Things That Go Bump

Re-Reading RL Stine's Bizarrely Beloved Goosebumps Series

Book the Twenty-Eighth: The Cuckoo Clock of Doom 06/24/2012

Tagline: “Keep your eye on the birdie!”

Synopsis: Michael hates his 7-year-old sister, Tara, and his hatred is completely justified; she’s a nightmare and hellbent on ruining Michael’s life. She blames her abuse of the family pet on him, causes his crush to see him in his underwear, and ruins his 12th birthday party in at least three different ways. So Michael exacts revenge on Tara by moving the bird on his father’s newly purchased antique cuckoo clock, making it look like it was Tara’s fault. At least, that’s his intention. As it turns out, moving around the bird takes Michael back in time at seemingly random intervals. Every time-warped day, Michael attempts to find the cuckoo clock and set it back to 1995 so everything will go back to normal (though “normal” was borderline insufferable, considering the Tara factor). Within a week, Michael regresses to babyhood and gets what he’s sure will be his last chance to change the clock as his mother and father bring him to the antique shop. As they argue over furniture, Michael vaults his 1-year-old body up onto a chair just so, reaches into the clock, and turns it back where it needs to be. Within a moment, he’s back to his 12th birthday, and everything’s the same. OR IS IT? As it turns out, the clock’s tiny flaw (which was mentioned earlier but never actually identified) is a missing notch on the year dial. There is no 1988, and thus there is no Tara. Michael doesn’t bother to move back in time to get her, as things are quite suddenly looking up for him, and really, who would judge him for that? Certainly not me.

Creepiness factor: This book isn’t scary but it’s about as suspenseful as a Goosebumps book can be.

Signature Stine moment: Truncated sentences abound, but they don’t sound stilted anymore. Come on, Stine, what happened?

This is from the book’s climax:

“I made it!

Cuckoo, cuckoo! Seven, eight.

I got to my knees. I got to my feet.

I reached up to grab the cuckoo. I stretched as tall as I could.

Cuckoo, cuckoo! Nine, ten.

Reaching, reaching.

Then I heard the shopkeeper shout, ‘Somebody grab that baby!'”

Accuracy of title: I wouldn’t change a thing.

Moral of the story: If your younger sibling is the single most deplorable person you’ve ever met, it’s not the worst idea to find an antique cuckoo clock missing the year he or she was born.

Overall rating: 8.75/10. Am I getting too generous here? I don’t think so, because from book 24 (my beloved Phantom of the Auditorium) on forward, the Goosebumps series is substantially more solid than before, dummies and the HorrorLand horrors aside. This book is remarkably clever, and when it’s funny, it’s being funny on purpose, something Stine never quite nailed till now. Here’s hoping Monster Blood III continues the trend of genuinely entertaining Goosebumps installments.