The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena
© 1995 by Parachute Press. Cover Art by Tim Jacobus.
The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena is interesting in that it failed in different ways than I expected. It had some really fun elements and ideas, but the shoddy execution made for a confusing adventure story. I’ll start with the good; it didn’t waste time with fake scares, it had fun with some of the familiar tropes, and it used the isolation of its setting effectively. It also had some genuinely funny bits; I particularly enjoyed the presentation of the titular Abominable Snowman. That said, every adult character in this book was an idiot, especially Dad. Dad’s job as a photographer makes no sense. For this story to work, he should have been a cryptozoologist, a Bigfoot enthusiast, or something along those lines. Every idea he has in the book is absolutely terrible. Adults in Goosebumps books are rarely the beacons of intelligence and situational awareness, but Jordan and Nicole’s dad is next level. It’s not surprising that he’s divorced. The other bit that really bugged me was how the book established it was Christmas time in Pasadena, meaning winter in the northern hemisphere, and yet the sun never sets in Alaska while our characters are there. That only happens in the summer. It should have been night and brutally cold for the entire time our characters were there. It seems like a detail an editor or someone should have picked up on. Overall, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena held some initial promise, but it was ultimately too half-baked and disjointed to be enjoyable.
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ERMAHGERD #38: The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena.
© 2023 by Daniel Stalter. All rights reserved.
Photo and editing by Dnaiel Stalter. Photo collaboration with Lindsay Pacelli.
Background photo unattributed; CC0 Public Domain License.
Observations & Spoilers
The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena opens with Jordan and Nicole living in Pasadena with their recently-divorced father. Their mother has moved across the country, presumably to get as far away as possible from their idiot father. They look forward to finally seeing snow when they go visit her. That’s because it’s winter in Pasadena, and incredibly hot. The kids are on holiday break and bored. They spend their time hanging out with their friend Lauren and avoiding the Miller Twins, the neighborhood resident bullies. Then their luck changes when their Dad comes home with a new assignment. There have been rumored sightings of an abominable snowman up in Alaska, and some unnamed entity is going to pay him a lot of money to get photos of it. The best news is: the kids get to come with him.
Dad being a wildlife photographer here doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. The whole employment situation seems dubious at best, not to mention him bringing along two kids to one of the most inhospitable climates you can imagine. I think this would have made more sense if the kids were spending time with their weird eccentric father who was an amateur cryptozoologist, or something along those lines. It would have better explained all of his actions for the remainder of the book. So, Dad and the kids fly to Alaska. They get set up with a local guide who seems to hate kids. He’s also utterly terrified of the abominable snowman. This seems like a great set of characteristics to give the guy who’s tasked with guiding an idiot and his two kids in the Alaskan wilderness. I suppose it’s a lucky thing for our protagonists that they live in an alternate version of Earth where the sun never sets during Alaskan winters.
They trek through the snow with Arthur and his dog’s sled. Nicole makes friends with one of the dogs. Dad brought a massive trunk with him filled with his photography equipment. Seems like he’s really prepared for traveling on rugged terrain. They eventually reach the cabin they’ll be staying in. Jordan plays a prank the first night by making fake footprints in the snow. Everyone’s reasonably pissed at him for it. Then they go out on an expedition to find the snowman. They get to a snowdrift that the dogs refuse to proceed further on, then eventually give up and go back. That night, Nicole and Jordan catch Arthur taking his dogsled and fleeing. They attempt to chase after him but lose him in the snow. This strikes me as a spectacularly shitty thing for Arthur to do. I guess it’s something I could see someone doing, it just seemed particularly cruel. It could have been redeemable if he tried to take the kids with him and save them from their idiot father, but that wasn’t the case.
Jordan and Nicole go to retrace their steps back to the cabin, but the snow has covered them. They are completely lost. They fall into a crevice, and Nicole’s shouts cause an avalanche. The opening to their crevice is covered and they are effectively trapped. Things just keep getting shittier for them. Without any better options, they decided to see if there was another way out of the caves. A few massive footprints later, the kids stumble into the lair of the Abominable Snowman himself. He’s fully encased in ice when they arrive but quickly breaks out. He steals the packs of trail mix from Nicole and Jordan’s backpacks, then picks them up and carries them out of the caves. He drops them and runs off when he hears a dog barking. Turns out Aruther left one of his dogs behind. Apparently, abominable snowmen sleep encased in ice, love trail mix, and are afraid of dogs. Go figure.
Jordan and Nicole go back to the cabin and tell their dad about everything that happened. He follows them back to the cave and takes a bunch of pictures of the snowman encased in ice. Then he gets a brilliant idea: they should load the frozen snowman into his giant trunk and bring it back to California. So that is what they do. Jordan packs a few snowballs from the snowman’s cave into the trunk as well. The family then calls a helicopter and soon enough they are back in sunny Pasadena. The snowman trunk is hidden in the family basement, and the kids immediately brag to all of their friends about their adventure. When Lauren doesn’t believe them, Jordan takes her into the basement and opens the trunk. Nicole takes one of the snowballs and throws it at Lauren. It misses and hits a palm tree, but instead of exploding the snow grows to encase their entire yard. Lauren picks up a snowball and chucks it back at Nicole. Nicole immediately freezes.
Nothing that Jordan and Lauren try seems to unthaw Lauren. Jordan gets an idea and grabs some trail mix. Dangling it in front of the open trunk, the snowman breaks out of his ice and follows Jordan into the yard. When the snowman sees Nicole, he wraps her in a hug until her frozen bits melt. He then tries to take in his new desert surroundings, seeming confused before running off to find someplace colder. Dad is upset to find that the creature escaped, and even more so when he finds out none of the pictures he took of the creature came out. Jordan and Nicole decide to bury the remaining snowballs in the cave where they think no one will find them. They catch the Miller twins digging them back up, but not in time to stop one of them from hurling a snowball at the other. The book ends on a karmic note for aspiring neighborhood bullies.
The elements were in place for a fun and unique story, but the execution was too much of a mess to make up for it. I really liked the idea of a trail mix-eating, abominable snowman who likes to help children. The true horror at the core of this book is the boundless stupidity of humans. What was an adventure for Nicole and Jordan was a nightmare kidnapping story for the snowman, who only tried to do the right thing when two kids wandered into his cave. Now he’s stranded in the California desert in one of the most densely populated parts of the United States. All thanks to poor planning and terrible ideas from Dad. I have a particular sort of disdain for books that rely on characters being stupid to further the plot. Way to be an idiot, Dad.
There’s no sequel and no adaptation for this book, though I do believe the abominable snowman makes an appearance in the 2015 Goosebumps movie with Jack Black. I still haven’t watched it. That will have to be my reward upon finishing the entire series. Only 24 reviews left…
For the scoring of each book, I decided to rate them based on five criteria worth 2 points each.
I then split that in two to give it a rating out of 5 stars. Those criteria are:
Concept: the strength of the overall idea
Execution: the mechanics of storytelling
Character: the protagonists, antagonists, and villains
Intent: does it succeed in being the kind of book it wants to be?
Originality: subversion and reliance on genre tropes
There’s a good concept hidden here if you look hard enough. You might have to stumble down a crevasse to get there. Unfortunately, it lacked clarity and coherence.
This had the makings of a good adventure story, and in some places, it really worked. But it was too disjointed and relied too heavily on characters making really unfathomable choices. Not to mention the Alaskan weather and daylight made no sense given that it was winter.
Dad was a complete idiot. Arthur was a complete piece of shit. Together their horrible decisions placed the kids in very real danger. Jordan isn’t much better. Nicole was the only character of any substance and wit.
Getting trapped in an ice cave, the desolation of the Alaskan wilderness, and Arthur leaving them and taking all their food. There was a lot here to find scary. But the confusing nature of the plot and the astounding stupidity of Dad made it difficult to take seriously.
I’ll give partial credit here. It stood out among Goosebumps books and not for all of the wrong reasons. It was a mess but at least it wasn’t a minefield of overused tropes.
TV Adaptation – Bullet Review
There is no adaptation of this book.
Don’t miss the next post in my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #39: How I Got My Shrunken Head
Also, be sure to check out the latest from the Pulp Horror blog series:
Patricia Windsor’s The Christmas Killer