Dearest readers, there is a monkey scientist on the cover of this book. Or...a doctor monkey? I'm not sure, actually, how to properly describe to you just how high my hopes were going in this book because of that one fact. I love monkeys. I love science. I'm not thrilled about doctors, tbh, but I am ALL ABOUT doctor monkeys. I mean, the title of the book mentions Dr. Eeek, so I kinda figured that the entire goddamn thing was about navigating the nightmare hellscape that is the mind of a scientist in the body of a monkey. But. I'm sad to say that there is a serious lack of doctor monkeys in this book. Not a complete absence of, mind you, but I will admit that for 90% of this book there is a character who is named Dr. Eeek who IS NOT A MONKEY WTF?!?!? Okay, deep breaths. Let's get to it!
Oh, btw, I'm drinking some of New Belgium's Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA, which I find a confusing story in its own right, because it used to be called Rampant, but then New Belgium decided to roll a bunch of different drinks under the Voodoo Ranger heading and now it's really hard to figure out what's going on with these beers. However, it is still really good so yeah, still drinking it. Also, as part of unlocking this bonus review, I also live-tweeted my drunken reading of it, which you should definitely check out here. All right, enough delay!
So the book opens with a pretty standard setup: you and your best friend, Sam, arrive at your mom's work for a movie night. Sam seems pretty nonbinary to me, so I just ignored the whole he pronouns thing and decided to headcanon some queer content into this book. Instantly, it was improved. Because Sam is just the best ever. They are put in danger pretty much constantly throughout the book and yet show indomitable will, a good sense of humor, and an eye for adventure. Anyway, you and your nbf are waiting for movie date night, only your mom is being really slow. Like seriously, what gives? You're given the option of sitting tight or going to find her. Which, hey, is sort of a Give Yourself Goosebumps tradition, where you can either go and do what the book wants you to do, or you can hit your first The End where nothing happens and it's all very boring. Except this time, trying to avoid the weird adventure doesn't help. You're pulled in anyway, though the shape of the horror is based largely on whether you're patient (spoilers, you need to be patient to get to that sweet, sweet monkey ending).
So in my reading, I wandered off with Sam, and we were pretty much immediately approached to be subjects in some of Dr. Eeek's experiments. And...well, this is totally in keeping with Goosebumps traditions, where twelve-year-olds actually make the best test subjects for everything. And, of course, here's where I got my first glimpse of Dr. Eeek. Let me say, over the course of the book Dr. Eeek plays many parts. He's either your mom's boss or he's a disgruntled former coworker of your mom's who has opened a rival laboratory on the floor above her's. He's either an old man who you can easily bully or he's a sociopath who wants to destroy you in a video game where he can write the very laws of reality. He's either a man who just can't help combining people with various animals and inanimate objects or he's a magical monster who never runs out of faces. Which really requires me to answer: what Dr. Eeek is most frightening?
I'm not going to lie, the one where he used to work with you mom and now works above her with some sort of grudge that would lead him to basically kidnap you and use you as a surrogate for his frustrated lustrage is definitely the most messed up vision of Dr. Eeek. Here, he immediately forces you and Sam into his experiments because he's been made to feel small and the only recourse is to make you feel smaller, a grown man attacking a child because a woman told him no. Now, the book doesn't do much with that, but it does allow for a number of ways to fight back against this Dr. Eeek. My favorite of which involves being left handed (though, tbh, I am not).
Sidetrack! One of the things I did not like about this book (and which continues to be a complaint with this series of CYOA books) is that there are number of non-choice "choices." Things like, "if you're left handed, go here" vs "if you're right handed, go here." This book doesn't quite get to "are you wearing a sweater"-level of ridiculousness, but I will say I was rather disappointed that one of the choices had to do with being tall vs short (spoilers, don't be short). I can say that the entire point of CYOA books is that your choices determine the outcome of the story. That might be bullshit, as I will get to in a moment, but it's still rather the point of these stories. Having all these non-choices is frustrating and the book certainly indulges.
Okay, sorry. So, my favorite ending. Creepy Dr. Eeek sets you and Sam up in a VR chair thing, which you get through despite being almost killed. However, given the chance to leave the situation, you opt to stay when you notice that Sam is still inside their simulation, and not doing well. You re-enter the sim, save Sam from an octopus, only to be saved in turn. Except somehow Dr. Eeek enters the sim as well, and apparently can use the simulation to alter the real world. It's really fucking messed up. However, if you're left handed you can straight up punch him out cold, and Sam (thanks to a weekend at programming camp) can rewrite the simulation. Which means that they can make anything happen. Which makes them God. And as God the first order of business is to make a singing frog for you because that's what good nbfs do and IT IS THE CUTEST ENDING EVER. It contained 0% monkeys but with that ending I am willing to let it slide. It's all heart and I just love it. Most of the other endings involve either being eaten by various animals (there are many) or being reunited with your mom (who may or may not be evil and testing you herself).
And okay, complaint #2 about this book. This might just be a me thing, but in CYOA books I like to think that there is something of an internal logic and cohesion to the world. If there is a fork in a hallway, and you go to the right to find a swimming pool, I expect that swimming pool to always be to the right. A frustrating thing about this book was the number of times that the various paths contradicted each other. Not just with the "true identity" of Dr. Eeek (though fuck was that often annoying), but also with other things. Walking down a hallway might result in finding a lab with weird shit in it, or it might result in finding a maze of death. Not two different hallways, but one hallway and two results. Which bothers me. Perhaps it is a truly meta way of framing the story, where you are kind-of programming the book as you read it, and reality itself shifts as you move, but that's really complicated and just not what I like in my CYOA experiences. So while I like that there were so many different situations to explore, it just feels like a cheat to me, and I would have liked there to have been a bit more consistency.
But fuck it, monkeys. MONKEYS! So the stuff with Sam is great and I love it but I would be remiss if I didn't share my joy at finding that there were indeed monkeys in the book. Surprise, surprise, I completely missed them until the end. And, I will say, it was just a bit disappointing that for a book with so many Dr. Eeeks, only one of them turned out to be an evil monkey. However, that was pretty fucking amazing, because that Dr. Eeek has a slew of pet humans who he's experimenting on, and then you get trapped and become his test subject as well and it's just a bit magical. Probably my favorite of the "bad" endings. Really, though, having only one outcome where there's an evil monkey mad scientist is just squandering the premise. There should have been SO MANY MORE MONKEYS in this book. Though, that might bring me to...
Okay, so the "true nature" of Dr. Eeek is pretty elusive in the book, but there is one part that felt rather telling to me, and that's when Dr. Eeek turns out to be wearing about a million masks. There's an incident with sticky goo that I'm not sure I want to get into but when you try to put it on Dr. Eeek's face he just peels off the face. Which isn't played up to much but think about it. What if every Dr. Eeek in the book is actually the same?! What if he's ALWAYS a monkey but only reveals his "real" self in the one ending? This would have the benefit of clearing up a bit of the lack of cohesion and it would mean 1000% MOAR MONKEY! And can anyone argue with that?
Ahem, sorry. Anyway, let's break this thing down with fancy number ratings!
On the "Would I write fanfiction scale of greatness": 5/5 (okay, most of the actual book was already me fanfic-ing Sam into your nbf so this rates pretty high. Plus monkeys. Plus oh my glob can you just imagine what having the power to rewrite reality would be like? I can just imagine you and Sam getting up to so much mischief and fun and finally deciding to use this power for good and making a world that isn't a fucking trashfire. Where all the ridiculous promise of the 90s didn't end in a steaming pile of, well, our current political reality. No, this is the fanfiction I want, the fanfiction I need. It's just perfect)
On the "Is this actually good scale of more trying to be objective": 2/5 (this one makes a lot more missteps structurally than many of the previous Give Yourself Goosebumps. It's just all over the place, but it doesn't make much sense at all. Which, hey, isn't the biggest of problems, but it also commits the deadly sin of promising me monkey and then under-delivering. So while it was plenty of fun and had some great endings, it doesn't really work on its own unless you're heavily editing it as you go and also love monkeys so much you put them in even where they're not)
On the "Yeah but this is Goosebumps scale of relative wonderment": 3/5 (okay for Goosebumps, and especially at the moment with my reading of Goosebumps, this is a welcome breath of life, because ouch, some of the books lately have been kinda bad. And it is fun, and like many of the Give Yourself Goosebumps offerings it really amps up the RIDICULOUS. Which is nice. I still can't give it much more than this, though, because so much of my enjoyment came from outside of anything text itself was doing. I liked the book in spite of itself, for what it inspired in me, but will admit that in looking at its merits it's a bit week. Fun, and cute, and fitting for the series, but not a stand-out installment)
There you have it! Thank you all so much for helping to make this happen and I look forward to more Goosebumps fun when/if I can hit my next goal. Cheers!