Sunday, January 18, 2015
Book Review #2: Goosebumps- Legend of The Lost Legend
Author: R.L Stine
Release Date: September 1996 (Couldn't find the exact release day)
Book Number: # 47
Goosebumps! Now we're talking! This is the horror anthology series I remember growing up! When I was a kid, these books were awesome! It seemed to have every single type of monster you could possibly imagine. It had vampires, mummies, werewolves, blobs, swamp creatures, ghosts, evil gnomes, Jello... Monsters (Yeah that existed. Look at The Horror at Camp Jellyjam if you don't believe me). The only types of monsters I don't recall getting any representation from R.L Stine (the guy who is also responsible for the Fear Street series and The Haunting Hour which actually has a good TV series by the way) were Cyclops', Golems, and I think Grim Reapers. But when I looked at the series today, I started to notice something. While this series does have its "Stud" entries such as: Werewolf Skin, The Headless Ghost, The Haunted Mask, The Haunted School, and so on, There doesn't seem to be a shortage of mediocre, bad, and just down right god awful entries as well. In the words of Stop motion Shamaylan: "What a Twist!".The most well known blunder in the Goosebumps series seems to be #57 Chicken Chicken due to massive amounts of body horror, unlikable characters outside the main characters, undeserved and excessive child abuse (Which is usually a big pet peeve of mine). Not to mention the infamous ending in which the main characters write an apology letter in order to return to human form after being transformed into chicks.
Now while I also disliked the ending, here's the thing. This book at least TRIES to scare you with gory details about being gradually transformed into chickens. Is Chicken Chicken the best entry in the Goosebumps series? Hell no! But after going through my Goosebumps book collection (originally my brother's) I managed to find a book that's actually WORSE than Chicken Chicken... I'm going to repeat that again... This book is WORSE than Chicken Chicken! Now I hear you ask " Azu, what book are YOU talking about?" Well the book I'm referring to is none other than entry #47: Legend of The Lost Legend.
OK, this book does have ONE thing I actually like. And that is none other than the concept. Basically this book is about an author who travels to a far away country called Brovania with his two kids, Justin and Marrissa, in order to find a legend that has been lost for over 500 years. Not only will Justin's dad become famous for finding the lost legend, but he'll also get a lot of money from the discovery. The funny thing is, with a little bit of retooling, this book could've been awesome. In fact this concept makes for such a good horror story that I think someone should use it in a silent film about a female film collector going to find the Russian Dracula film that is said to be the first Dracula film ever made. So what are the problems with this book exactly?
Well let's start with the fact that its BORING! I mean the first part of the book when the father is telling a story about them in Antarctica looking for a blue sea lion was cool, but after that, almost nothing of interest happens. And keep in mind this is the same book that has Giant Cats, Wind up Viking Girls, Plastic forests, and Eggs! EGGS! Seriously, how do you make EGGS boring?! Shame on you Stine! But here's the thing, after the blue sea lion part, I would've stopped reading the book if not for the concept. You see, when I do these book reviews, I try to give the books I read a chance (As in I read them all the way through before doing the review) no matter how good or bad they may seem. However, as I was reading this book, I gradually lost interest as the story progressed and at times, I nearly fell asleep. And I was reading this book during the day! When someone goes to read a book of a genre that is SUPPOSED to trigger a specific emotion (i.e Comedy books trigger laughter, Drama books trigger sadness, etc) you expect that a book of that genre to at least TRY and trigger that emotion, especially when it comes to horror. But with this book, you don't get ANY of that. Oh and keep this in mind, its not like R.L Stine isn't capable of attempting scares in this series. If you look at books like Welcome to Dead House, The Haunted Mask and even I Live In Your Basement (though the story can be a bit difficult to follow at times). You know Stine, just because a book has an interesting concept, doesn't fully excuse you from doing nothing interesting with it. Which brings me to my next point.
The ending. Wow! Talk about a pathetic ending! Seriously, out of all of the Goosebumps books I've read, this has to be the most rushed, lazy, and overall tacked on endings I have read thus far. For those of you who haven't read the book, I'll explain. At the end of the book, the main characters find out that they have gotten the wrong prize for winning the challenge. Instead of getting The Lost Legend, they get The Egg of Truth. Justin informs Luka of this mistake and Luka tells Justin that The Lost Legend is in the hands of another party who Luka says won't be very happy to get rid of it. When the main characters find the people holding the Lost Legend, they give it to the main characters right away in a chest. When the main characters open up the chest, they find the Lost Legend and become ecstatic over the find. However, they become "Lost" in the forest due to the Lost Legend stating "Whoever Owns the Lost Legend Will Be Lost Forever." Ugh! When I read this I was disappointed. OK I will admit that some people MAY find it a little funny in terms of the irony and the context to back it up, but even then the punchline didn't really deliver for me. What do I mean by this? Well when you have a book that is unexciting 95% of the time, you expect the book to have a somewhat satisfying ending and I'm sorry, this just didn't do it for me. The only thing I found satisfying about the ending was that I was just glad to get the book done and over with!
Another problem I have with this book is that the characters, especially the main leads, are not very interesting. Granted we do spend a lot of time with them as the book progresses but Stine never really takes the time to establish their personalities. The only characters that actually got the most development are the father (whom isn't present through out most of the book except the beginning and ending) who is a storyteller, adventurer, and a heavy sleeper. And also, there's Luka (who only appears at the cabin the kids come across and when the kids complete a challenge) who is a mechanics genius, woodsman, and actor. OK, so what do we know about the main leads though? Well they like to tell stories and uh... Um... Err... That's basically it. It seems like the only time the kids are given any source of personality is in the story the father was telling at the beginning of the book, with Marrisa being whiny and Justin being adventurous. But even then, those personality traits are not permanent throughout the book so that really doesn't give us a whole lot for us to cling on to the main characters. I think if the main characters were given more development (i.e having great improv skills from their love of storytelling and later using said skills to beat the challenge later on) then the book may have been somewhat salvageable. I think if it were to go the route of "The Blob" starring Steve McQueen, where the film didn't have a whole lot of scares but had interesting and loveable characters, then I would've at least understood where Stine was coming from.
Overall, this is by far the WEAKEST entry in the Goosebumps series. In fact, after this book, I guess my brother stopped collecting Goosebumps books because this is the most recent book in the collection I own. (I have 24 Goosebumps books in the collection by the way). This book goes to show that concepts alone will not automatically make a book, movie, or TV show good. Now I'm not saying that you can't implement an interesting idea into any of these mediums but in order to do it right, you have to put in a great deal of thought, effort, and passion into the execution of the idea as you did the idea. You have to make sure that the story isn't boring and padded out. You have to make sure that your characters are interesting, likable, and identifiable. And most importantly, you need to take your time with executing the idea. A wise person once said "Nothing is sadder than wasted potential."