This week Danielle is dredging up the 1976 pulp horror novel Night of the Crabs by Guy N. Smith. When a pair of swimmers disappear off the coast of Wales it’s up to well-known botanist, and uncle to one of the missing swimmers, Cliff Davenport to uncover what happened. Why, exactly, it’s up to him is anyone’s guess, but Cliff quickly proves himself by uncovering crab tracks on the beach (is that a thing?) and concluding his nephew was murdered by sheep-sized crabs. Spoiler: Cliff is wrong, they are, in fact, cow-sized crabs; c’mon, Cliff, do better. Cliff is made to quickly forget the grief of his lost nephew in the arms of the nubile and newly divorced Pat, who is one-hundred percent on board with giant killer crabs, having seen crab tracks herself (no seriously, are crab tracks a thing?!). The two investigate and have sex in about equal measure, but it’s not until the nearby secret, but not too secret, military base is attacked by an army of giant, invincible crabs lead by, as dubbed by Cliff, the cunning King Crab, that anyone else takes notice. Cliff, now somehow a marine biologist, works with the department of defense to devise a plan to entomb the crabs in their underwater cave. This plan, predictably, fails spectacularly, and so many are killed by the enraged crab army Danielle had to give up keeping count. All Sam knows is that he has a new hero: All hail King Crab!
Danielle digs deep into the 90s’ well with the Christopher Pike novel The Eternal Enemy. Rela is just a normal girl who loves boys, cookies, and VCRs. Her life goes off the rails when the VCR she just bought turns out to be recording TV shows from the future! This doesn’t really matter as Rela is more interested in the cute boy, Chris, at her school. However, Rela does record a future news broadcast where she’s murdered by a weird stalker, but she decides her best course of action is to go about her daily life, as one would. Sam is already confused about what’s going on, and that’s before the stalker turns about to be Rela’s grandfather from the future trying to preserve the robot takeover of Earth. There’s a lot moral waffling about what has a soul and if humans should be replaced by cyborg hybrids, but Sam is firmly on the robots’ side in all this despite the best arguments to the contrary. If you think the philosophizing is confusing, wait until all the weird time travel paradoxes rear their ugly heads. So enjoy Blockbuster, VCRs, and startlingly fast adoptions in this 90s fueled sci-fi drama!
This week Sam shares the conclusion of the the Michael Ende novel The Night of Wishes. We rejoin our story as our two bumbling animal heroes wander out into the snowy night with no plan to stop the evil sorcerer Preposteror and his aunt Tyrannia Vampirella from completing their evil deed quota via magic wishing potion. Fortunately, Preposteror and Vampirella have to spend an inordinate amount of time doing ridiculously complicated magics to brew the potion, when they’re not wasting time they don’t have trying to back-stab each other, that is. Through some pure, blind luck Mauricio (née Morris) and Jacob manage to obtain a time traveling bell ring from the upcoming the New Year’s Eve bell tolling, which, if we’re understanding this correctly, would undo the reverse wishing effect of the potion and foil the evil plans. At this point, both Danielle and Sam have a little breakdown because they’re so confused by the time traveling sounds and complicated wishing/reverse wishing/undo reverse wishing magic rules. It doesn’t help that Preposteror and Vampirella continue to do ridiculous things like race while riding a giant scorpion and bedbug respectively. However, it’s when the wishes start that things really go off-the-wall, so enjoy as Sam tries desperately to make Danielle understand just any amount of what he’s saying.
Sam shares a lesser known work of the author of The Neverending Story, Michael Ende, with the book The Night of Wishes. When the nefarious sorcerer Beelzebub Preposteror (whose name Danielle is incapable of saying correctly) falls behind on his quota of evil deeds for the year, he has until midnight to fulfill his contract or face foreclosure by the devil himself. Fortunately, his witch aunt Tyrannia Vampirella, who’s in the same boat, shows up with a plan: To brew the legendary Satanarchaeolidealcohellish Notion Potion that will let them literally wish all their problems away. Unfortunately, each of them is living with a spy from the High Council of Animals, a cat named Maurico di Mauro and a raven named Jacob Scribble, who are determined to stop them. These spies, however, are incompetent to a degree that is only surpassed by the sorcerer and his aunt’s inability to cooperate, and none of them seem capable of forming a coherent plan. So listen to Sam struggle with German wordplay and pronunciations and Danielle struggle with character names and pretty much everything else, especially the overly complicated rules of the magic potion in a book that’s both incredibly goofy and unexpectedly dark.
This week Danielle has the thrilling conclusion of Madeleine L’Engle’s The Arm of the Starfish. Adam finally learns a bit about the experimental work of Dr. O’Keefe, and Sam is aghast at the reckless disregard for safety and scientific rigor. Adam seems less bothered by this and is ready to commit to O’Keefe and his work, but O’Keefe, inexplicably, insists that Adam go on dinner date with Kali at her father’s hotel first. Before leaving for the date, Poly has a premonition and insists Adam take a switchblade syringe filled with shark tranquilizer and conceal it in his swimming trunks for when he and Kali inevitably go swimming. It’s difficult to convey how truly crazy this is, and it’s even crazier that they are indeed attacked by sharks but are saved by the kinda psychic dolphin. After that incident, O’Keefe gives Adam the assignment to slip some secret papers about his work to his friends in the embassy right under Typhon Cutter’s nose. It’s a plan that is far too unnecessarily convoluted to get into here, but there are complications, backstabbing, mortal peril, and some truly hilarious attempts at cloak-and-dagger shenanigans. Also, just when this book should be over, there are more shark attacks. Seriously, for a book titled The Arm of the Starfish, there are way more sharks than you’d think, and and way fewer starfish.
This week Danielle breaks out the Madeleine L’Engle classic The Arm of the Starfish. Adam is your typical-sixteen-year old biology prodigy on his way to Lisbon to work with superstar biologist Dr. O’Keefe. While being held up at the airport because of fog, Adam is approached by the attractive Kali who warns him not to trust the O’Keefes. Adam is perplexed by this encounter, but shrugs it off as he jets off across the Atlantic, before making an unexpected stop in Madrid due to yet more fog. While there, a friend of the O’Keefes, a priest named Canon Tallis, is escorting Poly, the twelve-year-old daughter of the O’Keefes, back from a vacation in the U.S. Tallis asks Adam, the teenage boy he just met, to take over the escort duty of this young girl while he does some business in Madrid. This is the first of many bafflingly terrible decisions every character seems to make. On the flight from Madrid to Lisbon Poly is immediately, and expertly, kidnapped. Fortunately, Dr. O’Keefe is nonplussed by the loss of his daughter when Adam arrives. Later, while recuperating in a hotel Adam is magically found by Kali, who just happens to be in the neighborhood and who insists on taking him to meet her mega-rich-totally-not-evil businessman father Typhon Cutter. Typhon has just so happened to have found Poly and is returning her to the O’Keefes on the condition Adam reports to him on the super secret, world changing work Dr. O’Keefe is doing. Sam is annoyed that Typhon gives up a perfectly good kidnapped hostage to instead rely on a stranger of a teenager to get his information for him. Adam, meanwhile, must wrestle with the most difficult question of who to trust: The world famous scientist he’s going to work for, or the kidnapping businessman who wants him to spy on the O’Keefes. Also, there aren’t really any starfish in this part, but there is a kinda psychic dolphin, so that has to count for something.
Sam brings Danielle the show’s first middle grade novel with the Donna Jo Napoli book Shark Shock. Adam is your typical eleven-year-old boy: he likes video games and playing soccer, and is absolutely terrified of sharks. This really isn’t a problem until his family plans a three-week vacation to the New Jersey shore in the same place where the shark attacks that Jaws were based on happened. Adam quickly comes up with a plan to keep himself safe while swimming in the ocean: His talking freckles can keep a lookout and warn him about sharks. Yes, there are talking freckles living on Adam, and no, Sam hasn’t read the first book in this series, Soccer Shock, which may explain some of this. Unfortunately, divisive political squabbling amongst the freckles means they won’t be able to help. Danielle has questions, but even if Sam had answers there’s no time as Adam makes a new friend at the beach by the name of Seth, who was blinded in a boating accident a few years earlier. Adam thinks maybe he can help Seth listen to his own freckles so they can help see for him. Sam is annoyed with Adam’s parents for some pretty blatantly sexist behavior by giving Adam his own room instead of his older sister. Danielle just wants to know where the heck are all the freaking sharks.
This week Danielle brings Sam the explosive finale of the Libbra Bray novel Beauty Queens. The “pirates” from the Captains Bodacious reality show find our stranded beauty pageant contestants on their island and immediately do what attractive young people do everywhere. Soon, however, their fun is cut short as MoMo B. ChaCha is about to arrive to complete the arms deal the Corporation has arranged on the island. Still, the show must go on, and for reason too convoluted to go into here, the beauty pageant is back on, live from the island, with MoMo B. ChaCha as a special surprise judge. The girls, finally suspicious of the Corporation and its megalomaniacal leader Ladybird Hope, decide to stage their daring escape live on television, for some reason. There are giant snakes, tanks of piranhas inside volcano caves, and somehow still enough time to make a PowerPoint presentation. The biggest tragedy by far, though, is the loss of MoMo’s trusted confidant and stuffed lemur General Good Times, but fortunately Sam plans to open a chain of family restaurants/arcades in his honor.
This week Danielle brings Sam the start of a truly weird novel in Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. When a plane loaded with beauty pageant contestants decides to crash land on a deserted island, the surviving contestants must fend for themselves until rescue comes. Unfortunately, the sinister Corporation that runs the pageant has no interest in their rescue, as the island is planned to be used as the site for an arms deal between The Corporation and MoMo B. ChaCha, an eccentric dictator with a pet stuffed lemur. The stranded beauty pageant contestants soon learn that there’s something off about the island, and not just the hallucinogenic berries. If you ever wanted to see a besashed Miss Texas roundhouse kicking guards and being absolutely riddled with tranquilizer darts, this book delivers. Fortunately, despite their dire circumstances, the Captains Bodacious sexy pirate crew arrives to maybe save the day!
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In this week’s Book Reshorts it’s Sam’s turn to test Danielle’s powers of recall. Sam takes Danielle all the way back to their very first episode and sees how well she can remember all the dense science fiction and weird alien sex from the Isaac Asimov book The Gods Themselves. While the science, and character names, may elude her, she does recall some of the more outlandish plans the characters try to execute, if not exactly why someone might want to fly the moon off into space. So listen to find out exactly which parts of that story are forgotten and which are lodged forever in our brains.