Sunday, January 30, 2011

Judging Books By Their Covers: Goosebumps

You know how you can save yourself a lot of time? Judge a book by its cover. People have been advising against this since the first book came out (I will leave it up to you and whatever your religious beliefs may be to decide what that book was). I tell ya, I don't see a huge problem in it. A cover is pretty important. If it's a shitty cover, I'm not gonna want to read the book. Never before have I looked at a book and wondered "hmm, I wonder if the following 300 pages are as disinteresting to me as this picture, I've got 6 weeks to spare, let's find out". I know the phrase is used as a metaphor but I'm going grassroots with this thing and taking it literally. If you judge a book by it's cover, chances are even though you are gonna miss some of the details, you'll still walk away with a general idea of what the book is about. That's what I learned when I took a step back into my childhood and decided to review a bunch of books in a series that was crazy popular when I was a kid:



If you grew up in the 90s and you didn't dig Goosebumps, you know what? Stop reading this now. You aren't welcome here until you've read at least 1 piece of this tapestry of insanity marketed to young adults/ventriloquist haters everywhere. You might say you didn't really care for the Goosebumps books, which is fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I should mention I just got off the phone with Goosebumps, and it didn't have very nice things to say about you either. When I was a wee lad, and for a long time after that, these books were huge. They were also made into a TV show, which had probably the worst acting I've ever seen, and was extremely low budget and cheesy and dumb. In other words, I loved it!

An episode also had Adam West playing a washed up superhero called "The Galloping Gazelle". How do you not love that? Anyone who argues that Adam West isn't a hollywood icon and only played 1 role is an idiot. He was Batman....and....umm...Bruce Wayne. Although I watched a lot of Adam West's acting as a kid, my childhood was also a time where I don't remember reading anything, except for “Which Witch is Which”, “Wayside School is Falling Down” and “Please Remove Your Elbow from my Ear”. I want to point out that that last one is a real book. It's also about Floor Hockey/Bullying/Young Love.Yeah, it's pretty great.

(If this was a movie, the porn title would be so easy)

Now, I'm all for reading books and everything, but sometimes…you know…you just got stuff to do. Even kids have stuff to do. Whereas I had important Power Ranger matters to attend to, nowadays kids find that being little douchebags is a fulltime job. 

(Who doesn't remember where they were when the Green candle burnt out?)

A Brief Background on "Goosebumps" 
(brought to you by Wikipedia in association with my own laziness)
The Goosebumps series was first published...a while ago. It was written by a dude name R.L.Stine. One could only assume the "R.L." stood for "aRr eL". He describes that books as "scary books that are also funny". You know what else he finds funny? Racism!

(And skeletons wearing sunglasses)

According to wikipedia (my one stop shop for potentially incorrect information) his books are described as such:

"Goosebumps books feature different characters and settings in each book. The central characters in each book are white, middle class Americans"

I never noticed that as a kid, but looking back with my limited memory, I guess that's true. Fuck that! I love Mon American Peeps, but when it comes to the other two things used to describe his characters, c'mon dude, mix it up a little! aRr eL Stine had this to say as to why his books were so popular:

"R. L. Stine explained the success of his books by their absence of drugs depravity and violence."

Well I guess that explains why nobody over the age of 12 has ever read a Goosebumps book. By that age, we know how awesome those things are and watching a killer sponge with teeth torment a family just doesn't have the same appeal. Actually, scratch that. Such a thing will be awesome no matter how old you are.

(From "It Came From Beneath the Sink". Look it up. Killer sponge with teeth)

The "Goosebumps" books are not without criticism though, as two book critics decided to heap this verbal literary smackdown on ol' Stiney:

Jessie and Susan Bauer objected to the books, arguing that the stories "develop a child's taste for short sentences, simple sentence structure, easy vocabulary, uncomplicated paragraphs, and shallow, simple plots."

Altogether now: Ohhhhhhhhhhh SNAP! Wow. The ladies bring out the canon. I'm not going to get into defending or condemning the books. I read them. And I have a good vocabulary and am able to...vocabularize good. Ummm.....SPONGE MONSTER!

So here you go, I'm about to save the time of a demographic that probably (pronounced “definitely”) doesn't even read the blog). I want to point out that I WILL NOT review any of the “Goosebumps: Choose Your Own Adventure” books, because c'mon, we all cheated and went back to the previous page if we made a bad decision (WE ALL DID! If you say you didn't you are a damn liar, straight up). Cool? Cool. Let's review some motherfucking books!

(NOTE: Books marked with XXX denotes ones that wouldn't have to change their titles if made into porn films)

Don't Go To Sleep (XXX)
A Monster tries to give kid a high five, and the kid leaves him hanging. Big mistake! The monster refuses to let the kid off the hook and even hangs out in his bedroom during lightning storms. It was a good read, although it left it open for a sequel when after getting the high five he so craved, the monster made the mistake of asking for one on the flipside. Everyone dies due to sleep deprivation cause by the monster keeping them up all night begging for a high five.

A Shocker on Shock Street (XXX)
A giant bug goes on a rampage down Shock Street. The residents are surprised by this, even though based on the name of the street they live on, they shouldn't be. Makes matters worse is that the event pictured above happened on the corner of "Shock Street" and "Giant Rampaging Bug Boulevard". Everyone dies due to a combination of giant bugs/heart attacks/irony.

It Came From Beneath The Sink! (XXX)
So there's this sink, right? And there is a monster that lives underneath it because apparently the mosters in your closet, under your bed and under the stairs are elitist, territorial assholes. So the remaining monster in the house, let's call him, Maurice, has to live under the sink and haunt people whenever....they need lemon pledge or what appears to be a bunch of paintbrushes in a bucket. So essentially it doesn't get to do a lot of scaring people, but oh boy, if a plumber who loves buckets of paintbrushes lives in that house, it's on. Based on the description in that excellent tagline, I'm assuming the owners of this house are tormented by an old roommate of mine. Although there were many times I wasn't so sure he was breathing (beer bongs can have that effect). Oh and I'm using the scientific fact that he was a mammal to verify my roommate was warm. We weren't "roommates" in the Elton John way. Oh, and everyone dies due to the monster growing a pair, realizing there is no law regulating monsters to live exclusively under things, and eating the entire family because that's how monsters handle their business.

Night of the Living Dummy
Ok, so there's this kid, right? And he decides he isn't getting beaten up enough at school that he decides to buy a ventriloquist dummy because as we all know, bullies cannot resist the performing arts. Imagine the boys surprise when the ventriloquist dummy comes to life...and bullies him also. Man, that's brutal. That's like "botching a suicide attempt" brutal. So naturally the dummy is evil, which is too bad because with a dummy that does his own talking, that kid could've been the most successful ventriloquist in the world. I'm assuming all you need to do to reach that plateau is earn $48 and get a handjob from a drunk cougar in the spacious confines of the handicap stall. Oh, everybody dies due to not putting the satanic looking dummy in a wood chipper, whether it's alive or not, and being stupid enough to let him kill them in their sleep.

The Girl Who Cried Monster (XXX)
Okay, so there is this girl, right? And she hangs out late at the library one night and wears a stupid blue shirt. She has a problem with the microfiche (the problem being one that I share, having no idea what the fuck it is) so she goes to the librarian, Mr. Greenhat (it's Swedish) for an explanation. Wouldn't you know it, she happened to accidently walk in on him during his private bug admiring/cocaine time. She cries monster, and he panics because even though there is no rule set in stone about it, you aren't allowed to be a librarian AND have a drug problem (this stupid country). So he goes on a drug fueled rage through the library (happens all the time) and crushes her beneath a shelf of encyclopedias. She would've survived if the book was called "The girl who kept her damn mouth shut and quietly alerted the authorities"....that doesn't really flow. Everyone dies when an asteroid hits he earth because that is way more entertaining than a story set in a library.

The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight
So there is this Scarecrow, right? And all the other scarecrows tease him about not being able to walk. Even though they can't walk either, they still mercilessly taunt the titular scarecrow because, well, most scarecrows are kinda dicks. The book then follows the pattern set by inspirational sports movies, showing that with a lot of heart and determination, anything is possible. Except for a scarecrow walking. That is impossible and the book comfirms that. It really has a downbeat ending. Not only does the scarecrow fail at walking (due in part to not having any bones or muscles or reasons to walk) but all the scarecrows burn to a crisp when some drunk teenagers have a bonfire, shit gets out of hand and the field gets torched, which was totally Erik's fault.

The Haunted School
Okay so there's this guy, and he has this really messy locker. It's so messy in fact that he loses or forgets things in there all the time. Sneakers? Yep. Homework? You betcha. People?! Unfortunately yes. So cluttered was this guys locker that a couple of nerds that were shoved into his locker were forgotten. They managed to pass the time by doing some of that homework in there (And they even got an "A" on one paper) but eventually as all things in lockers do, they died a solemn, lonely death. And now the entire school is haunted, even though the guy who owns this locker is 100% at fault. Everyone dies due to hiding from ghosts in lockers and being forgotten about. And so, the circle of locker ghosts continues...
Beware, The Snowman!
Okay, so there's this snowman, right? And he is all scary and alive and stuff. And the one thing he hates most in the world are red scarfs. He loathes them. He doesn't mind buttons or corn cob pipes, but man does he hate scarves. He was a pretty jolly snowman until his maker, let's call him...Alan, put a scarf on him. The snowman decided enough was enough and proceeded to scratch Alan in the face with his twig arms. Yep, that's pretty much it. He just kinda stayed there, really pissed, and ready to give people a good scratchin' unless they took the scarf off, which they really couldn't do because whenever they came close he'd scratch them. It was a pretty shitty plan. But what do you expect? Snowmen are idiots. The snowman dies when spring rolls around and bitchslaps him with a warmer temperature. This and the scarecrow book were part of Goosebumps' failed "Things that just kinda stand there" series, which did not sell very well.

Calling All Creeps
So there's these...wait. Hold on. Wait just a goddamn minute. If I'm not mistaken, those "creeps" are actually raptors in human clothes. Oh shit! This might just be the scariest book yet. After escaping from Jurassic Park by carjacking Nedry's jeep. A bunch of superintelligent raptors make it onto the mainlaind. There in order to fit in, they pose as middle school students and proceed to fool the entire town. It's exactly like "Never Been Kissed", but with murderous dinosaurs. So eventually the Raptors have plans to take over the town and install an all dinosaur regime with the foundation of their infrastructure being....eating people I guess. Raptors seem to not have very high ambitions. The lead raptor, Fred, poses as a bad boy with a heart of gold in order to  get close to the mayor's daughter, who also attends the local high school. After a while they begin to date and it gets quite serious. At this point, she still doesn't realize he is a dinosaur (but she knows he is a HE....gross. Sorry). Fred starts to take his focus off the plan and decides to ask the mayors daughter to marry him. He calls her from a pay phone to pop the question, and another dude answers her phone. He flies into a jealous rage and eats 7 people in the nearby vacinity. On the run from the cops, Fred (who is still very much a raptor by the way) leaves town on a motorcycle, promising to one day return and make good on the promise he made to his raptor peeps to take over the town and eat everyone. He never does though. He ends up dying of a broken heart....combined with accidently driving his motorcycle off a cliff because raptors aren't good at motorcycles. (As ridiculous as this is, it is still more believable than Jurassic Park 3)

The Curse of Camp Cold Lake
This is the scariest fucking book you will ever read.
Stay Out Of The Basement (XXX)
So there's this basement, right? And these two kids are all about wanting to go down there and see what's up. There dad tells them, fuck that, DEMANDS that they don't go down there. He then immediately leaves the house to go do adult stuff, leaving the kids to either stay true to their word or be lying little shits. They go with the second one. They go down to the basement and find a couple old photo albums, some paint cans, a bowflex that was never used and a plant monster mutant dude thing. I know what your thinking: Who the hell actually HAS a bowflex? Anyways, the plant monster just so happens to exclusively eat liars, so the kids die. The dad gets home and decides he'd rather have an honest plant monster living in his house than dishonest children so they are never spoken of again.

How I Got My Shrunken Head  (XXX)

So there is this guy, right? And he goes to a flea market and buys a shrunken head. And that's about it. It's a pretty short book.

Legend of the Lost Legend
So there's this viking chick, right? And she is the guardian of some giant chest. It's contents are a secret to everyone, even her. A paleontologist names Dr. Lawyer works with a sexy broad to uncover the location of the chest and confirm the gender of the "shim" that's guarding it. It's kinda like Indiana Jones, only it's a book and George Lucas' influence is nowhere near it. So the Dr. guy winds up on top of some snowy hill and fights the viking who he confirms IS a woman (a vulva punch is not as damaging as a nut punch). So they defeat the viking chick and open the chest to reveal....a much better title than "Legend of the Lost Legend": The words "Nordic Vulva Punch". Everyone dies due to freezing to death trying to find their way off the snowy mountain. It was a pretty good book. Indy meets the Crying Game meets Shawshank Redemption.

Attack of the Jack O'Lanterns
So there's this gang, right? And they are trying to find a gimmick to strike fear into the heart of the streets. The mean streets in fact. After much deliberation they decided to take a cue from Ichabod Crane and roam the streets (mean) striking fear into the hearts of the general public with jack o lanterns on their heads. Unfortunately, it's an awful idea because they make it about 6 steps with the pumpkins on their heads before they burn their faces off and die what will go down in history as the stupidest death ever. These jerks had it coming though. They even put one on their dog. Monsters. The Newsies are a better gang than these guys.

The Abominable Snowman of Pasedena
Turns out he was behind the lamp post. It took them 267 pages to find him. Gripping read. 

One Day at Horrorland (XXX...think about it for a second)

So there is this family, right? And the dad has been divorced from the mom for about a week. She already has a new boyfriend, Rick. So in order to show Rick what's what, the dad promises his weiner kids that they are going to go to a theme park but he won't tell them which one. Their lowest expectation was "LEGO Land" but instead the dad ended up taking them to whoreland, Horrorland: "Where the sexually transmitted diseases nightmares come to life". Apparently Walt Disney didn't have the foresight to build a themepark on the edge of a creepy ass forest. So the family ends up at Horrorland and they find out it's been closed for years because a lot of desperate looking dude with incredibly developed right forearms kept showing up and leaving disappointed. So the family all loads up in the minivan and the kids complain and bitch the entire way home. Rick wins the battle for the children's love and the dad is never heard from again. Presumed dead from sadness.

The Horror at Camp Jellyjam (XXX...think about it for a second)

So there is this camp, right? And it's run by meth heads. They end up being arrested because meth is not cool and Goosebumps books are all about having a message. Oh, and the person of the cover got eaten by a family of racoons....who then also became addicted to meth. This was a weird book...but a good book. 

Phantom of the Auditorium
So there is this author, right? And he is in the midst of a battle with several other publishers for copyright infringement. In order to royally piss them off, he decides to write a play called "Phantom of the Auditorium". Andrew Lloyd Webber's sharp legal team decends upon the author and sues the shit out of him. He loses everything partially because of this, his latest work, but mostly due to his previous play "Joey and the Spectacular Rainbow Vest". He now spends his time hanging out at the bus depot and hoping inspiration strikes someone he can steal from again.

Deep Trouble (XXX)
"The shark got 'im". Contents of the book include that first sentence and then 178 pages of blank paper. Can't wait for the movie.

My Hairiest Adventure (XXX...eww)
So there's this kid, right? Let's call him Harold. He starts going through some changes. Some of them are physical, but most of them have to do with the fact that he becomes obsessed with 1986 cinema classic "Teen Wolf". The book is basically a first hand account of what it's like to watch "Teen Wolf". Seriously. The other at one point in chapter 9 wrote "And then Teen Wolf got it on with that blonde drama club chick even though Boof totally would've done the weird stuff to him if he only showed her a little attention....OH SHIT! Handstand on a bus!". I would've hated the book if I didn't a) agree with the author 2) Get super excited when Teen Wolf rocks that handstand on top of that van. I love it so much that I'm gonna put a video of it right in the middle of this Goosebumps thing and I'm gonna put it in Spanish! ENJOY!

HELL YEAH! ....I totally forgot what I was writing about. Oh yeah, Goosebumps!

The Headless Ghost (XXX...aww that's sad)
So there's this ghost, right? And he is headle- hold on. He's holding it! He isn't headless at all. You know what Goosebumps, if you are gonna advertise something in a title, you better deliver! Proving it false with the cover picture is amateur hour. Smarten up!

Egg Monsters from Mars
There! Was that so hard? Okay, so just as the title (and picture, thankfully) says, this book was about a bunch of egg monsters from Mars. It's a pretty short one. They are marginally threatening until they are made into an omelet from Earth and then eaten for breakfast. At no point was anyone suspicious about the GIANT green egg that was included in the carton. I actually kinda want to read this book.

The Blob That Ate Everything (...XXX)
Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fucks up an entire neighborhood without the help of his exosuit. I absolutely want to read this one too. "It...ate...everyone!"

(Normally Krang is a total chicken shit whenever he is out of his exosuit)

So there you have it. A bunch of reviews of Goosebump books from my childhood withouth really remembering what they were about. Some of them are pretty straightforward, some are just confusing as hell (why is that one raptor wearing a backwards hat?). Wow, seeing as how so many of those can work as porn films, under the advisement of my legal team I'm like to copyright the film series title "Loosebumps". 

The only truly scary thing I discovered was that R.L. Stine has never changed the expression on his face. It's super creepy. It's like in movies when you see someone in a picture in the distant past. Take a look at this guy:

Seriously?! Not even a smile while he's wearing a festive vacationy shirt? (True story, I used that wording because I don't know how to spell Hawaii-en. Fine with it). Come on R.L. Stine, your books have brought thrills to a generation, give us a smile.


And now you have brought chills to a generation. I got an idea for your next book: "It came from inside the van...and it had candy". Think it over.

Thanks for Reading

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  1. Mr. Bowman I am sorely disapointed you missed Revenge of the Land Gnomes!! this post was still a treat to my ten to 12 year old book worm past!

  2. i scares me to horrorland and the living dumy and others

  3. hoho, how did r.l.stine come up with all these different ideas. when i read then, I don't feel too scared, but after that, i get the creeps, it just get stuck in my brain.
    Well done R.L.Stine
    please keep one publishing other books for us kids!!!

  4. I actually teared up a little bit from laughing so hard. And possibly missing my childhood... my parents threw away all my goosebumps books. :'(

  5. Wow, this is quite easily the most epic thing on the internet right now. Right on!!!

  6. Thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed it (this is where i'd put a smiley face emoticon if I did that sort of thing, but I dont)

  7. So funny (I feel like that girl on Seinfeld who didn't laugh at Jerry's jokes, but don't worry, I did laugh). I do the same thing with movies too, covers are a major thing. Of course that with books there are many other things to check to know if it's interesting or not, but first impressions are the ones that count, right?
    BTW: I've mentioned this entry on yesterday's post (I hope you don't mind)