Saturday, November 9, 2013

Shivers 8: Terror on Troll Mountain

So last week I couldn't write a post. The week before, I synopsiesed (synopsysed? synopsiezed? synopsneezed?) The Awful Apple Orchard. We've had a lot of good times so far, through good and bad, and despite the quality of some of the books, I really had fun with the whole process. All of this changed the moment I read this book. There have been some terrible, boring, and just overall stupid Shivers books in my petite little 7-novel collection, but this is by far the worst of the worst. If you took all of the the worst moments from A Ghastly Shade of Green, The Locked Room, and The Awful Apple Orchard, then first of all, M.D. Spenser would probably shiver in delight at the concept, and second of all, it would be this book. But, you came here for jokes. So here they are.

So this book starts out with the worst protagonist yet: Paul Alberti, a tall, fat, glasses-wearing, idiotic, and overall near personality-less twelve-year-old. It's basically Winston combined with Daniel. Right now, he's with his father and uncle on a trip from his big city in Chicago to a tiny little town in Italy. The whole family on dad's side is Italian, with the mom on a cross-country ballet tour. You can read that again if you need to.

The strange thing about this book is that it actually shows work. True, the fun facts about Italy could literally have been copied and pasted from a website on fun facts about Italy, but at least M.D. Spenser tried. Also, every character in the extended family is an Italian stereotype, so I will bolden them for you.

Paul also has huge feet, which is what kids make fun of him for at school. I happen to have a hard time believing that, seeing as how this kid is literally a walking target. He could be made fun of for, say, his weight and overwhelming love of food, or his nerdy hair and glasses, or the fact that he loves to whine about being carsick. If Danny were here, I bet he would say something like, "Hey Sir Nerdy McDorksalot, you gonna gwet cahsick and pook all ovah ya little nerdy dork fatso body, ya little fatterd?" God, what a wordsmith.

Anyways, the trio is riding along with uncle Frederico behind the wheel, and he happens to be a terrible driver. The three of them are zipping along, all happy and carsick, when all of a sudden, it gets quiet, and the brothers in the front seats start whispering, and Paul realizes that they are going 90 miles per hour towards a fence blocking the side of the mountain road, but they crash through and start to fall to their deaths and-

It was all a dream. This book started off with a crappy dream sequence. The three of them actually just got to Pinzolo, the little aforementioned town. We weren't lucky enough for the book to end. So Paul goes outside and is greeted by his very large and loud family. One of them, Natalia (which Paul helpfully points out is Italian for Natalie) loves to pinch his cheeks (I'm pretty sure that's a stereotype somewhere). His grandma is a short, friendly woman who speaks very little English. Wait, that's not a stereotype. Is it? Never mind.

So Paul decides to go exploring, and we find something else to make fun of him for. He's curious past the point of stupidity. He once tried dry cat-food, and walked around with his eyes closed to experience blindness. Has no bully taken advantage of this? I would have. I would have come up with some preposterously ridiculous saying like "curiosity killed the dumbass™" and laughed while he tried hopelessly to figure out what was so funny. So Paul decides to pick mushrooms on this mountain, but then he hears a sound of footsteps behind him and oh my god it's a-

Cow. It was just a cow. So, after Paul gets verbally acquainted with the cow (just another stripe on the target that is Paul's life), he decides not to be stupid anymore. He follows this cow to its cow-habitat, and cautiously goes to feed the savage beast. As he slowly and carefully approaches it, risking his life to save the cow's, the cow licks the length of his arm and takes the grass. It's simple survival of the fittest, people, the smartest animal always ends up with the food.

So then, Paul feels a hand on his shoulder, a scary hairy hand, and decides to hightail it back. After informing his father and grandma of his daring exploits, he was surprised to have them laugh in his face, which is strange because I'm pretty sure on one else was. They tell him that it's just old Italio, nicknamed La Barba, or "The Beard," because he's really hairy.

That night, his father openly ridicules his son at the dinner table with the rest of the family! What kind of dad is this? He's making fun of his son, in Italian, to a bunch of his family, in front of him. They ate lots of pasta and drank lots of coffee, and Paul met his cousin, Anthony. Paul and Anthony are told the legend of the Orco by the adults, a terrifying and hairy monster who eats children and can only be stopped by having a wedding ring thrown at it.

As legitimate as this story seems, Paul had very little trouble sleeping at night. The next day, he calls his mom, who makes him promise not to go in the mountains anymore. He promises, but in the most intense chapter cliffhanger in the book, it turns out that he was crossing his fingers the whole time.  I smell treachery afoot.

The next day, Paul and Anthony, the cousin who is both tough and tuff, go out to the market. There, Paul is greeted and kissed by an old lady, a passage which is included for no reason whatsoever but gets its own chapter. Moving on. Anthony brings Paul to the graveyard, and the two of them chased each other into Italio, who told them that he had never seen Paul before in his life, and that he did not touch Paul's shoulder that one day in the mountain with, like, a cow or something.

The two decide to keep this to themselves, since poor Paul already learned the hard way that you don't get praise for sounding idiotic. The cousins saw each other again on a huge family picnic, where they snuck off to disprove the existence of the Orco. They find a cabin in the woods and decide to do the rational thing and break in. Now maybe it was seeing the movie Cabin in the Woods, but breaking and entering in an isolated forest doesn't sound excessively well thought out. No, wait, I was wrong. They brought a wedding ring. Now they can face anything.

So the cousins lift each other up to see through the window, but are scared by a lingering cat and decide to enter by breaking down the front door. They explored the nearly empty cabin until the cat started freaking out, and Anthony escapes out the window while Paul wished he had the famous life-changing encounter with Jenny Craig sooner. The Orco comes in, and just before it eats Paul up, he throws the wedding ring. It doesn't work. Then, Anthony comes and saves him with smoke bombs because why not. They run all the way back to the house, and tell their new story to the adults.

The dad gets royally pissed that Paul misplaced the wedding ring and the three of them go back to find it. Now in the cabin that they ripped apart is Giannini, a man who lives in a desolate cabin in the woods because he hates modern technology and is planning on writing a book about his burning hatred but doesn't have time because he lives in constant fear of a giant child-eating monster. Jeez, it's like something straight out of The Godfather. But Giannini has not seen the ring, and says that the curse is real, and that the Orco is going to get them. They return home, and everybody silently despises them for losing the grandma's ring. They are forbidden from seeing each other, and they have to forfeit allowance to pay for the ring.

They eventually meet up again though, don't worry. They decide to sneak away and wait for the Orco on a mountain, and then they get caught in an avalanche. When Paul comes to, the Orco grabs his arm and lifts him into the air. Luckily, Anthony hits Orco with a snowball, but his matches are wet, so he can't use the smoke bomb. In a stroke of ridiculously lazy and terrible writing, the Orco is beaten by the flash from Paul's camera, and then stumbles off a cliff, but not before Anthony grabbed his pouch. I think that the fact that the hairy, gigantic beast was carrying a satchel, or "man-purse," was more disturbing than the fact that it existed at all.

The two return home, give Grandma her wedding ring, and they all live happily ever after, friendly jostling each other while walking towards a sunset.

Insight into the Complex Minds of Characters:
"Paul looked around, but there didn't seem to be anyone tending the cows. He wondered what you would call someone who sat around and watched cows all day. A cow-herd?" I wonder what you would call someone who actually forces the reader to endure such thoughts.

Beautiful Imagery:
"In Italian, Paul became 'Paulo.' They pronounced it POW (like a superhero punching a bad guy) and LOW (like the score you'd get on a quiz you didn't study for). POW-low."

Hip References:
Free-range cows. Who herds animals anymore?

Conclusions: Horrible. This book was not scary in the least, I don't know what M.D. Spenser was thinking when he thought trolls would be the least bit frightening, and if he wanted to implement some foreign culture, he could have always just had a little diversity by, I don't know, making a main character not white. I could respect it if he wanted to try some fantasy instead, but it wasn't good in any genre. No matter what you call it, crap will always taste like crap. There was no redeeming value in anything, it was like a long and boring car ride that you just wish would end or have your car spectacularly explode or something. But, alas, no. It was just horrible. Well, see you next time with The Mystic's Spell.

P.S. I'll be continuing this series every week, but if anybody has any other recommendations (preferably bad ones, but not this bad. Make them readable.), then please don't hesitate to comment, and there will be a gnarly review in no time.

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