Friday, January 27, 2017

A Blast of 90s Weirdness: The Bone Chillers Series

For some reason (My unnecessary enthusiasm? Irony?), a lot of people have been checking out my fan post about the Bone Chillers series of horror books from the 90s. And that is awesome. Either there are more closeted Bone-heads (I just made that up) than I ever expected, or more people are eager to discover disposable bits of retro weirdness and they just happened to stumble upon my blog.  Either way… great! I’d love to spark a new national conversation about something that’s near and dear to my heart.

So I thought I would offer a quick run-down of the series, with helpful links to Betsy Haynes’ Amazon page. (All of the titles can be purchased as used paperbacks, but I wanted to spotlight the ebooks. Miss Haynes deserves to earn some money for all the hours of enjoyment that she gave me and other little weirdos like me.)

Anyway, here are the first ten books in the series. But be warned, some of these may be inappropriate for younger readers (or fans of good literature).

Out of the whole series, this is the only one that feels like one of those Are You Afraid of the Dark-style morality tales. It might be imitating the Goosebumps standard a little too closely. Still, the big climax is fun and Hayne’s simple-yet-overdramatic prose is there from the beginning.
The cover is better than the actual book, but it’s cute in a low-stakes, we’re-turning-into-animals kind of way.
Perhaps the best book in the series, and an inspiration for the best episode in the TV series. People eat bugs. They turn into bugs. It instills a natural fear of lunch ladies, which is probably for the best.
There are so few Thanksgiving-related books out there. And while the sequel outshines this one in every way, it’s still a fun story that doesn’t squander the awesome title.
Strange Brew
I know I read this one as a kid, but I honestly have no recollection of it. The title and blurb tell me that it’s about witchcraft, but it must not have been that memorable. If you’re interested in witchcraft-related young adult books from the 90s, check out the similar Shadow Zone series instead. Those books are pretty underappreciated, too.
Teacher Creature
Another classic that inspired a truly great episode of the TV show. It’s a tale as old as time (kid finds out his teacher is a monster and no one believes him). Pretty Hitchcockian. And the TV episode is an acting showcase for Laraine Newman from SNL, who somehow falls in love with a coworker who’s very clearly a toad-monster.
Frankenturkey II
(Note the Godfather-style pluralization. This book is too classy for anything other than Roman numerals.) Again, not much to say here, except that it’s a sequel to Frankenturkey, and it’s a lot better than the original. And it also highlights Haynes’ tendency to have her main characters hatch really stupid plans.
Welcome to Alien Inn
Family checks into a motel that’s run by aliens. Alien Inn is a tad slow getting started, and the parents are frustratingly oblivious, but overall the story is a lot of fun. Tons of good cliffhangers.
Attack of the Killer Ants
I did not read this one… Which is a shame, because killer bugs are awesome.
Slime Time
This is another favorite of mine. A kid creates this mucus that starts to spread everywhere. It’s a Blob-type situation, but the whole thing is played for laughs. For those who enjoyed the wackier Goosebumps books (How I Learned to Fly, You Can’t Scare Me!), this one is a low-rent equivalent of that.
All-in-all, the first ten books in this series are pretty consistently great. Well, not great. But they’re fun. And they have more of a variety than Goosebumps, which really doubled down on its formula as that series progressed. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can read a lot of this stuff for free. And believe me, it’s worth every penny.

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