Black Ring

Front Tagline:
Ring around the creature!

Brief Synopsis:
The book opens with wiseacre Anthony fooling protagonist Beth into thinking the brakes on his bike have malfunctioned as he careens wildly down the sidewalk towards her and her sister Amanda. This ruse results in Beth falling for the "old 'no breaks' gag," which according to this book is a thing. Anthony's a real stone cold dude who once told Beth her cat was dead-- even when it wasn't. Apparently this guy's specialty is lies that get disproved within ten seconds of being heard.

Beth recovers from this brilliant bike joke and encounters a small bird that has broken its wing. She decides to rescue the poor bird as opposed to sticking around for Anthony to prank her with the old "Look out, it's night!" gag. Saving the bird makes her late for class, but luckily Beth's blonde teacher, Miss Gold, is very kind and understanding. Hmm...

Beth notices Miss Gold is sporting a new ring with a large black stone arranged in the center. Beth thinks she sees an angry-looking face within the jewel, but her teacher just tells her that's an illusion caused by a natural flaw in the jewel. That's funny, I thought this was Jewel's natural flaw:

Later in art class, Beth gets close to her crush Danny Jacobs by asking for him to model hands for her. Anthony pulls the old making kissing sounds while someone models their hands gag and the two boys get into a fight. Later at lunch, Danny sits with Beth to discuss ideas for the big forthcoming Spring Carnival. Conveniently, Miss Gold simultaneously discovers an ominous message written on the chalkboard: "THE CARNIVAL IS DOOMED." As Miss Gold starts to tremble, Anthony walks by the classroom and suspiciously pulls the old having chalk dust on his hands gag.

That weekend, Amanda tries to get Beth to help her arrange her Barbies from most to least attractive. Apparently you can judge identical dolls:
"Surfer Barbie is beautiful, but Rollerblade Barbie is not so hot."
And Klaus Barbie of course refuses to be judged by anyone but God on his throne. Beth argues that she doesn't have time to play with dolls, as she must rush to the school to help prepare for the doomed carnival. Soon after, a mysterious caller phones Beth and warns her to stay away from the carnival. But since no one followed that call with another warning her against playing with dolls, she takes her chances.

Inside the school's art room, her and Danny find a total mess, with paint splattered everywhere and every canvas and sheet of paper in complete disarray. So basically, they find an art room. All the paintings which were to be sold at the carnival have been wrecked-- all except Anthony's rude painting of Beth. That next week at school, Miss Gold cancels class and sends all her students to the art room to make replacement art. Everyone paints rude pictures of Beth so as to ensure their artwork won't be ruined later.

That afternoon, Danny and Beth make cookies in the Home Ec room, only to have the dessert mysteriously ignite while in the oven. The kids flee the smoke-filled room just in time to catch Anthony pulling the old walking past the Home Ec room just as it catches fire gag. Heartstrings tugged by the oven fire, the entire school floods the carnival's food tables with bake sale goods the next day. Beth takes a bite from one of these treats, feels something disgusting inside, and throws up all over her shoes. Turns out someone baked insect larvae into the desserts-- Hey, I've heard of macaroons but maggotroons?! But seriously folks, you're a lovely audience. Now, how about women drivers, huh?

Miss Gold takes the bad news pretty, um, badly, and sits in her chair fiddling with her black ring and muttering "maggots" over and over. So, she's acting like any middle school teacher then. When asked what else could go wrong, Miss Gold ominously replies, "Hey guys, have you noticed yet how I'm wearing this evil ring? Because let me keep drawing attention to it every time something terrible happens, just in case."

Before the carnival begins, Danny gets cocky and eggs Anthony on to try and hit his target in the dunk tank. Anthony pulls the old hitting the target gag and sinks Danny into the tank. Unfortunately for Danny, the tank is filled with boiling water. Despite being passed out inside the boiling tank for several minutes, Danny doesn't die because RL Stine doesn't understand how boiling water works.

Later at home, Amanda jumps out of a closet as a cry for attention. Beth promises to take Amanda to the carnival, so long as Amanda doesn't change her mind while there and jump out of a carnival in order to get Beth to take her to her closet. Once at the carnival, Beth has to work the ticket counter for a little while and Anthony pulls the old keeping an eye on Amanda while Beth works gag.

Beth tries to sell a carnival ticket to a mysterious stranger wearing a dark robe, but this reaper didn't bring his coin purse. The cloaked figure explodes all the lights in the gym and proceeds to wreak some highly unlikely havoc on everyone inside. Wasps descend upon the WASPS inside the gym and tables catch fire. The cloaked figure kidnaps Amanda and carries her over his shoulder towards the carnival entrance. A policeman tackles the hooded stranger and reveals the figure's true identity: Miss Gold. Man, it's always the person you at least expect.

Miss Gold insists she was forced to do the deeds and is lead away in handcuffs by the police. Beth finds Miss Gold's black ring on the gym floor and feels compelled by plot convenience to put it on. It does not come off. I guess insect cookies are a lot more fattening than anyone suspected.

This all leads to a dream sequence where this line is uttered:
"This isn't right!" I screamed. "Your heads don't belong on duck bodies!"
Which, while true, is still not that scary.

Beth sneaks into the hospital to visit Miss Gold, who freaks out when she sees her wearing the ring. Miss Gold screams at her to take the ring off-- man, teachers cared about setting your cellphone to silent even back when this was written!

As the book winds down, Beth naturally starts exhibiting undesirable and aggressive traits brought about by her new accessory. Anthony gets the old crazy girl bewitched by magic ring tears off your bike lock and dismantles your bicycle by hand and then also breaks your sunglasses gag played on him. But that's not enough bad behavior for the possessed Beth, who also throws a nerdy kid into a locker. Oh man, that locker door is not going to open until Moose calls out his name and asks what time it is when an elephant sits on his car.

Beth continues on her mild rampage. She snaps the legs off Amanda's Barbie dolls. She puts slugs in her sister's spaghetti sauce (Newman's Groan?) and replaces her shampoo with corn oil (Selsun Ew?). But her weird acts aren't limited to blood relations, as Beth also sneaks into the school's kitchen and drops a live mouse into a vat of vegetable soup. Oh great, PETA's gonna make "RL Swine" masks now.

Beth is feeding that broken-winged bird from earlier in the novel when a magically healed Danny shows up and reminds her about the bike-a-thon she agreed to participate in. Beth doesn't want to go though, as she's afraid the ring will make her bike evilly or something, I'm not really sure.

At the bike-a-thon, the ring tells her to cut everyone's brakes, but Beth is pretty much done with bikes in this book and pedals home to remove the ring for good. While looking for metal cutters (!) in the garage, she sees her injured bird has died. But to go on with her daily affairs, she can't really think about that, which is probably why everyone takes the world for granted and why we act so thoughtlessly. It's very confusing-- but not as confusing as what happens when Beth tries to cut off her ring with metal cutters. Te evil face grows huge and emerges from within the ring as smoke pours out into the garage. The face bellows:
"My evil has outgrown the ring!"
So he has more than like a half-ounce of evil now? The face tells Beth he needs to inhabit a human body now. Beth's gotten used to her body and refuses to part with it. Beth grabs a saw and prepares to cut off her finger to spare her from the ring, but luckily she tries just pulling really hard first and it comes off. She reasons that without the big head inside the ring, it just weighs less. Well, there's just so many lessons in the book.

Beth slips the ring onto the dead bird and the evil face is sucked back into the jewel. She buries the dead bird/jewel-head in the backyard. She should be careful though, because as Dwight Schrute could tell you, bird funerals can result in smoke too. As the book ends, the evil has been stopped and all is well. So it'll totally be a happy ending then, rite?

But the Twist is:
Was there ever any chance this book wouldn't end with the little sibling of the main character acquiring a similarly dangerous talisman?

the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Beth and her crush Danny Jacobs, who disappears into a tank of boiling water halfway thru the novel.

Questionable Parenting:
After Beth breaks all of Amanda's Barbies, their mom actually considers that maybe Beth didn't do it. I always wondered what happened to the former Simpson jurors.

Someone Actually Revised a Goosebumps Book Alert:
The first edition of the book (which was used for this entry) was called "Horrors of the Black Ring." Subsequent printings were titled "The Horror of the Black Ring." Though I agree that the book doesn't contain multiple horrors, I still can't quite be with Scholastic on it containing at least one. It's a good thing that they multiplied the "horror"s and not the "ring"s, because if it was more than three rings, the answering machine would have picked up.

Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Ch. 3/4:
Oh no, someone has written on a writing surface!

Great Prose Alert:
"See you at school, fool," Anthony sneered.

At 108 pages, Horrors of the Black Ring is the shortest Goosebumps book. Thank you God.


Anonymous said...

So this one wasn't that bad right, troy?

I didnt think so way back

Groggy Dundee said...

That Klaus Barbie joke is Exhibit A as to why you're the most awesome person who ever lived.

Anonymous said...

Stellar entry. The hiatus seems to have done some good.

I wouldn't worry about PETA causing an uproar about the mouse in the vegetable soup though. As long as the cooks tried boiling the soup first (as they usually do), the mouse would obviously be fine.

troy steele said...

Oh that was a good one, Anonymous Number Two!

Anonymous said...

Anthony's specialty is "lies that get disproved within ten seconds of being heard"? We have a future Goosebumps ghostwriter!

Anonymous said...

It's got a pretty good cover, though, aside from the needlessly ugly monster.

Groggy Dundee said...

I think you missed a minority alert, as Anthony's last name is Gonzalez.

troy steele said...

I actually wrote one but I ended up cutting it. That'll show up on the deleted scenes reel

Paigealicious! said...

And it has vomit!

Anonymous said...

You pulled the classic reviewing a book hilariously gag. Nicely done review, I was waiting for it.

Anonymous said...

Glad to have you back, Troy. Why does the idea of possesed jewelry seem cliche to me right now?

Unknown said...

Damn dude, you were throwing the puns out left and right with this one! And I agree with Anonymous #4, the cover is pretty good. I thought it was an alien in a space helmet when I first saw it.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, great stuff. Both the ring puns cracked me up.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, all the evil spirit can do inside the broken-winged carrion is make it chirp the hit single by Mr. Mister. Wucka wucka.

Ryan Ferneau said...

Thank you for reminding me how unnerving Quentin Blake's illustrations can be. My favorite part was when Anthony pulled the old "pass off any activity as an old gag" gag.

Anonymous said...

"This isn't right!" I screamed. "Your heads don't belong on duck bodies!"

It was this line that inspired Jon Lajoie's "That's fucked up, why do the chickens have human arms?"

With the pointless threatening phone calls and the animal abuse, this sounded more like a Fear Street book. Think maybe Stine started it off as one, and then scrapped it but later turned it into Goosebumps to meet a deadline?

Zak said...

Is there gonna be an update today or are you gonna pull the old 'update two minutes before it becomes Wednesday everywhere in the world' gag?

Anonymous said...

Don't be rude, dude. Troy always gets the greatest stuff out no matter when he does it, so calm yourself.

Anonymous said...

That Hercules and Love Affair song which is supposedly 2008's very best track is so terrible. Pitchfork are really losing their cachet as a viable authority on independent music.

-Red Medicine

Zak said...

Anonymous 1 - No need to be a kiss-ass and make a fool of yourself especially when Troy would probably gather that I was making an obvious reference than trying to be rude. You might think your playing hero and standing up for him, but your making an idiot of yourself, and actually insulting him by assuming that he can't take a joke and that god-forbid should someone not kiss-ass. Now go kill yourself.

(if you were a regular here that I can identify, I'd probably be nice, but since you're posting anonymously I'll say what I want. =D)

Anonymous said...

I think you mean, like, Anon #7 there, Zak. And some of us Anons /are/ regulars. We're just regularly anonymous.

Zak said...

I don't doubt you are, but how is anyone supposed to know that?

Still, that doesn't change the fact that I'd probably be more controlled if you had a name. As long as you're anonymous, no one's gonna see you as a regular.

Anonymous said...

Wheres the update

Anonymous said...

Wheres the update

Anonymous said...

I notice that the tagline for this book was "Ring Around The Creature." I wonder if the publishers actually thought that kids would get the reference to a 1970s Wisk commercial:


I'm not sure what's sadder: the fact that they did; or the fact that I'm 23 and I actually GOT the reference.

troy steele said...

This week's review is mostly written and will go up later today.

Anonymous said...

This weeks review is return to ghost camp right?

Anonymous said...

this was the best entry in awhile. The break was worth it

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't the tagline be a reference to "ring around the roses"? As heavily shoehorned in as possible, as per usual for Goosebumps?

I've been looking forward to "Return to Ghost Camp" ever since I heard that they don't return to Ghost Camp. It sounds great. But I'd accept other books, too.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who got the Calvin and Hobbes reference? Seriously? This late to the party?

I am so awesome.

Jacquie said...

and an Office reference. amazing.

Anonymous said...

Oh good but stupid thing is I cant tell you

Eric said...

Huh? What's the Calvin and Hobbes reference? I didn't catch it...

Anonymous said...

Nice Calvin and Hobbes reference!

DJ Loomis said...

Eric: Calvin and Hobbes reference was the part where he mentioned the evil bike (Calvin's dad got him a bike which loves to mangle Calvin every chance it gets).

Anonymous said...

Very big 'n' dramatic novel, ain't it? Full of excitement and cliffhangers. Beth needs to work hard to kill that ring! Excellent story!

Anonymous said...

Beware the Snowman had a pseudo-Lovecraftian creature trapped inside a snowman.

Horrors of the Black Ring had a pseudo-Lovecraftian creature trapped inside a ring.

Ghost In the Mirror had a pseudo-Lovecraftian creature trapped inside a mirror.

Am I seeing a pattern here?

Robert Stine said...

hello kids, I am glad that my book pleased you

sabrina_diamond said...

Passed out inside the boiling tank for several minutes, Danny doesn't die because RL Stine doesn't understand how boiling water works.

LOLS! Best quote ever xD

Anonymous said...

I love the Calvin and Hobbes reference with the bird, LOL!

ReadMcG said...

At 108 pages, Horrors of the Black Ring is the shortest Goosebumps book.

By page count, maybe. By word count, it's well below average, but there are several shorter. (Maybe it's printed in a small font size?)

Horrors of the Black Ring has 17,385 words, which puts it at #79 in decreasing order of word count out of the 87 books in the original and 2000 series. (The average word count in these books is 19,684.) The shortest book by word count is actually Deep Trouble II (at 15,898 words), followed by Return to Ghost Camp (16,270 words), and then Ghost in the Mirror (16,654 words).

Of course, all this is assuming that the word counts I found online are accurate.

No, I didn't look up the word counts just to check whether this was in fact the shortest book in the series; I'd already looked them up (and entered them into a spreadsheet and calculated the average) earlier. Yes, there was a reason for that. Sort of.

Anonymous said...

I like that RL Stine's idea of what little girls do in their free time is arrange Barbie dolls by which ones are the hottest. Also, Ventriloquism.

j said...

i know this is over 3 year old but the shortest goosebumps book is ghost camp at 66 pages

troy steele said...

There's no way in h e double-hockey sticks that Ghost Camp is 66 pages, unless you're reading some abridged version

Anonymous said...

I have the almost the exact same ring! Its very creepy

Anonymous said...

it's obvious why Danny did not die in the dunk tank:

it was filled with BOILING GHOSTWATER

or Werewolf Piss