Night train to Chernobyl.
The cover implies some sort of supernatural thriller or at least a jump-scare fest, but this impression seems at odds with the banal introduction. Instead of a wacky Uncle we get a wacky Aunt, which I imagine is both the beginning and end of the innovation we'll seeing. Anyway, this second-level blood relative will be entertaining my ungrateful self in Idaho over the summer and my dear old mum is packing me on the train to the potato zone. I dodge a goodbye kiss, which is more teenage behavior (Idaho? Yuck, so lame. Everything is boring. Etc.) than what you'd expect from the child avatar typical of these books, but no time to dwell on that minimalist characterization. I take note of a "beautiful blonde lady" with a pet carrier (the radioactive toolbox from the cover, I guess) and a bald, facially scarred Hard Man. I'm guessing they will be important and, sure enough, my first choice is which of these two to sit next to. Alfred Hitchcock this shit ain't.
Murder exchange! Dramatic tennis! Seriously, it's really good.
I decide not to sit next to the character the book describes as "scar face" because I really don't want to see his little friend and hopefully this will be the last I see of a bad guy like that. Then, just after settling in with the more aesthetically pleasing option I promptly drop my lunch, which sounds like slang for the yellow yawn but is actually the bag itself in this case. Miss Pet Carrier commands me not to pick it up, because that's normal behavior, but I don't need to listen to your rules, man.
More messing up promptly follows, as the bag tears open and now I'm reducing to choosing which part of the noon meal to retrieve. Riveting choices, high stakes, pulse-pounding terror, yeah this book is delivering big time. Maybe get those sunflower seeds, before they scatter. Honestly, seeds? You're not a minor league outfielder, kid.
Most of them should get in my gaping maw.
Of course I make a botch of this, too. While groping blindly for the big league cheek-packers I instead pull the pet carrier open. This entire plot line is just a series of blunders. If I wasn't so physically maladroit there would be no story. I'm starting to suspect the "aunt" I was promised doesn't actually exist and instead this train is taking me to a special camp for the chronically uncoordinated. Once there, a combination of endless ridicule, harsh punishments and campfire songs will cure my all thumbs disorder, at least if the brochure my parents told me was "nothing, dear" is to be believed.
I decide to peek into the pet carrier. Honestly, I already opened it, might as well have some desert with my dinner.
As you probably guessed, it's a giant snake and I'm promptly bitten. It then slithers off and I presume now is the time to admit that I've already had it with these monkey-fighting snakes on this money-flying train.
Don't expect a two disc Criterion special edition of this one any time soon.
The lady offers a pill that is "antivenom" and even forces it into my mouth. That was probably a wise decision in light of the physical prowess I've displayed up to this point. The next choice is, and I'm not even joking, whether to spit or swallow. Yeah. This is what we've been reduced to. What else can even be said? What could follow this? Is this pile of garbage going to talk about my little league career and ask if I was the catcher or the pitcher? Good grief.
I swallow. The lifesaving medicine, that is.
The next choice is whether to go to the rear or not. Yes.
It turns out the pill was indeed lifesaving and the woman is now super friendly for some reason. Faced with this sudden and incongruous warmth I volunteer to go track down the loose reptile and this is when it's time to go to the, ahem, rear.
Of the train.
That line is also suggestive.
Can the next paragraph have a "The End" under it? Please?
Anyway, off to the rear. No snake anywhere. Would I like to "get down on the floor." Sure.
The snake "zaps you one more time between the eyes" and I guess this is fatal, even though I just took an antidote pill and it's probably still in my system. Whatever, at least the painful run of innuendos is over. As I die I wonder if I made my bed, because that's a good final thought before the horrific confrontation with eternity and with that we're done.
I did not enjoy this book.
It looks like it just told a joke and is waiting for your reaction.