Friday, October 18, 2013

Goosebumps Review: The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb

What will wake the dead?
Here is a book quite a bit different from the first four Goosebumps books. For one, this book doesn't take place in an American neighborhood. Next, this book doesn't really have a message. And third, this is the first book where the main character is unlikable and annoying but still somehow sympathetic. This is a book I really don't have much to say. Honestly, this is the closest book of this series I've come to reading and just kind of shrugging aside. While it has its moments, it never becomes remarkable in any particular way. I do like what it kind of tries to do. I simply don't think it pushes the envelope quite far enough, even though threats of actual murder, a murderer, and actual physical violence play out quite shockingly in this book.

I never remember these books being filled with so much violence. I don't remember this one having the main antagonist, Ahmed, being an actual killer in the name of Priestess Khala. I remember the mummy room. That was still quite well done. And the deus ex machina of the mummy's hand was interesting in execution and foreshadowing.

The story is simple. Gabe and his family are on vacation in Egypt, the ancestral home of their family. They're visiting the pyramids and their relative, Ben, who is Gabe's uncle and also a prominent archaeologist. Gabe is eventually left with his uncle and his cousin, Sari, with most of the book being about Sari and Ben playing practical jokes on Gabe that seem quite mean-spirited in actuality. If my uncle played half of these practical jokes on me back in the day, I think I would have developed a complex or something. This is literally close to psychological torture. Dressing up like a mummy, barging into the kid's hotel room while he is alone and probably nervous? That's an actual terrible thing to do. Laughing at the kid when he is scared of being alone in a pyramid while his partner wanders off, hides in a sarcophagus, and scares the bejeezus out of him? That's going to leave some psychological scars, let me tell you.

Anyway, while most of the novel is literally about mean-spirited pranks, the horror comes in near the end. Ahmed is the real bad guy here. He tries to kidnap Sari and Gabe, then when they find his mummification room, he tries to suffocate them so that he can embalm them easily later. He's a pretty sick guy, basically brainwashed into revering and protecting his ancestor, the Priestess Khala. He knocks Uncle Ben upside the head with a torch, a graphic scene for the younger audience who will be reading this. Finally he literally says he's going to kill them all by throwing them in molten tar. So, he's not a nice fellow.

His murderous intent is just about the creepiest thing of the book (besides the obvious neglect of Gabe. He was so thirsty in the first chapter, and yet nobody would get him something to drink, the monsters.). And then the deus ex machina of Gabe having a magical mummy summoner hand he grabbed up at a yard sale one day seals the deal. This is a ridiculous story, more intended to have adventure occur for adventure's sake than to have even a lick of realism whatsoever.

I actually do like some of the mentions of how Egypt is different than America and how Gabe is Egyptian and not simple white like the other protagonists of the other books could be expected to be. I also like how there is a mixture of more ethnic and more "regular" names. It kind of gives the book a slightly more authentic book without alienating its intended audience.

I don't really have much else to say. I liked the Egyptian angle, and I think Ahmed as both crazy murderer and kidnapper works decently as a message to show kids that even the supposedly trustworthy might be a bad person. His sugary language and Gabe's attention to detail are the real take-aways I have from the book. Well, those and to avoid tar-pits and ancient Egyptian tombs, but those lessons are less than useful.

Gabe's relationship with his cousin, Sari, is also very interesting, showing that he has a certain amount of jealousy and spite for her. She tends to be better at things than he is, and he tends to have a bit of a complex about that and other things. That isn't a surprise really though. The way his family treats him should be giving him a complex. His relationships with other characters is very interesting though, and although maybe it isn't worth exploring in depth, it is kind of worth reading.

Besides that, I have nothing. It's a middle-of-the-road book, with some good moments, but not enough good ones to wholly recommend. I remember it being much more interesting back in the day than what I read for this review. I liked what I read back then, but probably because I had a thing for Egypt back then as well. After this reading, I see it much more as an interesting premise, taken from The Mummy and movies involving mummies, but one without a ton of bite. It never really reaches a very horror-filled feeling, and it falls flat in the end because the story is simply too foreign and unbelievable to be really good.

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