On Red Rain – And Other Things
Red Rain is a great book until the last thirty pages or so. How a novel could take such a deep plunge is slightly surprising especially coming from the author I’ve read the most. Equipped with great internal dialogue such-as they’re going to kill me now, how could you possibly go wrong? In-fact, I thought Stine was being self-aware of the travesty he was putting us through when it seemed the ending of the book was going to be “the fire that consumed her went out with an almost-silent huuuuuush,” telling us essentially, “Hush, hush, it’s all-right, it’s all over now.” But then one of the worst endings I can recall takes place with meaningless banter and then showing Axl frying two beetles, revealing he has Samuel’s power. That he had because he was more-or-less a zombie. So… did they kill Axl and resurrect him to have demonic powers? Is there going to be a sequel? If not, why have such a horribly canned ending for a horror novel?
The cheap, “And he opened the door!” stuff is great; cheesy, but it comes with the territory. Ending a one-hundred and twenty page children’s novel that way when it’s one of seventy or so in a series is acceptable, but you think he would try to give his adult audience something well – more developed.
After I read Red Rain, I read one of the Goosebumps books I remember more distinctly to see a difference in writing and execution. There was that wonderful false-scare chapter ending almost at the very beginning of the book – oh, I read Cuckoo Clock of Doom, I guess you should know that – and this particular book was written in the first person, though I recall more-than half of them being written in the third-person. This is crucial information I assure you – trust me. It’s clear that the book is written for a younger audience, but I didn’t sense any large distinction in depth between the two. I suppose that’s what separates adult novels from great literature. Adult novels are just the same plots you find in children stories only add fucking to the romance plots – unless it’s purely pleasure fucking, then I suppose you could swap that with a horny Woody Allen child whose kissing girls on the cheek – and sprinkle the dialogue with vulgarity.
I remember this book being a rather thought-provoking beginning to philosophical thought for my prepubescent self. To capsulate the basic plot: Michael’s sister is a little shit. Their parents always blame him for what she does or the outcome of it. He turns around the bird in a magical cuckoo clock to get his sister in trouble. Day-to-day – or rather overnight – time travel ensues that only he is conscious of. But what causes him to be aware of it when everyone else is naturally responding to stimuli according to fate? The “time travel” (if it even technically is such because his mind is the only thing going backwards in time) is caused magically, so I suppose you could just argue, “he caused it, so the magical spell only works on him.” Fair enough, but it certainly is an interesting question to answer and is one of the reasons why stories involving magical causes or explanations usually feel lacking to me. It becomes an easy excuse for being inconsistent or ambiguous in the mechanics of your story. Though I wouldn’t make either claim for this particular one.
The very notion of a pre-teen’s brain experiencing the sensations of the exterior world via a third-grader’s body is certainly an interesting concept for an elementary school reader to process, but it’s probably more to think about than most of the stuff adults today are reading assuming they even are. Even if he had the consciousness of his twelve year old self wouldn’t he have the cognitive limitations of an eight year old just like he would have the physical limitations of one? Could he then have the consciousness of his twelve year old self if he was limited intellectually and otherwise to the mind of an eight year old? These are Phenomogical questions I doubt even Heidegger addresses.
If his mind is the only thing “traveling” backwards in time, then what would happen when he goes past the point of his birth? Once again the consciousness of a twelve year old couldn’t exist in an infant based on our understanding of how consciousness functions and develops scientifically, but this seems to be a more “Sartrean” or Phenomenological account of consciousness. Would his mind simply discontinue traversing backwards in time ending the experience while another Michael would continue experiencing things and living as he otherwise would? Or would we finally have a key example of a philosophical zombie? That which appears in every way to be a sentient entity – or at-least as sentient as twelve year old with a roughly average intellect is – but in reality is not though can never be objectively verified all-the-while his mind has been jettisoned from his body, or rather his body still theoretically going forward in time, travelling backwards in time towards oblivion. Or is the period of time following the moment he fell asleep the night he flipped the Cuckoo bird essentially “destroyed” or never going to occur because existence itself really is going backwards and only he is the one who is aware of it? So if such were the case, with his mind being destroyed would reality continuing going backwards in time until the beginning of the Big Bang and theoretically before it? Or would time continue going forward again day-to-day until Michael once again flipped-around the Cuckoo bird starting the process again ad infinitum? Nietzsche would definitely understand this concept, though he might feel somewhat shamed that a children’s author found a potential plot-device for his Eternal Reoccurrence much better than he could – a Demon, really? Wow really clever there Nietzsche, having the same ingenuity – or lack thereof – in analogy that Descartes, a philosopher you rail against, had. You call John Stuart Mill an idiot but he never reverted to simplistic religious analogies to make his points. But of course Nietzsche only meant it as a theoretical concept to express his Existentialist version of Kant’s Categorical Imperative.
How could he begin to “prove” or give evidence that he is truly going backwards in time? He tells his parents but they expectedly disbelieve him. This is a fascinating idea. He knows the future, but since those who he is trying to convince haven’t experienced it – obviously – and every day spent begins a day further into the past he cannot go to the happenstance in question and show to others that he knew it would happen. But he can do it day-by-day until he goes back to the third grade. So he has three days to explain or rather show to his father (or possibly mother though she isn’t the one who bought the clock and likely wouldn’t know where to purchase it) that he’ll be able to predict what others will say and do if no other variables are altered. Though all the crucial scenes of the furthest back two days (the underwear embarrassment day and the beaten bloody day) don’t involve the parents at-all. Somehow Michael telling his Dad, “Hey, I’m going to be beaten up today because of my sister,” or, “Yo Pops, I’m going to be embarrassed in-front of the girl I have the hots for because of your daughter,” doesn’t seem like convincing arguments for time travel or clairvoyance. Except if my son said either of these things I may half-believe him only because what reason besides pulling a rather odd prank of foolery would he have for actually executing these things? Or rather why would he know of these things and clearly have no incentive or desire to have them happen? But considering his parents are morons who believe everything the sister character says and immediately distrust the son as if he were a multiple felon how could he convince them of this even if he does predict his sister’s nefarious actions? They’ll simply deny it. I find it hard to believe they would believe him unless they could scold him for touching a clock they don’t have and didn’t know they would.
But why did the sister trip him differently on his birthday? Nothing else was different; he stupidly went along with everything else, even showing the other boys his newly marked bike – that he allowed his sister to scratch again, though I suppose you could say he allowed it because any attempt to explicitly prevent his sister would result in a scolding from his parents for not “being nice” or sharing; though of course he could simply, I don’t know, sit on the bike he just was given so his sister couldn’t. But I suppose conceiving this only proves I’m brighter than a twelve year old; and RL Stine if he didn’t think of this – even though he knew that his sister was tearing the wrappings on his presents as a result of him not being there. I don’t recall him being told by Doc Brown that he can’t interfere with the time-space continuum thus risking a creation of a paradox and destruction of the universe (or merely the destruction of our local galaxy – it doesn’t make any sense, but it’s still a humorous line). So why does this kid act so goddamn stupid? Not only with this, but in taking so long in trying to find the cuckoo clock, waiting until Day Five when he is in the second grade to play hooky and try to find it in an attempt to reverse his own personal (once again though, is it only affecting his mind?) time-reversal. When essentially anyone by the second day would think, “What if this keeps on happening? Oh shit. Better find that fucking clock.” Though Tara is a candidate for the Cunt of the Year Award – a special event, tonight only, commercial free due-to our friend McDonald’s: I’m lovin’ it – she is right about one thing: Michael is without a doubt dumb. “But I couldn’t stand to admit that I’d ever been so stupid.” I think that sentence speaks for itself. Make your own joke if you wish.
Another thing to consider is if this is in another time stream or in the same one he’s always existed in only now altered. There really is no way of knowing which would be the case. Also if he was successful in breaking the window – I honestly like that Stine has the main character attempt to do this – it’s unlikely that what he perceives to be the present would instantaneously manifest itself. He would need to flip the cuckoo back in its proper position and could be caught by the police (or rather an adult who would restrain him and call the police) who would send him back to the custody of his parents. We would then assume time would go forward in intervals hopefully speedily – though theoretically he would need to experience every day after the one in question again – until he returns to what he conceives as “modern day” then return to a steady rate of day-to-day as we experience our lives. So he could feasibly have a police record at the age of seven thus altering his entire future and the state of the “modern day” he would return to. Maybe Tara wouldn’t be such a bitch and Mona would flash him a seductive look-or-two (Did I really just write about a twelve year old girl giving “come hither” looks? Insert Deandra’s sing-song explanation of never wanting to fuck any children though she just sang a song about molesting a boy here.) if he was a hardened preteen with a history of vandalism under his Power Ranger belt.
And of course when he narrates that his arm is “The arm felt fine. Perfectly normal. Completely healed,” it’s rather that he never experienced his arm breaking because he was assumingly knocked-out when he hit the ground. But whether or not his arm actually was broken at-all is what would be worthy of discussion. If time is rewinding with him, then theoretically he could be creating a future for himself where he never did climb the tree and thus never broke his arm. Or it could be that he’s breaking his arm in that moment “for all time” or perhaps is only a moment away from breaking his arm with the theory that he is creating a time loop where time is eternally going forwards-and-backwards beginning with the destruction of his consciousness and ending with the moment he falls asleep after he flipped the bird. Or it could be that he himself never breaks his arm because after his mind goes past the point of birth he becomes a “Philosophy Zombie” so he as a truly sentient entity never breaks his arm, only he as an entity that acts in a way indistinguishable from a four year old that is easily swayed by his female peers does.
It’s a brilliant coincidence that a duck is what is on Michael’s blanket. Because of course the duck-rabbit is the Wittgensteinian example of a thing which could be either of two (or more) things because it’s merely something to be interpreted by our minds. Time travel particularly of this example is a perfect expression of this sentiment. Is his mind going backwards in time or is all of existence? If he fails to return the cuckoo to its original position will he fade out of existence or will time simply either continue going backwards or return going forwards until he reverses the cuckoo “once more” or rather for the first and only time? Because we are temporal beings it is almost impossible to say which is the case “objectively.” Nietzsche’s Perspectivism is clearly of significance here. Could any possibility or perception be proven in a way that would disprove the other and what would be the distinction if it were one over the other? We could give rationalistic answers to the consequences of one version over the other, but since we know essentially nothing about time travel and its actual theoretical functioning we must confess that realistically we know nothing of the consequential logistics of any method of his time travel. Especially considering the close-to impossibility of his consciousness being retained throughout the events being described making a “realistic account” of these events essentially impossible.
Though he retains the consciousness of a twelve year old, as he grows younger (grows younger?) he adopts the “instincts” and impulses of his biological rather than “phenomenological” age. He is capable of tying his shoe strings when he is five – his Dad mouths “finally” but isn’t five the proper age if not slightly early for expecting shoe-tying? – though this gives us no new information since we already knew he had the knowledge and consciousness he had when he was twelve. Though skills like shoe-tying at-least in-part are located in a different part of the brain, so it shows that he perhaps retains the motor skills and brain development of a twelve year old as well-as the consciousness and memories. But then when he is younger he is impelled to cry when he is four and Mona is rude to him and is unable to speak in coherent sentences when he is one. So this would be evidence for him not having the brain of a twelve year old though he would somehow retain the mind of one. And considering a five year old still is developing his motor skills, but is at-least somewhat likely to have those required to tie their shoes, it could very-well be his five year old motor skills were sufficient to allow his twelve year old mind to tie the shoe at-ease. As a side-note I’d like to add I find it humorous that the Dad thought his son was slow when he isn’t exactly the brightest bulb either. But then again, since he is talking about his genetic lineage, the fact that the father is slow would be evidence to the fact his son is as-well. So though his description may be accurate – which certainly seems the case considering how long it took him to try to save himself – he certainly isn’t one to judge.
Does the shopkeeper attempting to prevent Michael from spinning the cuckoo around affect him as an ethical being at-all? What of the notion of us stepping on microscopic civilizations without our knowing or understanding? Humans base their understanding of ethics rightly upon cause-and-effect and we believe we can gain a grasp or understanding of ethics by understanding the causal relations of our natural world and the social orders we construct. But what if there are always going to be things beyond human comprehension – a likely possibility. Does our ignorance of alien life prevent us from culpability when we colonize the Galaxy and wipe said life out? Ultimately we need to conclude yes as long-as it’s not used as an intellectual or psychological rationalization for remaining in the veil of ignorance. For if ethics is to be functional, it must be based on our understanding of how things function. Otherwise we could never leave our homes because we would speculate that doing so would create or alter an alternate universe were an evil version of Charlie Chaplin became “effectively” Adolf Hitler and extinguished humanity. If we don’t know anything about alternate universes and its relation to our own we have to confess it’s possible, as is this fictional scenario where a shopkeeper preventing a baby from playing with a clock is effectively murdering the mind of a twelve year old (and that’s what we have the public school system for! Zing!) considering our ignorance of time travel. Now obviously these things are incredibly unlikely to the degree of being effectively impossible (just as Hume said we should not relay on inductive logic, but effectively not only could but must rely on the sun raising every morn for we have seen it countless times before) and we should rely on our understanding of empirical studies and causality in-relation to the field of ethics.
However, once knowledge is presented after a given otherwise immoral event, actions must be taken to correct what was done in ignorance. For example, the Europeans (though most weren’t exactly concerned with the plight of the Indian) caused many Native Americans to become severely ill and die from having immune systems ignorant of the bacterium the Europeans brought with them. Though there actions regarding the red-toned people are of course abhorrent and without excuse, this is not something to fault them for. What is however is them not studying and in the mean-time quarantining themselves from the Native American population to prevent further risk of exposure. In this case, a treaty of hunting and farming space should have been negotiated between the various tribes and colonies, keeping in mind that the Indians have “first grabs” or primary concern for space in-effect for they have been there for centuries while the Europeans chose to colonize. However, if the Native Americans were right, and the Earth is a communal supplier of resources and space owned in common fraternity and use, then the Native Americans would have no right to deny the Europeans access to an adequate amount of land and resources as long as they had no knowledge that they were using said goods for immoral purposes and ends. Denying the European gunpowder to kill his fellows with would be a good cause to refuse trade or graciousness for example. This is quite different than the Government forbidding drug use however. In one example you have the Native Americans in-effect on or surrounding a resource that can be used for destructive means (the destruction of others) while the Government forbidding the use of marijuana or cocaine is to forbid personal freedom. If the Government owned pot plants or cocoa reserves and wanted to prevent the sale of it to those they have reason to believe would use the drug in unethical conduct, then this would fit the analogy properly or at-least far-more closely.
After he discovers that his sister is gone he promises that he will “maybe” get her back. But how would he even go about doing this, and how exactly was she erased from existence in the first place? The novel explains it as a year missing on the clock, leaving us to assume that a year in time simply failed to transpire so as did the event of the child’s birth which occurred that year. But does that mean that all of the events of an entire year are wiped from existence? And why is it that people aren’t cognizant of the fact that (if memory serves) 1992 was immediately followed by ’94? Wouldn’t this be, or rather create, a worldwide crises? Also wouldn’t he be a year younger (as would everyone else who exists) than he would be otherwise with a year missing in the time-stream? And if he is still celebrating his twelfth birthday party, why does that year continue to manifest consequences (like an eleventh birthday party leading to a twelfth) but not the supposedly inevitable or naturally occurring event of his sister’s birth? Or does everyone know a year has been ripped from their lives and simply choose to not consciously show awareness because of the unwillingness to confront the existential and intellectual quandaries that confront them and the moments and possibilities they theoretically have lost? But that’s another thing, and if our understanding of causality has any hold on time travel and alteration the most-likely of scenarios: that said year has been ripped out of the Universe, and no one knows that the year is gone as long-as the “editing” is seamless. Could it be that 1994 became the new 1993 because no one knew that year was deleted from the time-stream?
In the beginning of the book he talks about “what he did” and why it was necessary or justified to do whatever he’s referring to. He never explicitly claims or it never becomes blatantly obvious what he’s referring to. But are we to assume that he’s in-effect stating that he with moments to spare in saving his own existence decides to erase his sister’s? Ballsy move, a little too risky for my tastes, but I have to give him credit for risking it all to remove the little brat. But does that also mean – as of course it would necessarily – that he’s telling us the story after-the-fact as Alex is in A Clockwork Orange and he’s already aware of all that is determined to transpire? The distinction in first-person present-tense and past-tense seems at-times ambiguous, unless it’s made explicit in the story. Alex makes far-more meta-references than Coo Coo Clock of Doom such-as his needing to be alive though he thought he would surely die because he needs to be alive to tell the story he’s telling us (insert Kick Ass telling us to stop being “smart asses” and that there is plenty of movies where narration takes place after the characters death: Sin City, American Beauty, that Blvd. movie I saw but can’t remember the name of – Hollywood Blvd? – that’s referenced in numerous television shows and movies that 95% of the audience are ignorant of. Also there’s an episode of the Twilight Zone that seems to have token a large chunk of the movie’s plot as material if memory serves. But then again does every movie about an aged movie star living in the memory of her career which is a dead medium a rip-off of that movie? Is J’onn J’onnz a rip-off of Superman because they’re both alien immigrants whose species is more-or-less extinct asides from themselves? Is every story about teenage angst and the troubles of rich kids living in the 50’s who have a sibling die in the family a rip-off of Catcher in the Rye? I’m making it very specific for comedic effect but you get my point.) but does that distinguish past-tense from present? Theoretically one could have the ability of clairvoyance to the degree that the future feels like the present to him, so he’s narrating his present days as a past-tense account. Ooh, Sci-fi idea, I call dibs. Law of Dibs trumps copyright law by the way.
The statement that no one ever dies in his children stories needs to be reconsidered in-regard to this story. Technically it holds as long as being “unbirthed” out of existence (and technically he still likely exists in the time stream – though his sister does only to the extent he remembers her, and does this mean she still exists in some alternate reality? – only his particular consciousness is being reversed past his birth, and since it’s just almost as impossible for the consciousness of a twelve year old to exist in an infant as it would be to exist without a body you might as-well have it exist past the point of his existence in-respect to some Eastern notions of the “Soul”) doesn’t qualify as death. Which I feel it’s safe to say it doesn’t. Death is the end of an organism’s functioning i.e. life. Unbirth would be to either undo or reverse the birth of an individual. Technically if he still exists he’s merely a fetus in the womb, dependent on the mother but still a functioning organism at-least to some extent. And if not it would not be “death” because the life processes do not cease as much as they are removed from ever happening. Just as choosing not to have a child isn’t “killing” the child that would have existed if you were successful in an attempt to have one. That of course isn’t “unbirth” either, unless you had a child but then somehow could reverse time to give a temporal abortion. The ethics and ramifications behind this seem like an incredibly fascinating concept and ripe material for a science-fiction novel or movie and is something that deserves refection.
Is erasing the existence of a bad person – in this case a bad child which also deserves to be considered – justified if it makes the world a better place? No Utilitarian argues we should kill someone simply for the common good of having one more prick no-longer with us, but perhaps they would (and overall I feel I would as well) argue that if we could theoretically remove someone seamlessly from existence and reap the benefits of his lack of presence we should do so. Remove the temporal fact that this person already exists from your mind. If you were either expecting to have a child or told you were to have one when you did not expect or want it (but for the sake of this philosophical conundrum whether or not you desire to raise a child should be removed from one’s judgment) and told that this child would commit no grand crime of injustice, but existence as a whole would decrease for his being in the world, would you choose to not have said child be born, raised and grow into the terrible person he becomes? And further: would it make a difference to you if the world suffers due-to his poor character or lack of intellect, or because of mere happenstance that has nothing to do with poor qualities on his part rather than misfortune transferred unto the species and other life? That is, say your theoretical child would through no fault of his own create, or initiate a chain of events that would create a disastrous oil spill that would harm and kill Man and animal? Rather it be through his apathy and him being a Capitalist who profits from poor energy regulation in America. Though it would make a difference to me in my conviction and attitude behind the decision, I must confess that my decision would remain the same. And would you make this decision not only for your own theoretical child but for any currently non-existent person? If you would not, what stops you from making the decision for a nonexistent person if you were a person who decided to erase the existence of your theoretical child? Do you claim that a child is a parent’s property? And if you are someone similar to me who was willing to do it to their theoretical child, why would you not do-so just because this person happens to exist? You’re doing the same thing – not murder, this must be made clear – by removing a person from ever existing in our Universe. Only in one scenario the person would come into existence without your say otherwise, and in the other the person already exists but wouldn’t in a complete and utter way that would improve the net utility and happiness of the world.
The reasonable exception that I feel a follower of John Rawls brings up is what if this person whether or not they currently exist may make the world as a whole a worse place, but they performed one act of kindness, courage or intellect that drastically altered the fate of even one soul. The person who accidentally (or not – if he bombed an oil refinery would it alter your decision even if the effect was identical?) caused an oil spill (and yes I know an explosion in an oil refinery and an oil spill are two radically different things, make-up your own hypotheticals if you don’t like mine you lazy bastards. Cause all I hear is criticize, criticize, criticize!) which kills much marine life and perhaps several human casualties also through an act of bravery saves a young child’s life. This scenario seems to weigh in-favor of erasing his existence as-well, at-least in my estimation but you can see how the framework for a un or anti-Utilitarian argument has begun. What if an incredibly unpleasant and hostile person (a vitriolic Christian Conservative who is hateful and constantly ranting about gays and foreigners for example) saved the life of several when he causes no death only unhappiness to potentially thousands? Is the fate and character of those he saves significant? That is, if he saved the future inventor of a machine that can conjure limitless energy, rather than several children that would live completely ordinary and unexceptional lives, would this alter your decision? But in a situation where one is saving the life of a complete stranger (assuming he doesn’t know the people he’s sparing from death) how could one possibly know whether one would become the first Socialist President or a meth addict? Doesn’t this man remain in the realm of ignorance effectively and can we decide whether or not he should be alive to save a life depending on the character and destiny of that life? My instincts have me responding “yes” but we too remain in the veil of ignorance of knowing all the relevant details and of course we are ignorant of the theoretical technology that would allow us to experiment with these ethical hypotheticals perhaps this is for the best.
Another aspect of the novel that is worth commending is its brilliance in portrayal of stupidity of average life and monotony of existence. Similar to the genius of Groundhog Day (though nowhere near to the extent of the masterpiece by the dearly deceased Harold Ramis – you may now activate your proton pacts in salute). The children may seem bland and dull to him because he’s a twelve year old in a young grade-schooler’s body, but for me it portrayed that most people are by nature these uninteresting children going through the motions of life, stuck in the fabric of their day-to-day existences, when in a way Michael is a interesting representation (and a far-better one I might add) of Albert Camus’ Sisyphus. True, Michael isn’t happy doing the exact same thing that would make him miserable (nor should he be) but he is existentially aware of himself (in analogy, but he actually is more self-aware than the other children by being more developed and intelligent) in a way his fellows aren’t and is seeing the world in a sentient and self-conscious manner outside the realm of day-to-day thought and routine. Though he isn’t free from his body in some form of astral projection, he is outside looking-in in the sense of a conscious being looking at the fabric of time and his own unique existence in its nature and self-defined purpose. Michael’s self-defined purpose is one that most would consider (maybe not Schopenhauer, but he has a goofy hairdo so fuck him) rational: to exist. So he breaks free from the routine and chronology of his “former self” and becomes “radically free” as Sartre might put it to attempt to save himself. Though I would of course argue that though his consciousness is “artificially” inserted in an eight-year-olds body he still is privy to the laws of cause-and-effect and has a consciousness that isn’t “radically free” the way Sartre would have us believe. Though the mechanics allowing a preteen’s mind to exist in a one-year old would be something to be studied.
Returning to Red Rain (Yeah, this essay was, or is I’ll tell you what’s the right opinion later perhaps, supposed to be about that novel isn’t it? Well the title does read, ‘On Red Rain – And Other Things,’ if you didn’t read that as me telling you I’m going far into left-field with this one, that’s your… well I would say loss but you’re still reading my writing so how could you possibly be at a loss?) I found the concept of going back in-time four years and then further and further backwards in-time, having no way of proving it far-more frightening than demonic twins with glowing eyes. How the mind control was later orchestrated with blue paint when before it required Samuel’s searing red-hot demon eyes is simply idiotic and I never felt connected to any of the characters asides from perhaps Mark to a minor extent. What makes this novel different from Children of the Corn other than the twin’s superpowers?
I remember a lot of the set-ups in the Goosebumps books being far-more frightening in its potential than this book and I don’t think it’s merely because I read those books when I was an adolescent. Just as in Breaking Bad I cared far-more about Walter White’s story when he was simply trying to sell Meth and keep his activities secret from his wife then when in the later season’s they had far-more “action-packed” events that didn’t get as much of a reaction from me. Instead of every single unfortunate or disturbing thing in the novel be about death – the brainwashing of Ira was one of the few unsettling parts of the book if not the only one – it should have had stakes that would impact the protagonist. Death just is rarely frightening to me unless I feel like I’m moments away from it. Then of course my evolutionary impulse to survive kicks-in, adrenaline starts flowing, yadda yadda, but Slashers involving mutilating teenage girls doesn’t do it for me as I think is the case for most people; just as most would agree with me that Season Two of Breaking Bad was the best asides from the Final Season – or half-season depending on how you look at it. The Goosebumps books were great because it RL Stine couldn’t kill off his kiddies so instead he had to find more creative things for children to be afraid of. Whether it was playing piano for eternity or finding out you’re a vampire Goosebumps had an Epicurean nature in realizing that Death is not to be feared. It merely is the end of our lives. When we are, it is not; when it is, we are not.
The characters in Red Rain are even more stupid than Michael in Coo Coo Clock of Doom. How Mark doesn’t figure out that his two little evil shits for adopted children are behind at the very least the murder in the driveway if not all other murders and going-ons in the story is unbelievable and frankly poor writing. When the character – and by extension you considering we are meant to identify with the protagonist at-least to some degree and certainly in these types of stories – have to be a moron to not piece together what is going on it stultifies all character development and removes all interest in the plot. Yes I know we have knowledge of scenes all-other characters don’t being the “Gods” watching the story and having a full or nearly full perspective of the story – but it’s still obvious. And to the line that no one would ever expect a pair of children to murder anyone I quote Sherlock Holmes (or his creator depending on your perspective): Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the case. Now yes, technically it’s possible someone else could have ran-up the drive way, stolen Mark’s blow torch (that’s another thing, Samuel has flaming eyes but he used Mark’s blow torch to frame him? I suppose that’s clear but it just seemed an odd coincidence that we of course all assume such is the case and then, surprise! It’s revealed he has heat-vision) killed the guy and ran away, or that Mark could’ve done without his knowing – at-least it wasn’t that tired-old plot – but considering the twins were last in the yard with the first victim the rest should be rather easy to piece together, especially with, I don’t know, fingerprints (!) telling us all that the little bastards did it and contradicting the story that the twins were in the guest house at the time. Maybe I didn’t use that Sherlock quote appropriately, but considering it’s impossible for anyone to be so stupid as to not highly suspect the twins what must remain is this is a poorly written horror novel. And that does seem unlikely considering how much I loved reading Goosebumps growing up especially as I grew older the Choose Your Own Scare paperbacks.
However: however unintentional it may be there is a brilliant analogy throughout the novel that needs to be stated. The twins brainwashing Ira and later others shows the Machiavellian nature of Capitalism with the twins wanting the children to paint arrows on their cheeks representing their desire to “go up” while painting the arrows on their cheeks actually makes them the twins’ slaves. Creating un-egalitarian mindsets of social status and wanting to climb the rungs of a social latter that wants you to take pride in arbitrary things like Nationality similar to the Principal making it a sign of School Pride after she’s been manipulated. Ira seems like he is more free when he isn’t concerned about what his father tells him or expects from him, but in actuality removing these constructive boundaries and guides from his life and adopting the mentality of “anything goes” Right-wing Libertarianism actually decreases his freedom and threatens his life; just as unregulated Capitalism creates millions of death a year and decreases the standards of living throughout the world. His father is analogous to Socialism in the sense that his Father gives him the ability to pursue his goals and grow as a person while creating the boundaries (like making sure he doesn’t pick on other children, or any children don’t abuse or harass him) for the best-likelihood of the greatest development.
The novel brilliantly shows the true force of Machiavellianism in the Twenty-first century. Of course modern politicians are corrupt and in-part that corruption is corporate based, but the main essence of nefarious and dishonest appearance and the main root cause in other forms of insincerity in our world is in-effect Business-interests or the ideals of Libertarianism. The Free Market Libertarians contend that we would all be free if we merely have Negative and not Positive Liberties, but what some are too stupid to know and others too cunning and wicked to tell us is that when we relinquish the material conditions to better our lot in life in a fundamental way, we our in-effect relinquishing ourselves; both who we could ideally be and the very essence of who we are which erodes and is twisted when society is contorted by corporate interests. The State may be corrupt but it’s the ignorance perpetuated largely by economic interests that prevents many from seeing all forms of corruption and injustice perpetuating ignorance or even worse malice upon society’s victims. And we can’t wish away the existence of those guilty or go back in-time. We have to act on our convictions rather than diddling ourselves and being a helpless ignoramus in a cheap horror novel. Otherwise the price we pay will be unimaginable for the imagination of many will be stifled by things far-worse than bad fiction – the evils of reality and our apathy towards them.