Goosebumps #9 – “Welcome to Camp Nightmare”

Nightmarecamp

Pic via Wikipedia… no kidding, this book has a Wiki page.

I never got a chance to go to sleep-away camp as a child. Don’t get me wrong, I would have cut a bitch just to get a chance to hop on that bus, but it turns out that paying for several weeks of room, board, activities, and tampons for your girl-child can be pretty costly. All those damn camp movies never bother to mention that tasty little fact.

As far as I know, there are several camp-themed Goosebumps book. While I can’t speak for the other ones, it’s clear that WTCN (that’s abbreviated–you like what I did there?) actually did try to be a camp-type-book, complete with descriptions about being outdoors and crap. All this is interspersed with a really lame story-line about kids getting hurt or whatever. All in all, a pretty odd book. Read on…

 

Back-Cover Blurb:
Next summer you’ll stay home… if you survive! (Ok, actually a pretty decent lead-in to the events of the book. Bravo, back-cover blurb writer.)

The food isn’t great. The counselors are a little strange. And the camp director, Uncle Al, seems sort of demented.

Okay, so Billy can handle all that.

But then his fellow campers start to disappear.

What’s going on? Why won’t his parents answer his letters? What’s lurking there after dark?

Camp Nightmoon is turning into Camp Nightmare!

And Billy might be next…

Summary:
So we start off on the bus, cruising down a dusty road on the way to camp. Neither Billy nor his new friends, Jay, Colin, or Mike know where the eff camp is, or how much longer they’ll be on the road. You would think they’d mention little things like “location” in the brochure, but no, not so much.

Also, they’re driving through the desert so they can get to the lush woods beyond it. Technically, I guess that would be accurate, but how far do you really have to drive to get to the lush woods? It took those dinosaurs like, fifty movies to find the Great Valley, so I guess Billy and co. should get comfy in those bus chairs.

Just for our reference, Billy provides concise descriptions of all of his friends prior to any of them even getting a chance to speak. I love it when authors do that, because it saves me all the effort of making my mind up about a character myself–umm, not. Still, I guess this is a good thing, since Colin and Jay (rowdy and semi-badass) are virtually indistinguishable. The only one with a personality is the chubby kid, Mike, who is kind of a wuss even for someone who supposedly resembles a bulldog.

Oh, and there are girls on the bus–Dori and Dawn. Billy is hot in his labelled undies for Dawn, who he describes as having beautiful, shining white hair and a cute face. Dori is beyond Billy’s interests because she is, of course, ginger.

Was there a damn contract that Stine and all the ghostwriters had to sign that anyone slightly annoying or sinister had to be ginger? It’s weird.

Anyway, the bus pulls over into a little platform in the middle of nowhere. The driver completely ignores the kids’ questions about where they are. He unloads their luggage and leaves their asses. Nice!

Everybody’s getting kind of nervous, when suddenly, a frightening howl pierces the air! OMFG, it’s a bunch of unidentified dog-type things that are snarling and about to attack the children! There’s a suspenseful sequence that lasts way too long, and then the bus for Camp Nightmoon appears bearing a rifle-clad Uncle Al.

Uncle Al fires a warning shot and scares away the monsters. Thanks, Uncle Al. You’re much nicer than that guy who ran Camp Krusty. Mr. Black wouldn’t let the kids call him “Uncle Blackie” and we all know how that turned out, so I’m glad you’re down with the inappropriate family names.

Dawn and Dori and the rest of the girls get dropped off at Camp Nightmoon for girls, just a few minutes down the road from the manly version of the camp. Billy wonders if he’ll ever see them again. Aww…. but he doesn’t think about them for too long, since he’s soon busy getting settled into his new bunk with Jay, Colin, Mike, and their camp counselor, Larry.

Larry is in his early teens and, in a stroke of realism, does not give a tiny rat’s ass about what happens to the kids. For example, when Mike finds a snake in his bed and gets bitten, Larry basically tells him to STFU. Larry is mildly impressed when Billy figures out a way to carry the snake out of the bunk in a bed sheet, but not impressed enough to stop being a jack-hole.

Billy wants to take Mike to see the nurse, but Larry says that there isn’t a nurse at Camp Nightmoon since Uncle Al doesn’t want to “coddle” the kids. Weird. Yeah, kid, that’s a sprained ankle, but seriously, you can just walk it off. Ugh.

Ok… so there’s a bunch of camp stuff now. Descriptions about the food, crafts, singalongs, etc. I imagine it all going something like this:

Later we meet a kid named Roger, who is basically a Jay-and-Colin clone. A few fun things do happen, though–first, Larry gets pissed at Colin during a stickball game and totally throws a ball at his head.

I’m not kidding here! The teenage boy throws a ball at the 12-year-old’s head, so hard that it almost knocks him out. Awesome.

Our man Billy is really concerned about this… until Larry gives him another interesting camp activity to do, at which point Billy’s totally distracted. Just a tip, Bill–if you’re in a camp with abusive counselors and no nurse (not to mention a complete lack of available phones) then maybe you should keep your guard up. Just saying.

Early in the book, Uncle Al mentions that one of the bunks is totally forbidden to campers. It’s aptly named “the Forbidden Bunk” and the kids are NOT to go near it. He never specifies why, but I’m guessing that’s where Uncle Al keeps his porn stash.

Jay and Roger are, of course, itching to go there and see what this mysterious bunk is all about. I can’t remember what Mike is doing… probably bitching about his snake bite some more. Walk it off, wussy!

In any case, they invite Billy to explore the Forbidden Bunk, but he’s a lame ass and chooses to stay back with the ailing Colin. Ugh, you’re boring, Billy. Can we switch to a protagonist who does fun things?

Sure enough, though, Jay runs back to camp, pursued by some sort of monster. I’m guessing it’s a bear, or maybe one of those dog-things from earlier. Apparently it took Roger and now it wants Jay. For whatever reason, it backs off once Billy’s there and so Jay is safe.

Billy tells Larry, who continues not to give a shit. In fact, Larry checks it out, and there’s no Roger registered for Camp Nightmoon. Very interesting. He tells the kids they must have had a bad dream or something and goes off to look at stolen nudie mags or something.

Um, and then Mike, Jay, and Colin disappear. There’s no cool chase sequence here. They’re just gone. Larry says it has something to do with them going home or whatever.

Of course, Billy is very worried. Very, very, very worried… until the canoe trip next day! Yay! During this, Larry falls into the water, and Billy saves him from a gruesome drowning death. Good job, Billy. You just saved the douchiest character in the novel while totally flaking out on your friends.

Blah blah blah… more camp stuff interspersed with missing children… Billy tries to contact his parents but finds out none of the letters are being sent… Yadda yadda…

Cut to: a prison break! Dawn and Dori are missing, and Uncle Al don’t cotton much to escapees. He gives all the campers rifles (loaded with tranquilizer darts) and tells them it’s huntin’ season!

A very interesting turn of events to be sure, but I can’t blame Billy for being a little reluctant here. He ends up turning his gun on Uncle Al and ordering him to call off the search. Awesome. Maybe Billy’s last name (which isn’t specified) is Bad-Ass. Uncle Al taunts Billy about how he’ll never pull the trigger, but Billy’s in ass-kicking mode and totally shoots a tranquilizer at Uncle Al.

A tranquilizer which isn’t a tranquilizer at all…

Turns out, this was all a test! Billy’s parents, who are scientists, want to bring Billy on their latest expedition, but they weren’t allowed to do so until he was tested for bravery and what-not. That was the purpose of Camp Nightmoon and all the shenanigans that occurred. Now that Billy’s fortitude has been tested and he has been found to be appropriately awesome, he gets to go to an unknown, savage planet called…

(wait for it)

EARTH!

And then my head exploded…

The end.

Quotable Quotes:

“Where?” I asked my parents. “Where are you taking me?”

“It’s a very strange planet called Earth,” Dad replied, glancing at Mom. “it’s very far from here. But it could be exciting. The inhabitants there are weird and unpredictable, and no one has ever studied them.”

Laughing, I stepped between my mom and dad and put my arms around them. “Earth?! It sounds pretty weird. But it could never be as dangerous or exciting as Camp Nightmoon!” I exclaimed.

“We’ll see,” Mom replied quietly. “We’ll see.”

You know, Dad has one thing right… Earthlings can be weird and unpredictable. I’m sure that’s how the police will describe yours truly when R.L. Stine reports all that hate mail I sent to him.

The Moral of the Story:
Sleep-away camp is only cool when it involves meeting up with a lost twin (a la “The Parent Trap”) or dressing in drag (see: “Sleepaway Camp”). Anything else just isn’t cool.

Here’s what I’m wondering… was Larry’s assault on Colin staged or not? I’m guessing it was real since Billy describes hearing the loud sound of the ball connecting with his buddy’s head. I’m sure later Colin was all, “I better get paid extra for this shizz!”

But hey, they’re aliens, so maybe head injuries don’t bother them that much. Oh, and apparently on their remote alien planet, there are still snakes, sleep-away camps, gingers, and telephones. WTF was up with this ending? I re-read this damn book (such was my confusion) but found no foreshadowing about Billy and his friends potentially being extraterrestrials.

None. Nada. Nothing.

Not even the occasional anal-probe joke.

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Posted in Danger, Goosebumps, Questionable Parenting
8 comments on “Goosebumps #9 – “Welcome to Camp Nightmare”
  1. Shannon says:

    Oh, that’s just terrible. The whole “you think this takes place on Earth, but it really doesn’t” thing is best left to the Twilight Zone. In the hands of RL Stine, I can’t imagine it being anything short of awful.

  2. Sadako says:

    Is it called Camp Nightmoon because they live on the moon? In which case, isn’t that like calling a camp Camp Nightearth? Or like, do they have the same moon as earth? I know in the TV show, we could see the earth from that planet, and–ugh, JUST a TV show, Sadako.

    I agree that Billy was boring, but he was played by this really hot actor, Kaj-Erik Eriksen in the TV show. He was on Boston Public and an Are You Afraid of the Dark and I heart him muchly!

  3. [QUOTE]Oh, that’s just terrible. The whole “you think this takes place on Earth, but it really doesn’t” thing is best left to the Twilight Zone.[/QUOTE]

    Actually, it’s best left to Isaac Asimov, as this is just a twisted, novel-length version of Asimov’s short story, “Youth”.

  4. Shannon says:

    Laurie, I don’t know anything about that, but I do know I saw three “you think it’s Earth but it isn’t” episodes of the Twilight Zone on Saturday during their awesome holiday marathon.

  5. Fear Street says:

    The ending always pissed me off…stupid aliens.

  6. R. G. Quimby says:

    Thanks for your responses, guys. I’m so effing glad that I wasn’t the only one who thought the ending to this book was total bullshizz!

    I mean, even for a Goosebumps novel, the twist is a little contrived. At least with pregnant Dana from Egg Monsters from Mars, we KNEW how he got knocked up. With the whole “alien” thing here, it’s like… foreshadowing, please?

    @ Sadako – I found this ep on YouTube, and I must say that Billy was a bit of a bad-ass. I did catch this one on Fox as a kid, and I remember thinking that Billy was hot stuff.

    Speaking of actors… did anybody notice that one of the camp kids was the kid from the “Jake and the Leprechaun” episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark?

  7. [QUOTE]At least with pregnant Dana from Egg Monsters from Mars, we KNEW how he got knocked up. [/QUOTE]

    I don’t know if there were any clues as to how Dana got knocked up in “Egg Monsters from Mars.” It could be implied that the egg monsters impregnated him when they banded together to cover Dana when he was freezing.

    And if you think the twist ending to “Welcome to Camp Nightmare” is contrived, then I’m afraid of what you’ll think of the twist endings for “A Shocker on Shock Street,” “Vampire Breath,” and “I Live in Your Basement!” (if you can find the books. I know a lot of Goosebumps titles are out of print, but considering that some titles have been reissued because of the “Goosebumps Horrorland” series and there are websites that are selling the titles that are no longer available in bookstores, they shouldn’t be that hard to find, not to mention local libraries may have them). Those twist endings make the ones from “Welcome to Camp Nightmare” look like they were well-thought out and congruent with the plot.

  8. Sadako says:

    I want the hour I spent reading I Live In Your Basement! back. Okay, I didn’t actually read it. I spent ten minutes reading a recap at Blogger Beware.

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