Front Taglines: Talk about a tight squeeze! / Please don't squeeze the human!
Invasion of the Body Squeezers is a vast, all-encompassing epic that shatters all preconceived notions of what RL Stine is capable of achieving. A story so massive that it took two books to contain! With a scope so immense that no single Goosebumps book could hold it! The Cinemascope of children's novels, this 248 page event unfurls at such a furious pace that novice readers will need to go back and read certain passages two, three, seven times to fully grasp all that is revealed. Truly this is a book that encourages that academic habit of writing in the margins. Here's one of my scribbled comments:
Oh, so nothing happens, and slowly
Yes, Invasion of the Body Squeezers is an epic, but only in the same sense that Epic Movie is an epic. Here is the entire saga, reader indeed bewarned.
Invasion of the Body Squeezers Part One is so unnecessary that it's hard to imagine why it was released at all-- this is basically a prologue that goes on longer than the story proper. Padded beyond reason, RL Stine has poured so much water into this liquor bottle that no one's parents are going to be fooled. Protagonist Jack Archer at various points invokes every Goosebumps cliche there is, including scientists, werewolves, vampires, monsters, ghosts, adults with fantasy careers, breaking into someone's house, bratty siblings, parents who won't listen, bullies-- and, if we accept that the aliens are technically moving to a new town, the book is practically the series' own Wiki.
And what is all this at the service of? Well, allow me to sum up The 120 Pages of Boredom in three paragraphs:
NASA is completely baffled at the mysterious objects hurtling towards Earth. But Jack Archer knows they're really aliens. Of course, he's been down this road before, as his nickname is Saucerman-- and not because he takes his tea like a gentleman. No, his outlandish claims about UFOs and other wolf-cries have long fallen on deaf ears. So it's his bad luck that his neighbor (with the unlikely name of Mr. Fleshman) is actually harboring several horrible monsters inside his house. Jack knows this because he's been spying on him with his binoculars. Finally, Jack musters up the energy to break into Mr. Fleshman's house several times, encountering monsters every time. On his last visit to Fleshman's house to gather incriminating evidence, Grace Kelly Jack discovers that Mr. Fleshman is actually a world-class special effects guru and all the monsters within the house are really just elaborate robotic creatures. As ridiculous as this sounds, it's actually really obvious from almost the beginning of the book. But did RL Stine really devote 1/4 of his DeMille Moment to a head-fake? Though, granted, it wouldn't be that unusual if he had, the answer is no.
As the mysterious objects in the sky hover closer to Earth, Jack deals with the consequences of accidentally stealing Mr. Fleshman's beeper. Instead of alerting Jack that his table at Outback is finally available, the vibrating beeper transmits strange metallic voices into his mind. These voices command him to get ready for the incoming alien fleet. Jack also finds himself automatically agreeing to any external command with a robotic answer of "I will obey." If PetsMart could get their hands on this technology, I bet they'd sit on it like Ford sits on the electric car. Jack finally gives the beeper back to Mr. Fleshman, hoping to rid himself of the voices. But Mr. Fleshman nonchalantly accepts it back as if it really were just his beeper, and Jack wonders if he's going insane. But before he can start chopping down hotel doors with an axe, Jack witnesses firsthand the most improbable meteor shower ever described.
After exiting Mr. Fleshman's house, a torrent of fiery meteors rain down on the streets of his neighborhood. Rather than everyone dying in fiery craters, nothing happens. Oh good, I was afraid something was going to happen, but no, nothing happens. Instead, a small smooth stone rests in front of every house. Jack takes one of the meteors in preparation for a possible game of wall ball with the coming aliens. But alas, the voices are still coming to him, this time from within the meteor. He overhears Mr. Fleshman tell a general on the phone that he's ready for the coming invasion and Jack realizes he's been tricked and the Hollywood story was just a cover. He races back to his house to retrieve the meteor to show Mr. Fleshman, who he assumes is working with the government to thwart the incoming aliens. But he's too late, as an alien emerges from his meteor.
That's it. That's the entire first book, minus Jack's interminable bickering with his little sister Billie and some imbecilic side plots that add nothing and go nowhere ("Oh no, someone threw a ball out a window! Let's talk about it for ten pages"). And no, I don't understand what that cover has to do with the book it adorns either.
The book opens with a four page recap of the events of the first book. Unsurprisingly, even the "Previously on" segment feels too long. Eventually RL Stine brings the reader back to the alien that has emerged from the meteor in Jack's room. The insect-like creature is quickly shown to not be benevolent and attempts to attack Jack. Luckily he dodges it and is about to escape his house when suddenly his school's science teacher shows up inside his house. Yes, that's right. In the first part, some kids played with Jack's meteor and so Jack ran away from the school in a huff. Well, Mr. Liss, Jack's science teacher, was so worried about how sad Jack must have been to throw such a tantrum over a ball that he too left the school and ran all the way to Jack's house. Because teachers often abandon an entire classroom of students in order to run after a crybaby, going so far as to follow them home and enter their house unannounced. Well, in Florida maybe.
Mr. Liss doesn't believe Jack's story until one of the alien shows up in the kitchen. Mr. Liss, being a man of science, believes that the alien wants a hug. Mr. Liss rushes over to the slimy alien and embraces him. Unfortunately, the alien likes it rough and squeezes Mr. Liss so tight that the creature actually slips inside the teacher, controlling him from within. The only outward signs that there's an alien inside the teacher is a clicking voice impediment and the periodic green bubblegum bubbles that inflate out of his ears. What.
Before Mr. Liss can hug the boy, Jack's mother comes home. She doesn't really question why there's a strange man in her kitchen though. Mr. Liss introduces himself and tries to hug her, but Jack pulls her away. Mr. Liss leaves without infecting his mother, though he does see him hugging a mailman on his way out the driveway. Naturally Jack's mother doesn't believe him, so he decides to turn to Mr. Fleshman. He sneaks into his house for like the eighth time-- I don't know why Mr. Fleshman doesn't just make him a set of keys-- and confronts the secret agent. The man admits to being part of the Alien Detection Bureau and asks Jack to keep a list of everyone he knows is being infected by the aliens for later use. Because that worked out so well for HUAC.
Jack swears off ever going to school again, as he doesn't want to run into Mr. Liss, but some of his friends come over to convince him to show up the next day for swim team practice. Then, in the book's only exciting action sequence, his friends have a pillow fight.
At school the next day, Jack very passively battles the alien invasion by running to the principal to avoid Mr. Liss. But the principal's interest is compounded by the fact that she has been infected by aliens also. She tries to hug him but he wants his personal space respected. He hightails it out of the office and runs through the school, only to wind up in an auditorium during a police presentation to the student body. Jack gets the bright idea of running up on the stage and announcing the whole alien invasion. Somehow neither the student body nor the police department get behind his logical alien hugging speech and so they openly ridicule Jack.
The principal drags Jack offstage and completely disregards her own PDA rules by trying to hug him yet again. Jack wiggles free and runs backstage, hiding in an old costume trunk. Other than being interrupted by Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, he remains safely undetected inside the chest until the assembly ends. After the applause dies down, Jack rushes to tattle to the cops, but spies the principal embracing them. Uh, NWA weren't saying "Hug tha Police."
Jack knows he's running out of time, so naturally he needs to try out for the swim team first. His friends Henry and Derek show up and drag him to the school's pool, where his coach is impatiently waiting. The coach decides to make up for the lost time by having five boys at a time race. Strangely, Henry and Derek won't go in the pool and disappear while Jack swims his laps. Hmm, M Night, did you rip off this book too?
In the locker room, Henry and Derek confront and try to hug Jack. Shock of all shocks. However, they are interrupted by the non-infected coach and Jack slips out and races home. However, the house is empty and there are puddles of green slime on the floor. Luckily his mom left a note explaining that his little sister had to go to the hospital for a sore throat. The green stuff on the ground is revealed to be lime Jell-o, which Jack confirms by tasting. I guess he follows the 5000-Second Rule for food dropped on the floor.
Two more of Jack's friends, Marsha and Maddy, show up at the front door. Jack isn't sure he can trust them, so he looks out at them from behind the safety afforded by the small thin door chain. The girls beg him to let them in, as they're trying to run away from Henry and Derek, who have been acting weird. Jack decides to let them in and as he opens the door, another questionable meteor shower occurs. Small orange balls crash down like hail all over the neighborhood, smashing into his house and around the driveway. The girls reveal their clicking stutter and get excited, as they had been waiting for the reinforcements. The girls are infected, and not just with cooties.
Jack locks the girls out using the chain and after a few futile hurls they give up. The balls start to hatch and the aliens roam around the neighborhood, though for some reason none of them bother Jack. Jack's dad calls and tells him to grow up and stop talking about aliens. The call comes about the same time as his neighbors begin running out of their houses and begging the cops to help them, only to be placated by a hug. Is this their Crash Moment?
Since none of the aliens bother to check his house, Jack hangs around and makes a sandwich. He thinks about visiting Mr. Fleshman, but he's too afraid to go outside. He does spy him through his window though, calmly watching TV as though nothing were happening. Taking a cue, Jack also watches some TV and unleashes this bon mot:
"Even the weatherman!" I moaned. "Even the weatherman has been possessed by aliens!"
Jack falls asleep and discovers upon waking that his parents had come and gone back to the hospital while he was resting. He tries every station on the dial but all the announcers have the alien's speech impediment. Eventually his mom returns and of course she don't believe his story about the aliens. Billie, his constantly fibbibing little sister, merely replies that she saw a blue alien and her alien was bigger than his. As though that were a competition anyone would want to win. Jack he pretends to go to school but instead ditches and takes a bus to his Dad's work. This kid needs serious lessons on how to play hooky correctly. But, gasp, his dad and the deputy mayor (who is just hanging around in his office I guess) are infected and try to hug Jack.
This book is just too much for me:
"Hug him," the deputy mayor ordered. "Hug him, Frank-- now!"
Jack's dad embraces him and begins the hugging process, but in the struggle the boy knocks over a bottle of water and the infected-creatures back off. Jack still doesn't make the connection and can't figure out how to defeat the aliens. He quickly eevades his dad and runs around downtown LA, dodging a fleet of infected police officers. He takes the bus back home and as soon as he starts to warn his mother and sister, dozens of police officers, led by his father, surround the house. They begin to chant "A hug... a hug...A hug" over and over, which is far too ridiculous to be scary.
Jack finally puts all the pieces together and realizes water will defeat them. He fills up a super soaker and grabs a spare bucket of back-up water, then heads outside. He sprays a stream of water into the crowd, which reacts with anger, then bemusement. Turns out water doesn't affect them at all. Ah, he got us. Henry and Derek explain that they just didn't feel like swimming. The ever-enlarging crowd encircles Jack, as he's the last uninfected person in LA. Finally, Mr. Fleshman emerges from next door and Jack begs for him to save his life. Mr. Fleshman says he'll take care of everything just as soon as Jack accepts the alien. After all, Mr. Fleshman is the alien leader of the pack, vroom vroom vroom!
Mr. Fleshman reveals that while his cover on Earth was as a special effects guru, his best special effect was his human body. He then sheds his skin, revealing his true form: a giant soft pulsating brain. He's the energy source for all the aliens. As soon as they claim Jack, the aliens will then ascend back to their home planet with their new bodies. On the bright side, this would make California's highways drivable for the first time in twenty years.
Jack thinks quick. He takes a running start and dives inside Mr. Fleshman. That's right, the human invades the alien. "Clever." Jack rolls around inside Mr. Fleshman, punching wildly and whatever soft tissue he encounters. The alien finally collapses, freeing everyone of their creatures. The crowd cheers Jack as their savior.
But the Twist is:
Billie congratulates her brother on defeating his aliens, but there's still her blue alien to deal with. A giant alien bursts out of her closet and asks for a hug. OH NO
the Platonic Boy-Girl Relationship:
Jack and his little sister Billie, who disappears halfway through either novel.
Dr. Spock's fifth rule is to always listen to your children re: aliens.
I've seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the Faculty, and the X-Files too.
RL Stine Has Never Been To California Alert:
"Buses don't run that regularly in LA."
Out of Context Text Alert:
I swallowed hard and turned back to Mr. Fleshman.
He was still scowling at me, his silver eyes narrowed, moving the ball from one hand to the other.
Memorable Cliffhanger Chapter Ending:
Jack dies. Dies of embarrassment for thinking he had died! Ugh, these books.
What. Is. Inside the house?!! There...is... NOTHING. WE TRULY DO HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR BUT FEAR ITSELF. GR8 WORDS 2 LIVE BY~
Great Prose Alert:
My head buzzed as if it were filled with a thousand swarming bees.
Out of the meaty, hot alien body.
More like Invasion of "Oh Puh-leeze"-rs, amirite