Saturday, September 13, 2014

More Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs

1. "Swimming Lessons"
This might be one of the weirdest opening paragraphs I've ever read. It's something about "loathsome water demons" that killed people because they envied their ability to "walk in the sunshine." It's pretty strange, actually, if you can't really tell by reading my description. Anyway, Heather is on a beach vacation with her family. She hates swimming, so maybe a beach vacation wasn't the best idea. She should go on a ski vacation. Or a desert vacation.

She's especially scared of this water because she just heard a scary story about evil water monsters. Unfortunately, her older brother and sister, Andy and Amanda, are really outgoing and love to swim. After talking about how cool and outgoing her siblings are, Heather bumps into Mr. Patterson, the owner of the beach-houses, who tells her to stay away from the island. Because she's a character in this genre, she does it anyway. Despite her poor swimming ability and fear of the water. Sure.

When Heather and her siblings get close to the island, they see creepy pale people with glowing green eyes and long hair. They all get dragged under, but Heather manages to escape in ways beyond the writer's comprehension, since the whole scene goes by in a "somehow Heather broke free." Mr. Patterson saves her, and she goes back to his house. There, Mr. Patterson calls the sheriff, who starts driving Heather toward the lake and then the sheriff's hair grows long and her eyes start glowing and Heather runs, only to be lured in to the lake by the fishman version of her siblings.

Conclusion: Spooky. Scary. Slimy. This book has it all. But on a serious note, I loved Mr. Patterson, while every other character seemed two-dimensional. Still, one good character in a story is good enough for me. That being said, the protagonist and her family kind of suck. But whatever, good story.

2. "Wish Fulfillment"
This one's funny, it's like some kind of cautionary tale.
Greg was a very pessimistic boy. He was so pessimistic that nobody wanted to hang out with him and he had no friends. The end.
So one day, Greg went on a field-trip to the local history museum to see King Tut. But because Greg was so pessimistic and whiny, he didn't really give a shit. All his acquaintances were excited to see one of the richest, most famous people on earth, but not Greg. Because he's a pessimist. He soon gets lost from his group and stumbles into a section of magical tools. When little Greg touches a rock, a genie suddenly appears, offering to grant the boy three wishes. The thing that Greg wants most of all is to be a lot of fun at parties, so he wishes he was the most famous and rich boy in the world.

Oh, but take heed, children, take heed, for one must be careful what you wish for from a genie;
they give you exactly what you deserve to receive, and you never make such strong wishes if, like Greg, you're a weenie. Or else you'll become King Tut for the rest of your life.

Conclusion: Subpar. Needs more scenes of middle schoolers building robots.

3. "The Box"
Well, it looks like Q.L. Pierce, despite having the First Initial.Middle Initial. Last Name name structure required for children's horror writers, actually enjoys writing science fiction. It starts as our protagonist by the unfortunate name of "Tad," which I assume stands for Theodore or Tadpole or something, is playing some kind of hide-and-seek-tag spinoff in a swamp. He tags his two younger sisters first, declaring them "slaves." They stay behind while he goes to search for his friends. At this point, Tad sees a flash of red and decides to tread carefully, because "his dad had told him that's how Indians moved." Great, I can already tell this will be a good, politically correct story.

So Tad runs into his friends, Dave and- hold on, this might require some effort- Scootch. This boy is named Scootch as if that's a name human beings have. They tell him they found a secret passage, so they go investigate. Scootch decides to stay outside, but Tad and Dave find a giant stone rectangle, some intricate symbols, and a metal box. They pull the box out despite dozens of ghostly hand trying to stop them. Reptilian aliens come out of the large stone rectangle, and the three buddies run away. Dave and Scootch are evaporated by laser guns- by the way, everything I've been saying happens, I'm not making any of this up. In case you don't believe me, here's a picture from the book.

Like Picasso
Tad collapses as tons of aliens whose faces actually dwarf their bodies come to invade Earth.

Conclusion: Ummm... I didn't like this one all that much. It's not even that good for its genre, and I don't really understand anything. At least the art is good.

4. "Green Thumb"
For the first four pages, this story is exactly as it sounds: a story about gardening. Leah is a great gardener, and she's won the tomato-growing competition three years in a row. This year is no exception due to her self-made special soil mixture. I assume she's older than the average protagonist, else she would have won the tomato-growing competition every year since she was nine. Either that, or the tomato-growing competition gets as much attention as it deserves. She sees an ad for the world's most unusual vine and decides to buy it. It grows really fast and this story basically turns into Little Shop of Horrors as it starts grabbing bugs and dragging them into its soil. Then it moves on to rodents and pets so eventually Leah figures it out and has her dad burn the plant. When she wakes up that night, she goes outside to see if her obviously dead cat has returned because despite being a master gardener, she's stupid. A huge vine starts choking her to death and the seed pod bursts open, sending seeds across the land.

Conclusion: Actually not bad. It's creepy and does a good job of telling the story, switching focus between characters and all that. Especially effective for those with an inane fear of plants.

5. "Nightmare"
Oh, it's this story. Children's horror series often have a book/story about this. I know Goosebumps did, at least. It seems clever, until you realize there's no point. It's like a sudden realization that your whole life is just a dream that your childhood dog is having, leaving you nothing to say except "Oh... that's cool, I guess." Observe: Todd is on his way to the grocery store to buy the latest copy of Monster Madness, a scary monster magazine. He buys one with his friends and proceeds to tell them about an idea he has for a monster, based off of recent dreams: a small, strong, hairy beast with sharp claws and fangs. When it comes time for bed, Todd dreams he's hitting a home run (I kid you not) until he wakes up because of some monster licking his leg.

Apparently, Todd's some kind of ninja, because he does crazy super speed tricks to kick back the monster and run to his parents' room, where they're dead. Wow. It's dark, I'll give it that. So Todd grabs a knife, stabbing the monster in the hand when-

Oh, it's all a dream. That the monster is having. His parents come in to comfort him and tell him not to read any more books like "Todd the Terror." His room is covered with pictures of creepy, snarling humans, by the way. His parents exit, reminding him that humans aren't real. Sure.

Conclusion: It's actually pretty dumb. And unnecessary. But I don't know, maybe I'm being too hard on it. Maybe it appeals to some people. Very few, I'm sure, but probably some people.

6. "What's the Matter with Marvin?"
I'm still baffled that a story with that title could be so good. It's not exactly horror, but more suspense/thriller, but for its genre, it is awesome. It's just- you know what, just read, you'll see. The story starts as Robbie is having a dream in which he's lying in bed while his house burns down. In actuality, his house burned down when he was six, killing both his parents. Wow, I... I mean, that's awful, I hope nothing bad happens to this protagonist, I'd say he's been through enough. Maybe he should become Batman. Anyway, when six-year-old Robbie was escaping the burning house, he broke a window, which was probably what gave him his short, deep scar on his chest.

Marvin then lived with his grandparents for four years, and he had just moved in with his uncle Lester and cousin Marvin (spoiler alert: there's something the matter with him). Cool, Q.L. Pearce, thanks for making me write in past tense for, like half a paragraph, that's great. Seeing as how I like the story even despite that, you know it has to be pretty damn good. So the next morning, Robbie goes down to breakfast, where Uncle Lester has pulled out all the stops. He offers Robbie strawberry jam, which Robbie refuses because, for some strange reason, he doesn't like strawberry jam. Uncle Lester seems just as surprised as I am, muttering something totally inconspicuous, "I thought for sure that I–– well, never mind." I'm sure this strange display of shock at a dislike of strawberry jam won't be relevant later, let's just forget about it.

Robbie goes to school with a reluctant and antisocial Marvin, who won't talk to Robbie with anything other that curt, monosyllabic statements. But then Robbie finds a new friend named Bill and all of a sudden Marvin's old news. Back at home, Uncle Lester has Robbie do a jigsaw puzzle, which he had been timing. When he declares that it was the best time yet, Marvin comes in and swats the puzzle onto the floor. I think I know what's the matter with Marvin: he's a sore loser. Then he starts yelling about how there's something wrong with their family that Robbie should know about, but that Marvin can't talk about it under the danger of being "shut down," and Uncle Lester brings him up to his room. I think it's pretty obvious what's going on here: the jigsaw puzzle is having a nightmare about humans. Very clever, Q.L. Pearce, I never saw that one coming.

That night, Robbie goes to bed and gets woken up from his fire dream by the sound of metal scraping on metal. Either I'm back in Silent Hill 2 or something fishy is going on here. The next day, Robbie is told that Marvin went to a friend's house for the weekend. Robbie feigns sickness and sneaks into Marvin's room in the dead of night to find his head on the table. His body is hanging on a rack- he's a robot, that's the twist, Marvin's a robot, that's what's the matter with him. Now it could just end there, but then Uncle Lester busts in and reveals that Robbie too is a robot, and that his memories are all false. Then he sticks a flathead screwdriver into the scar in Robbie's chest, popping it open.

Conclusion: Damn good, seriously, not only did I not really see the whole Robbie's-a-robot thing coming, but it was set up so perfectly that everything that happened before that makes perfect sense, it's genius, it's thrilling, it's well-written, it's just gnarly.

7. "Crying Wolf"
This is a statement made after reading only the first page: is there any doubt about what will happen in this story? Within the first five sentences, Anne, the main character, claims that all the staff at the zoo are animals in disguise trying to lure people in and eat them. This is what will happen: Nobody will believe Anne because she's told way too many crazy stories in the past. After failing to convince everybody, she will be lured into the zoo in a quest for evidence and be eaten. I will return when I have finished the rest of the story.

Ok, I'm back. Turns out I totally jumped the gun. Turns out that that zoo scene was just for character development and has no later relevance... I probably should have realized that when Anne's main argument was, verbatim, "what makes you so sure they aren't?" To be fair, I just drank a full can of a previously unknown energy drink called UPTime pretty fast, so I'm kind of skittery right now. Turns out Anne makes up stories all the time, which is why when she tells her friend Byron (?) about the little flashes of motion out of the corner of her eye which she suspects is gremlins, he's a little skeptical. The story follows Byron as Anne gets attacked in increasingly less ridiculous ways, starting from bites on her sandwiches and leading to cuts and bruises. When Byron claims to believe her, he sees movement nearby. Whoops.

That night, Byron sneaks to Anne's window in time to see a bunch of gremlins swarm her and knock down her lamp. When her parents turn the lights on, she's nowhere to be found. And when Byron gets back into his bed, he sees movement out of the corner of his eye...

Conclusion: Maybe it's my deep-seated fear of gremlins, but this story was pretty scary. Pretty good, actually, and it handled the theme well.

8. "No Laughing Matter"
This is great, listen: Gordy Davis is a really mean, big kid, who always wins in fights. He and his three best friends love to play mean practical jokes, and they call themselves "The Jokers," and wear hats with their club names. Sometimes, I think these authors have never been to school. Kids these days might call something like that "uncool" or "a meme," but back in the 1990's- hell, probably even the 1890's- that was still not something that anyone self aware would do. I'm sorry, but this is so interesting to me, I just never knew anyone who actually did that, it would have been so fun. If only I had a time machine, that would be the first thing I would do.

The Jokers have to prank a boy named Rich because he helped a prank victim whose bike they hid in a tree. Wow, if that's their idea of a good prank, they're not worthy of the hats they wear. The next day, they decide to put mealworms in his lunchbox. Whatever. He freaks out, the whole school freaks out, and Rich confronts Gordy, claiming that he's not afraid of him or anything else. And then this book takes a turn for the stereotypical when Gordy challenges Rich to spend an hour in a haunted house. The Jokers had rigged it so Rich got scared and left, and when Gordy goes to get the supplies, the house is haunted (surprise!) and he gets eaten by a one armed, one eyed skeleton.

Conclusion: Not very good. The only redeeming feature was their hats.

9. "Family Ties"
The book opens as Jaime is sliding flyers into people's mailboxes asking for work. I can already tell this one will be sublime. Jaime immediately starts getting calls somehow, one of which is from a history teacher named Mr. Hubbard. He's really eccentric, because he acts like he was actually there hundreds of years ago. Actually, believe it or not, he didn't live that long, it was his many-greats-uncle named Baron Trouvese. Who's a vampire. And locked in the basement. Twist.

Conclusion: I guess it might be considered a little scary, but it's really not. It's just kind of a bad and uncreative story. Also, any character stupid enough to confront a possible vampire on her own is asking to be killed. Unless you're Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

10. "Nine Lives"
You know those online Creepypasta stories where the main character plays a computer game that, like, steals their soul or something? It's like that, but without the scariness. Jason is a computer game whiz, better than everybody he knows except for his friend Steve, who can hold his own. Well, at least this character's relatable. Anyway, his friend Steve has been in a slump, but eventually he goes to Jason's house and shares his burden: he started a computer game that gives him nine lives and keeps throwing challenges at him that happen in real life as well as the game and each time he loses a life, a person close to him dies. He's lost six lives so far. So Jason joins the game. He's not smart, so he tries a game and loses, so his iguana dies. That night he gets grabbed by a skeleton and pulled under the bed. Then his uncle dies. Jason and Steve go to the store at which the game was purchased, free themselves with the admin computer, and live happily ever after. Oh no, twist ending: their computers ask if they want to play again. Oh no, how will they ever solve this awful problem, what ever could they oh wait there's a "no" option.

11. "The Lesson"
It's Jessy's birthday, and she's thrilled that her mean brother would get her a present. But wait, it's actually a tube of fake snakes and graffiti that pop out. Her brother, Ted, thinks this is hilarious, rolling on the floor and calling her "stupid" and "gullible." Yeah, this guy thinks way too highly of himself. David Elliston from Ghost Writer I mean Ted had taunted and tricked Jessy all her life, and she's sick of it. Yeah, I'm bringing back that running gag. You thought it was dead, but it's not. Deal with it.

That night, Jessy gets called to her window by a large, ugly monster. He claims that he wants to help her get revenge on her brother in return for her opening the window, so she calls her brother, who doesn't see anything and then makes fun of her. So she asks for a trial. The next day, Ted's gang mocks her about the monster thing. Also they're all getting matching hats with the name of their posse. On his way home from school, he is tripped by a demonic hand and flies off his bike. Wow, that's some maniacal revenge. Maybe next, he'll have him stub his toe. So Jessy opens the window, where the monster tells her he will kill her family and then devours her.

Conclusion: This story is actually pretty good. I thought it would be just an average "be careful what you wish for" deal, but it turned out to be more than eats the eye. Ha.

Insight into the Complex Minds of Characters:
"'I wish you would stop being so mean and just give me an answer!'
... 'Yes,' the genie said smugly, 'I must grant you three wishes. One down and two to go.'"

 Beautiful Imagery:
"One sign identified a large, carved bone as an object for casting out evil spirits that cause mental illness." That's horrible.

Hip References:
(About Anne from "Crying Wolf") "Right. She's a regular Edgar Anne Poe!" Ha.

Some Numbers for You:
Pages of middle schoolers building robots: 0
Number of running jokes revived: 1
Number of relatable characters: 2
Number of "Ha"s: 3
Number of amazing hats and ridiculous names: 4
Percentage that should have been spent on gardening: 105%

Book Conclusion:
This one was OK. The ratio of good to bad stories is nothing remarkable, but how much it reminded me of a certain other children's horror series gave me Shivers. Ha.

1 comment:

  1. You are doing the Lords work. Thanks for helping me reconnect with my childhood reads!

    ReplyDelete