August 17th, 2012

Vampires and souls

I Can Talk All I Want Because I'm a Kid

Step 1: Attend a Dating for Nerds event where you discuss nerdy things and play board games.
Step 2: Be touched on the elbow by a cute girl, chat her up, walk her out, give her your contact information.
Step 3: Seize the opportunity to continue conversing when she sends an e-mail with everyone's contact information.
Step 4: Ask her if she wants to meet for pie that weekend.
Step 5: Let the weekend pass with no response.
Step 6: Perceive a lack of interest in a date but some interest in putting together a game night with other attendees.
Step 7: ???

Dating is stupid, but I guess I'm finally kind of trying or whatever.

I remember reading the Bunnicula books as a kid, so when I saw that I could experience The Bunnicula Collection, by James Howe and Deborah Howe, as read by Victor Garber, how could I say no? All I really remembered about the series was that it was about a vampire bunny that sucks the juice out of vegetables, turning them white. What I somehow failed to remember is that the books are NARRATED BY A DOG. You guys, it's kind of brilliant. As a narrator, Harold is perfectly naive and completely lovable, providing a great contrast to Chester the cat, who is sophisticated and intelligent—perhaps a little too intelligent. What's wonderful about the books is that Harold is gullible because he's dumb and Chester is gullible because he's smart.

In Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery, the world's greatest vampire bunny is introduced to the world. The entire plot consists of Harold and Chester investigating Bunnicula, but Bunnicula is, for some reason, the only animal in any of these books that never talks (maybe only dogs and cats talk). I was rather surprised and impressed by how incredibly good this book is, largely because of the way Harold's narration is written. It's lively and fun, and everything is taken so seriously by the characters that it's incredibly funny to us, and it all just works.

Howliday Inn hardly features Bunnicula at all, instead focusing on Harold and Chester's stay at Chateau Bow Wow, where Chester has moved on from vampires to...werewolves! But then they have to investigate a murder. The longest book of the first three, it has a more complex plot and a large cast of characters, all distinct.

The Celery Stalks at Midnight is the weakest of the three, perhaps because of the introduction of Howie, an annoying little dachshund Garber sort of voices like Scrappy Doo. Bunnicula has disappeared, and our pet heroes are afraid he's out engaging in vampire bunny mischief!

These books are very enjoyable and fiendishly clever, and Garber is a great reader. It's like SpyDaddy is reading you a bedtime story!

I listened to The Spiderwick Chronicles, by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, purely because it was read by Mark Hamill, as I knew nothing else about it but that it was a children's fantasy series that had been turned into a movie. Jared, Simon, and Mallory Grace move into an old house after their father leaves them because he's a jerkface or something. And then they discover a Field Guide and find out that fairies are real! And so there are brownies and sprites and goblins and other such denizens of the Faerie realm.

Unfortunately, the series is rather unexceptional. The children do encounter these fairy creatures, but I didn't really find them to be that distinct or interesting, especially after having read depictions of Faerie in Sandman and the Toby Daye books. The whole series is basically like, "Yep, here are some creatures. They exist." A plot emerges concerning the Field Guide and its author, Arthur Spiderwick, and it is a mildly interesting idea, but there isn't a huge sense of narrative momentum. The climax and denouement are rather satisfying, though, for the most part.

The most frustrating aspect of the series is that it shouldn't be a series. Each book is incredibly short, and each one ends on a "cliffhanger" that isn't really a cliffhanger because the next book doesn't jump off from that point at all, so instead each book feels like it just ends randomly in the middle of the book. As a result, the pacing is entirely wonky, and the series would have been much stronger if it had just been one long book.

I was initially disappointed that Mark Hamill wasn't using interesting voices for the main characters, but then he brought his talents to the fore with the various fairy creatures. So even though the books weren't amazing, it was fun to be read them by the Joker.