If it smells like a wolf-man, and it looks like a wolf-man, is it a wolf-man? Yes, I find that that's always true. If there's one thing I've picked up from life experience, it's that everything is always exactly what meets the eye. That's why, when main character Matthew calls the wolf-men "Kii-Kwan," despite them being described as having "black fur" and "curved claws" and being "wolfish," I will call it a wolf-man, no matter how insistent he is.
So Matthew gets these packages from his mother, an archeological scientist or something, with all her discoveries. One includes a journal with a story about the wolf-men. So Matthew immediately calls up his friends for an annual meeting of the Terror Society, a group that meets and listens to Matthews scary stories. Isn't it strange, how as kids, we just eat this kind of stuff up without question? Having grown up, I look back and remark on how ridiculous it is that kids would sneak out about once a month to tell spooky stories around a campfire or buy and wear matching hats with their club's name or stuff like that, but as a kid, we just sort of nod and accept it. I don't know, it's interesting.
Anyway, Matthew hooks them with his story about wolf-men (by the way, they fear fire, so keep that in mind. It's relevant in the future), and they return home. Two weeks later, Matthew gets another package with a book of spells. He meets with the Terror Society right away because apparently nobody has plans ever, and they try a rain dance, which fails. And in case that wasn't scary enough for you, they then do a "Kii-Kwan" summoning spell, which works. They see hundreds of glowing eyes in the forest before Matthew remembers that they're scared of fire, so as long as they feed it until day- oh never mind the rain spell worked.
Conclusion: Good story. Cool ending.
2. A Special Pair
Right, so this is a pretty confusing story. I'm just gonna make a flowchart.
Conclusion: What the hell.
3. "The Gunslinger"
Chris is an expert on his town's history, knowing every fact and person from back when it was stuck in the Wild West. His favorite things to... know, I guess, are the gangs and outlaws. One day, he's walking home with his friends and stumbles across the graves of a legendary gang run by famous criminal D.B Rance. Chris kicks his tombstone, saying that he's not scared of him, he wouldn't be scared of him if he lived back then, blah blah blah. You know, one thing I don't like about these stories is that they're so predictable. You know what's going to happen at the end from the very first page with some of these tales. In case you can't guess, I'll give you a hint: D.B. Rance crushes Chris with a D.B. Branch. Also Chris dies.
Conclusion: Meh. Not awful, but not very good.
4. "The Slime Mutants of Clear Lake"
"Diane pulled on her favorite sweatshirt. It was so faded and worn that the message on the front, 'Make Earth Day Every Day,' was barely readable." 1/10 wouldn't wear.
Conclusion: This one's actually pretty good. It's about these kids that go on a field trip to a lake where a bunch of moss starts growing on them and possessing them to kill each other. Then Diane escapes and hitches a ride with a cop when she feels the moss on herself. It's really cool, and there's this one gnarly scene where the teacher is fumbling for his keys and one of the possessed children kicks them into a fire. Too bad this terrifying enemy will eventually meet his match: herbicide.
5. "The Storm"
This is a story about a young boy and his family that stay in a haunted inn. It's awesome. Look it up and read it. Just in case you need more convincing, when the main character claims he saw a person on the porch, the owners say, "Sometimes the lightning can play tricks." Yes, like creating human beings.
P.S. important please read:
Schedule change. From now on, I will be posting one half of the short stories every weekend. It's easier for me, and I can go more in-depth into the stories without having to rush through them, which will happen starting next weekend. This ends this week's post.
P.P.S. I've gotten a request for the inheritance series. I'm wondering whether I should include spoilers and major plot points in my post. Seeing as how they're children's books, it shouldn't be too much of a problem, but they are full-length novels and I want to know whether or not you guys have a problem with it. So... email me.
You know, I would really love to accuse this story of being a total movie ripoff. The way it's written seems like it was taken from something, I just forgot what from... Oh well. It's still reasonably good. It's about a kid named Timothy who wakes up in a snowy forest with no memory of recent events. He walks around having flashbacks about how he got there. He remembers that he and his cousin Sandy went there to test out a model boat. Went out to the nearby lake at night to test a model boat. Yeah, sure, that's awesome, I was afraid the characters would show some sort of sense. Mock dialogue time:
"Hey, Sandy, how cool would it be to go out at night and test a model boat?"
"Um... that doesn't sound very cool..."
"Cool, so in an hour?"
"No, I just disagreed-"
"We could sit here and argue about something as unreliable as memory, or we could go out to the lake!"
"Fine, I'll go, whatever."
"Oh my God, why are we still here? Let's gooooooo."
"Oh my God, why are we still here? Let's gooooooo."
In the present, Timothy is hiking through the forest when he remembers seeing a creepy, red-eyed woman. He and Sandy ran through the forest when he tripped, Sandy continued running and Timothy was left behind, seething at his cousin. Back in the present, he finds his house, where he climbs in his window despite the burning light. He sneaks up on his cousin, who panics at seeing him alive. He notices a little shrine built for him and is touched. Oh, and he's a vampire. And Sandy gets bitten.
Conclusion: While the story is well-written and fun to read and the characters are colorful enough, vampires are way overused in these stories. While I'll admit that Q.L. Pearce and R.C. Welch do manage to put a creative twist on nearly every instance, their overuse in media has rendered them as uncreative and unoriginal as the titles of the books in this goddam series. Also, I find it hard to believe that it took Timothy so long to discover his vampire-ness, seeing as how he went out to the lake in Summer and wakes up in Winter, a fact he acknowledges briefly but soon dismisses with a "Well, I didn't get much sleep the previous night..." That is not to say I don't love a good vampire story; Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel are awesome shows, and the books in The Passage series are my favorite books of all time, but just stop relying on them so much. Well, at least it's damned entertaining and reasonably suspenseful, so all in all I'd say it's a pretty good story.
7. "Portrait of Evil"
"Andrea had always dreamed of having her own horse. Now her dream was almost coming true. She wasn't going to own a horse, but at least she was going to spend a whole summer at a ranch." Wow, that cliffhanger is all kinds of disappointing.
Well, you know the premise. It's her aunt and uncle's ranch, by the way. In the beginning, she is shown to her horse, Monterey, by a guy named Jesse, who tells her that it's not safe to go out at night. Her aunt tells her that there's a rumor about a ghost of a murderer named Don Hidalgo. There's been disappearances and stuff, too, so there are reasons. Also, for some reason, her aunt thought it would be cool to buy a painting of Don Hidalgo that used to be in his house. OK, cool, good to know our main character is in competent hands.
Upon talking to Jesse about Don Hidalgo, Andrea learns that even though he died, there were strange disappearances throughout town until his mansion was burned down and his belongings sold. That is, until three months ago, when Andrea's aunt and uncle bought that painting. Pocketing this new development, Andrea decides to ride her horse. That is, until a black stallion tries to run her off a cliff. The same black stallion... from the painting! Now that the case has been closed, Andrea tells her uncle about the painting soon before he falls in a well. Andrea then confronts the painting and tells it that she'll find a way to stop it. Oh no, what a nasty predicament, how will she ever succeed against an evil painting- just to clarify, this text is very sarcastic. Very sarcastic, this text. I mean, it's not like paintings are flammable.
Of course, Andrea combs through books about Don Hidalgo "for the next few hours" before she has this plan. Then she joins forces with Jesse to fight the now out-of-the painting Don Hidalgo. She burns the painting, and the story ends with the implication that a new one has been created. Wow, I guess I wasn't aware there's a global shortage of fire.
Conclusion: Not really digging the evil painting thing. So... not a good story.
8. "All the Time in the World"
This story is so ridiculous and stupid it doesn't really deserve a synopsis. The characters do and say stupid things like "'It won't hurt us. It's a plant-eater.' 'Does it know that?'" It's about two kids who travel through time using their creepy neighbor's time machine. They're back in whatever era has those big prehistoric mammals and it's a miracle they survive to make it back to the present seeing as how once they return they are immediately killed by sabertooth tigers whose growl they mistake for a makeshift alarm.
Conclusion: I wish I could travel back in time to stop this story from being written.
9. "Household Help"
You know how every children's horror series has to have a "be careful what you wish for" book? Well, this is it. It's about a girl named Hannah who sucks at softball. She's complaining about how hard life is to her mother who has to take night classes at a community college. I actually like how Q.L. Pearce uses subtle context clues to illustrate how awful the protagonist is, I think that's cool. Her housekeeper, Claudine, having overheard Hannah's complaining, offers to help her with magic. After a magic ritual, Claudine gives her a root to wear around her neck that will make her be great at softball. The things you can do with magic. Anyway, it works, and she makes a home run that her skilled rival, Stephanie, attributes to luck.
Conclusion: This is the first book since I started this blog that actually made me shiver.
10. "The Snow Cave"
Belinda and her family are on a vacation in Unnamed Snowy Area, where she and her dog, Shiloh, are taking a walk. On the way, she strikes up a conversation with a couple of elderly residents, who randomly bring up suspicions of a snow monster. It's actually pretty sudden, this is almost their exact conversation:
Are you the girl in the Roger's cabin?
Yeah, it's really great there.
Yeah, but you know what's not great? The Yeti. Scary.
Which, of course, it's not, hence the reason I don't see the appeal for a horror story about one. The old men claim that it lives in underground caves and comes out when it snows hard. So here is what I know is going to happen based on that info:
1. It's going to snow really hard.
2. Belinda is going to get trapped in the underground caves.
3. Belinda will find the yeti and be chased
4. Belinda will escape the caves.
5. Belinda will hear footsteps or a growl or something from outside the cabin.
Here's what actually happens:
1. It snows harder than it has in 30 years. Wow, double-check that one.
2. Belinda falls into and gets lost in the underground caves. Check.
3. Belinda runs into Yeti and runs through the maze of tunnels. Check.
4. Belinda's family saves her and the dog scares away the Yeti. Check.
5. The Yeti glares at the cabin through the forest. Dammit, Q.L Pearce, why'd you have to defy expectations?
Conclusion: Kind of boring, Characters are pretty 2-D, so I didn't like it.
11. "The Fabulous Flyers"
Have you ever seen a less straight story title? OK, final story, I'm so excited to have a fun likable protagonist completely unlike Hannah!
"Some things– how you walked and talked, and what clothes you wore– were really important. Those were the things that made you cool and popular. And being popular was more important to Kevin than anything."
Kevin really wants a pair of Fabulous Flyers, the coolest new shoes, but his family isn't very wealthy, so he is refused. After stomping his foot like a little kid, he asks why his sister got a new doll, to which his mother responds that it was for his sister's birthday. I bring this up because he leaves the room and breaks the doll's head off in anger. Please, just die. There are quite a few reasons I don't like these kinds of protagonists- they're too mean and tool-like to root for, but they're not awful enough to follow out of hatred or disgust. They're just kind of annoying.
At school, Kevin is told that he could work for Old Man McKenna, a creepy old rumored sorcerer, to earn his shoes. Kevin heeds his friend's advice and is told immediately upon reaching the door to rake the leaves. He does, and the old man leads him to a strange antique room to pay him. While he's gone, Kevin steals 100 dollars from Old Man McKenna, gets his pay, and leaves to buy some Fabulous Flyers with the new moolah. At school the next day, Kevin is immediately asked to play basketball by the most popular kid in school because of his Fabulous Flyers. My god, Q.L. Pearce is as bad with his representation of middle school behavior as M.D. Spenser was. Kevin soon learns that the cash-eesh wasn't worth stealing, as all those dolares will soon be his undoing.
On his way home from school, Kevin's feet magically walk themselves to the old man's house, where he has little shadow-beasts ready to eat him. But Kevin rips the shoes off and runs back home, where he falls asleep (once again, how do they do it?). When he wakes up, his shoes... are on!
Conclusion: It was OK.
Overall Conclusion: This is not a great book. I think it's probably the worst so far (in this series).