Sunday, May 4, 2014
Shivers 29: The Terrible Terror Book
Also, I went over some of my earliest posts today, and I've got to say, I've really evolved. In the beginning, I guess I was mostly just copying other styles, and I think I've really developed my own at this point. Also, it's much funnier now than in the first, like, ten posts. That is what inspired this week's...
Special Edition: Warning My Past Self Format
Jonathan Golden was enjoying a peaceful Autumn afternoon, reclining on his living room sofa and reading the first Shivers book, The Enchanted Attic. Jonathan felt mildly ecstatic, as he was about to write his first full post for his new blog, "Gnarly Book Reviews." But just as Jonathan set his book down on the table in front of him, the house began to shake.
Now, Jonathan knew his earthquake plan: grab his computer, his headphones, and his Wifi router, and get the hell out of there. Before Jonathan could put his plan into action, though, he was shocked into stillness by the sudden arrival of an old-fashioned telephone booth in his living room.
"Dr. Who?" Jonathan asked, just as the doors opened and steam poured out the inside.
"No," a familiar voice said, "and that reference was too easy. In the future, you would have connected this to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure."
And out stepped a slightly older Jonathan Golden.
"What the Hell?" the first Jonathan asked, "Who are you?"
"I am you, 219 days after your first post."
"OK, I'll believe that, but only for plot convenience."
"Gnarly. Now, I'm here to warn you not to start off your blog with the Shivers series."
"Why did you even choose this series in the first place? We didn't even read these books as a kid."
"Well, stop. How did you like The Enchanted Attic?"
"It was not bad. Why?
"Because your standards get higher and higher as time goes on, or maybe it's just that the books get worse and worse. I can't really tell. Either way, it sucks. Why can't you just read Steven King or something?"
"But why travel back now? Did you read an especially bad one?"
"Well, I'll let you be the judge of that. It all starts with protagonist-"
Kerri as she walks into "Herriman's Book Shoppe," a creepy old... book shop. She's shopping for presents for her older sister, Erin, who wanted a book from that exact store. She finds a book titled "The Terrible Terror Book," when all of a sudden she is grabbed by a creepy old lady who seems to know everything about her. Their conversation is roughly like this:
"So, you're looking for a scary book for your sister, eh?"
"Wait, how did you know?"
"Um... you must have told me about Erin before."
"No, we've been speaking for less than a minute, and... wait, how did you know her name is Erin?"
"She seems like an Erin."
"Have you met her?"
But Kerri is eventually convinced to buy the book, and told not to open it herself. Erin must be the first to read it. Kerri buys the book for eight dollars, which happens to be the exact amount of money she had with her-
"Wait, hold up, Kerri went to a book store to buy her sister a present with eight dollars?"
"Ya, I know. What a cheap bitch."
Well, Kerri takes the present back to her house to find her sister had invited two of her best friends, Kimberly and Laura. Gee, I wonder if any of these characters will have personalities, or if they will just be mindless plot devices. Actually, Kimberly seems slightly more aggressive than the quiet Laura throughout the dialogue, so... that's something, I guess. Erin and Kimberly are about the same, though. And their mom is a Shivers mom.
So Kerri gives Erin her new present when Erin reveals how she learned of the bookstore. Erin was shopping- and keep in mind that this is straight out of the book- for a Shivers book. She actually says that she was getting The Spider Kingdom, which was awful. OK, it seems bad, but not that bad, right? Then, Erin was approached by a woman who tells her that if she wants books "even scarier than Shivers," Harriman's was their place. OK, it's bad. But it could be worse, it could get really self-referential.
"'Wow, scarier than Shivers?' Laurie responded. 'Those are really spooky stories.'"
Wow. OK, I do remember throwing this book pretty hard after that. I mean, it's just so much self-referential, I can actually feel his ego getting stroked. And it hurts.
Oh, and it was the old woman from the bookstore who told Erin about it. Later, at midnight, Erin reads the first page of the book, which contains a warning telling Erin that whoever starts the book must read it until the end, or else he/she will die. Now, some people, mainly normal people with at least below average intelligence, might think that this warning was just a frightening beginning to a frightening story. But not Erin. No, never Erin. She panics and drops the book, which makes me think that maybe Shivers actually was rightfully "spooky" for her.
All of a sudden, Kerri walks in and tells her sister that she's nervous about the book. Erin responds by promptly getting electrocuted before letting her sister know that it was just a prank. Unfortunately, I'm reminded of the Winston and Brad duo from the Animal Rebellion, and it's always a bad sign if anything reminds me of the Winston and Brad duo from the Animal Rebellion.
"Wait, I don't get that reference," Past Jonathan said.
"Oh, you will if you continue with this. You will."
"But don't you know that I continue this, because if I didn't you wouldn't exist and-"
"Stop. I'm not here to discuss the fundamentals of time travel, I'm here to give a synopsis for this awful book so you don't have to in the future."
Kerri leaves, and Erin starts reading about the sisters Kerrin and Terri, who just had an argument. Hey, I see what's going on here. It even mentions their dog, Buster, who is named "Mustard" in the book-within-the-book. Mustard. The terrifying and evil book of death named their dog "Mustard." I'm so close to being done with the series, I feel like I should just power through, but it's stuff like this that makes it so hard. Anyway, the book says that the wind blows "Terri's" window shut, crushing her hand. Sure enough, Kerri's hand gets smashed.
And then it starts bleeding. From being crushed by a window sill. But because whynot?, right? Who cares about being biologically accurate as long as you have a storyline that makes sense overa-
Honestly, if Shivers was popular enough to be ghostwritten, this one would have been. Either that, or Paradise Press stopped proofreading the books before shipping them out, because he ends a couple sentences with prepositions when not in dialogue. Now, I'm not a grammar stickler, but it really is unlike M.D. Spenser; although it does have... The Three Strikes. Yeah, from Lost in Dreamland, remember? Strike one: self-referential. There is so much strike one. Strike two: A deus ex machina. I don't want to ruin the ending, but there is a big deus ex machina. Strike three: obviously rips off of something else. Yes, it's on the tip of my tongue, but I can't quite place it. There is definitely some rip-off, though. I'm sure of it.
The next day, Erin keeps reading and the book says that her mother falls off a ladder while cleaning windows. Erin looks out her window to warn her, but it turns out that Erin's distraction was what caused her mother to fall in the first pla- that's it! I remember now! I read a comic exactly like this in Tales of the Crypt, and I saw a Twilight Zone episode about this, it's all about fate and a person's inability to alter time, this concept has been and will be used over and over and over again; Ray Bradbury, Steven King, Dean Koontz, Homer, Isaac Asimov, even Douglas Adams, the theme is great and interesting and is done a terrible injustice by The Terrible Terror Book. I mean, it's a cool premise, M.D. Spenser does a good job at first, but it just descends into awful as you get deeper and deeper into the book.
Speaking of terrible descents, Erin's mom just fell off a ladder, so I'm gonna try to get back on track. Erin calls an "emergency meeting" with Kerri, Laurie, and Kimberly, where Erin tells them about the book. This is before Laurie and Kimberly express a smidgen of what could be considered the beginning of a personality, so their first word is "what," and it's said in unison. Everything else is equally bland. The group doesn't believe her at first, but then they read it themselves and Lauren and Kimberly react in the following manner: "'Wow!' Laurie and Kimberly slowly said together." You can tell the author really put a lot of effort into this book.
So, the four girls decide to go to Harriman's Book Shoppe, hoping to get a refund or to swap it with another item of equal value. In the store, there is a set of stairs leading down that Kerri claims wasn't there before. The old lady's voice tells them to walk down from below, and they actually do it. Hey Erin, does your book also say that everyone in your little posse is a straight-up dumbass? It turns out that the creepy old lady is actually a creepy, blind old man with an old lady's voice. OK, first of all, weird. And second of all, this is never explained. Ever. The creepy old man says that the girls have to stay with him forever, but then he-
"Wait," Past Jonathan said, "Is this one of those kinds of books?"
"No, this isn't Dean Koontz. It's just a chapter ending. Also, can I end here? Recounting this is painful."
"Can you just finish the story? I'm having a case of morbid curiosity."
"Fine, but I'm going to do it fast."
The old man changes his mind and tells them to keep reading so they'll learn a valuable lesson at the end, turning back into the old lady and leaving them in the basement. The girls start crying until one of them actually makes a smart suggestion: keep reading the damn book. Coincidentally, that's exactly what I was saying to myself as I read The Terrible Terror Book. It says pretty much exactly what has happened to them, so everything in the book happens regardless of whether you read it first. The book says that Kerrin and Terri are trapped in a faith-healer's basement (what?). Then the book says that a giant hunchback comes in with a knife and starts chasing them because whynot?
And, just then, some hunchback guy comes in and attacks them. They run through a secret hallway behind a wall, but he catches up and trips, hitting his head against a wall and slicing Kimberly. The girls decide to keep reading, and the book say that they jump into a disgusting, animal-infested sewer to escape the hunchback. Sure. At first, they understandably resist, but the thought of being sliced up gives them strength and they jump in. Gross. This is the one time I'm genuinely happy that M.D. Spenser doesn't have the power of colorful description. That would be bad.
They float along until they fall over a dam into a pool of sewage water. The plant workers save them, letting them shower and stuff. And then, of course, the old man/woman/evil monster shows up again and the girls run away, stopping by the side of the road. If there's one redeeming value to this book, it's that the awful characters never catch a break. They read the book again, and this time it says that their mother comes to take them home, only to accidentally have Mustard (Buster) get hit by a car. The thing I like about this scene is that Kerri is actually the cause of Buster's getting hit, so it's like fate worked through Kerri, so that's cool. That that happened.
They tell their mom, and she actually believes them because M.D. Spenser got tired of having to provide material for the book. Then, the book says that they get a call saying that their father died in a plane crash. They race home, and... he got home early. The prophecy book lied. They finished the book, and it turns out it was all just a false alarm in the book, too. Say it with me, you guys:
"This book sucks!"
Well, the book says that their misfortunes are over, and Erin learned a valuable lesson in not letting fear cripple or control you. Wait, how? Oh, but the final lines, "'Whenever I ask you to get me a scary book, just buy me something in the Shivers [sic] collection, OK? That's plenty scary enough for me!'" HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA ALWAYS END ON A STRONG JOKE!
"OK, I get the point. I'll stop now."
"OK, good. The series only gets worse."
"Well, I'll see you later. You can just take the time machine back, right?"
"Ya, wh- wait, you're gonna write it anyway, aren't you?"
"Yes. I'm really bored."
"Fine, but be warned: you'll have to move on to real literature, one day."
And with that, he went back to whence he'd came.
Insight into the Complex Minds of Characters:
"What an odd title, Kerri thought. It didn't seem to make any sense. Wasn't terror always terrible?
Or was this a book about some terror even more terrible than most?"
Not exactly imagery, but this had to go somewhere:
"'We're finished! Trapped like four worms inside a fisherman's tackle box.'"
Shivers, Shivers, Shivers Shivers Shivers Shivers
Crazy, Mind-bending Paradox Alert:
This is back of the book:
"DO NOT OPEN THIS BOOK!
Please, don't even think about it. Don't make the same mistake that Kerri and her sister Erin made. Stop before it's too late –– or else you'll be doomed just like Kerri and Erin to face the terror that comes alive on page after page after page. It's not worth it! Don't read this book. This is your last warning! The monsters and mayhem that creep out the girls will turn around and come to your house and creep out you. No one is safe from the page turning terror. There's no escape once the book is open.
FEED THIS BOOK TO THE WORMS..."
There is so much wrong. First of all... "page turning?" Wouldn't "page-turning" be better? Also, what monsters? And how can the reader suffer the same affliction if he/she is simply reading about Erin and Kerri's experiences with the book? It makes less sense the more you think about it, and not in the good Inception, Memento, or The Stanley Parable kind of way.
It had so much potential, M.D. Spenser ripped off a premise that really could have been good, but it's just so lazy that it falls short. First of all, nothing is explained ever. Who the hell are the weird old lady and the hunchback? Why Erin? What is the book? Nothing. Is. Explained. Oh, and that little blatant lie to trick the reader into thinking that a character the reader didn't even know was dead was just moronic. Not to mention the fact that there was no lesson; Erin's dog died, she had to swim in sewage water, what was the lesson? Don't try to change an awful future, just roll with it, and don't be scared while doing it? Well, at least a lot happened, so it had that going for it.