Goosebumps #19 – “Deep Trouble”

Via Fantastic Fiction

I have to give this book props for a couple of reasons. First, the scene on the cover actually did happen. There was a shark attack, though it’s not exactly the most important part of the book. I guess if they had put a mermaid on the cover, it would have been considered a “girly” book. Speaking of which…

There are mermaids in this book! Can you believe it? And they’re not just pretty, Anglo-Saxon girls with clear skin and good vocal chords, either. They’re actually kind of bad-ass, in their own way.

This book is less kid-lit horror, and more adventure, which was a nice change of pace. I think Stine really wanted to write an old-fashioned adventure book, and I have to admit that he succeeds. I have a feeling this was just kind of thrown in with the Goosebumps franchise, but Deep Trouble could actually stand on its own pretty well, I think. So, mateys, are ye ready for some fun on the high seas?

Arrrr… Or whatever.

Back Cover Blurb:

Don’t go in the water!

Billy and his sister, Sheena, are visiting their uncle Dr. Deep on a tiny Caribbean island. It’s the perfect place to go exploring underwater… and Billy’s ready for adventure.

There’s only one rule to remember: Stay away from the coral reefs. Still, the reefs are so beautiful. So peaceful. Billy can’t resist.

But he’s not alone in the water. Something’s lurking deep below the surface. Something dark and scaly.

Something that’s half-human, half-fish…

Summary:

Billy Deep, junior explorer, is spending the summer on a research boat with his marine biologist uncle, Dr. Deep. And that’s how they address him–either Dr. Deep or Dr. D. Isn’t that weird? It just seems way too formal.

Anyway, we start off with Billy on an undersea adventure, braving the perils of the ocean as he tries to find the Great White Stingray. Apparently the pale bugger has been stinging people non-stop, and it’s got to end. I assume Billy’s going to send the Great White Stingray to a zoo or something, instead of just pumping it full of lead Palin-style. But oh noes! His oxygen tank has been compromised, and he needs air!

May Day! May Day!

Oh, never mind. Billy’s only playing around. It was all a dream pretend!

Billy’s just snorkeling with his semi-bratty sister, Sheena. I want to personally thank Stine for NOT making Sheena totally annoying. She’s a little pesky, but she’s actually much more likable than any other younger sibling in this series. I would thank him via Twitter, but I think if he found out about this blog, @RL_Stine would probably block me for life.

Back in reality, Billy meanders back toward the boat, where Dr. Deep tells both the kids to stay away from the reef nearby. There have been sightings of a shark, and he’d rather not have to worry about explaining the two dead bodies to the kids’ parents, mmkay? This, of course, means Billy wants to go to the reefs even more, and I honestly can’t blame him.

Stine describes in loving detail the pretty fish, the color of the coral, and other awesome reef things. Just reading it makes me want to take a tropical vacation, despite the fact that I sink like a stone in all bodies of water. Just the way that the HorrorLand books are porn for kids who have never been to an amusement park, I think “Deep Trouble” is porn for those of us who have never been in a tropical setting.

I’m still keeping my fingers crossed about my video tape for the Real World: Cancun, though.

So… blah blah blah… descriptions of the boat… Alexander (the science student) is a terrible cook but kinda hot (he’s described as a  tan and muscular blonde)…

"Billy, don't be a hero."

Okay, back to the plot. Billy swims back over to the reefs to explore, and thinks he sees a tentacled sea monster. Just as the sea monster is closing in to pull him down, down, down, Dr. Deep swims over and comes to his rescue. Conveniently, Dr. D didn’t see the monster and just assumes that Billy’s imagination has run away with him again. Billy insists that his close encounter was with more than just some sea weed, but no one believes him.

They go back to the boat, where Billy feeds the eel in the onboard aquarium… Actually, hey. Would it be normal for an admittedly under-funded research vessel to have several fancy aquariums (aquaria?) around? It just seems like it would take up a lot of power.

While he’s feeding the fish, Billy overhears Dr. Deep talking to two strangers in his office. Because he’s a Goosebumps narrator, Billy creeps closer to eavesdrop. Turns out that the two people are from the Marina Zoo, and they want Dr. Deep to find and capture a mermaid. Lots of local fisherman have seen her. She’s an attractive blonde with a fish tail!

Yeah, just like that!

Naturally, Billy leans too hard on the door and crashes into the room, but that’s a moot point. The mission is still on, even if Dr. Deep has his reservations. The $1 million paycheck is certainly worth it.

That night, Billy sneaks back to the reef. He wants to be the first person ever to find a mermaid. Instead of bumping into Sara Paxton, he gets caught by that pesky sea monster again. It’s like going on a blind double-date expecting two busty twins and finding this:

BTW if you haven’t watched Little Britain yet, you really need to. Seriously. Go to the vid store or Netflix.com and get it. I’ll wait…

You’re back? Isn’t that Vicky Pollard hilarious? Yeah but no but yeah but no but don’t be giving me evils!

Ahem. So it looks like Billy’s down for the count, when suddenly he wakes up and finds out it was all a dream. Umm… whatever. It’s cool. I can forgive him, since we’ll be meeting a mermaid shortly.

The next day, Billy’s back at the reef. You’d think that all this sea monster crap (plus a wicked fire coral burn from yesterday) would deter him, but no. That actually just makes him want to explore more. You can’t fault him for enthusiasm, I guess. Billy’s about to start singing some tunes from everybody’s favorite aquatic Disney story–that’s right: Finding Nemo!–when he sees a scary shark fin cutting through the water.

And this shark wants blood! Blood, dammit! Billy tries to fight the shark off, which is about as effective as you would think. Our boy is clever enough to try and squeeze into the reef among the fire coral, however his efforts only earn him some more wounds. The shark “grabs” Billy’s leg and starts to pull him under.

Yes, “grab.” I’m pretty sure shark’s don’t “grab” things, B. I think they freaking rip them off and swallow them whole. But not THIS shark. He’s a grabber, and don’t you forget it.

But suddenly the mermaid comes and saves Billy! She takes her pimp hand to the shark and it swims away. And then she heals Billy’s fire coral wounds with a sweep of her pretty li’l hand.

"I can also break your heart without even trying."

Billy and the mermaid appear to be making friends when, out of the blue, a net comes down on both of them. They’re hauled up to Dr. Deep’s boat (they didn’t notice the whir of the engine or even the water moving around them?!) and everyone congratulates Billy for finding the mermaid.

Only Billy feels like crap about it. The mermaid saved his life, and now she’s miserable and stuck in a tank on the deck of the ship. This sucks. He tries to free the mermaid, but Alexander stops him by talking about how much this discovery would mean to Dr. Deep. Low blow, Al, low blow. Billy reluctantly backs off.

A day or so passes, during which they try to figure out what to feed the mermaid. She can’t tell them; while she seems to understand English, she can’t communicate in anything other than high-pitched squeals (sort of like a dolphin). The scene where the mermaid and Billy start to “talk” is kind of cute, actually. He teaches her to nod for yes and shake her head for no, sort of like that scene in the first Free Willy movie.

As for feeding her, they try a variety of foods, like cookies. Yeah, cookies–because a mermaid who has only ever lived in the ocean would want processed food containing a bunch of crap that just ain’t natural. Everyone thinks Billy is a genius for giving her some squid. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Does the word “duh” mean anything to you?

The folks from the Marina Zoo are due to come soon, at which point they’ll take the mermaid to their special coral reef enclosure just for her, where she should feel right at home. Billy is totally against keeping her in captivity, and we get to listen to him protest several times that the mermaid should be free. I guess this book  is sort of like a Free Willy, but with a mermaid, instead.

Before the zoo peeps can take the mermaid away, another boat with three scary, masked men commandeers the vessel. Is it pirate ghosts?

No. Just kidnappers who take the mermaid out of her tank and tie her up to the back of their boat. And get this–Alexander is one of them! Turns out he’s gonna get several million dollars for the mermaid, so he had to take them up on their offer.

The kidnappers trap Dr. D, Sheena, and Billy in the big tank where the mermaid was kept, then dump them all overboard so no one will be there rat them out. Yikes. That’s pretty dark for a Goosebumps book. But not all is lost–the mermaid has alerted her pals, and they rescue Billy and Co. from a watery death.

Once safe, they tell the mermaids where their captive pal is, and the mermaids swim off to kick some ass. Meanwhile, Billy is so grateful for their help that he wants to do something to pay the mermaids back. Billy and Co. can’t exactly call the Coast Guard, so they do the next best thing: roll up in their dinghy and see if they can do anything to free their mermaid pal.

Strangely, a bumbling marine biologist and his two pre-pubescent wards aren’t very effective crime stoppers, because the only thing they manage to do is get caught. One of the kidnappers sets their boat on fire, and so they have to concentrate on putting out the flames. I don’t really get this… why can’t they just swim? They’ve been doing it for the entire damn book, so who cares? Sheena tries to dive out of the boat, but Dr. Deep says she “might drown.”

Huh? So they were okay to snorkel away by themselves a few hours ago, but suddenly they can’t swim?

Whatever. If Billy and Co. swam away, then would have missed seeing the mermaids band together to free their sister and then tip the kidnappers’ boat into the water. Yeah, that’s right–they grab the sides of the boat and rock it back and forth until it capsizes. Once the kidnappers are underwater, I assume the mermaids drag them to the bottom of the ocean and eat their skin, however Stine prefers not to clarify this. In fact, he doesn’t mention anything about what happens to the kidnappers, so I’m assuming the bottom-of-the-sea-skin-eating thing.

A few days later, the Marina Zoo peeps come back asking about their mermaid. Dr. Deep tells them that there never was a mermaid and that he’s absolutely sure that the fisherman are mistaken. In fact, he would advice the Marina Zoo to stop wasting money on expeditions for mythical creatures. And the zoo guys believe him. Off the word of one kooky doctor, they decide to reallocate what were probably millions of dollars in funds. Hopefully they can find some other use for that special reef enclosure. Like a splash park or something.

This is a Goosebumps book, so we can’t have a totally happy ending. Later, as Billy is swimming in the reef, looking for his friend the mermaid, he bumps into that scary, one-eyed sea monster from before, and this time, it’s not a dream! Bum bum bum!

The Moral of the Story:

No matter what the monetary gain, mermaids shouldn’t be in zoos. They are wild things, after all, and no wild thing should be caged.

Except for dolphins and killer whales and seals and polar bears and… Oh, screw it. I want to play with Seamore the Sea Lion.

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Posted in Danger, Goosebumps
8 comments on “Goosebumps #19 – “Deep Trouble”
  1. Sada says:

    They try to feed a mermaid COOKIES? What the frig?! Is that an honorary marine biology degree that Dr. Deep has? As for the language barrier, they should have just wheeled a TV in front of the mermaid’s tank. If she’s anything like Darryl Hannah in Splash (I’m sorry, WHO is this Sara Paxton character?), she’d be fluent in English by the end of the day.

  2. Sadako says:

    I always remember hating this book because I hoped it would be about a scary shark thing due to the cover. Then there was a mermaid adventure-y plot. Which is nice but mermaids? not scary. Of course there was that weird part with Billy seeing a scary monster and no one believing him but I feel like R.L. was too lazy to really write an actually scary book and just wrote in those bits.

  3. R. G. Quimby says:

    @ Sada – Good point! The TV thing makes perfect sense. Like, in that Goosebumps way. Maybe they could tune into a LAW AND ORDER marathon and have a lawyer that’s pretty much as good at arguing as Dr. Deep is at…

    …marine biology-ing?

    @ Sadako — Yeah, this isn’t really a Goosebumps book. I mean, it is. Technically.

    But this had more of an underwater adventure vibe. I was expecting more sea monster action, honestly. And when they talk about the “half fish” thing on the back cover, I was thinking it was that hammerhead thing and not a mermaid.

    Or maybe some killer mermaids? I’d like to see some killer mermaids, honestly. ;/

  4. Tj says:

    I LOVE this book

  5. ImpudentInfidel says:

    I don’t think the objection is that mermaid “belongs on the wild” so much as that it basically amounts to enslaving a sapient being. They can’t even do carnival ‘freak’ shows anymore, and they actually agreed to participate (and were well-payed).

  6. R. G. Quimby says:

    @ TJ – Yeah, i kinda loved this book, too, actually. I don’t really want to call it my favorite Goosebumps book, since it doesn’t really feel like a Goosebumps book to me. You know what I mean?

    @ ImpudentInfidel – I’m picking up what you’re putting down.

  7. Tj says:

    It’s not my fav but it’s in my 10 for sure.

    As for the TV Episode…it as ok.

  8. R. G. Quimby says:

    Yeah, I didn’t exactly love the TV episode, either. I mean, it wasn’t totally terrible, but as I recall, there was a distinct lack of both oceans and mermaids.

    I get that a show that was most likely filmed in Canada wouldn’t have that kind of budget, but seriously? THe only thing the TV ep and the book had in common where the character names.

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