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Ghostbusters 2016 Adult Movie Novelization Book Review

PermalinkBy Paul Rudoff on Aug. 29, 2016 at 9:47 PM , Categories: Books, 2016 Parody Remake
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Ghostbusters: Now A Major Motion Picture by Nancy Holder is an adult book, published by Tor, based on the new Ghostbusters movie. The 4"x7.5" paperback tome, consisting of 259 pages, is printed with the same sized font and paper stock typical for paperback novels. There is another movie novelization by Stacia Deutsch, which was published by Simon Spotlight. To avoid any confusion, that one will be referred to as the "junior novelization" and this one is the "adult novelization". This book carries a list price of $9.99 ($13.99 Canadian), but you can always find it a little cheaper at Amazon, where an eBook version is also available.

It should almost go without saying - but I need to say it anyway - THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD. Click through, or continue reading, only if you've already seen the movie. You have been warned...



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I received a lovely press kit from Tor containing a paperback copy of the book, press release, sales flyer, and a couple of No Ghost Logo temporary tattoos advertising the book on the backing. I like seeing this kind of effort put forth by the companies involved in the new movie merchandise. It made me smile taking it all out of the padded envelope.

They say that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but this cover has a nice elegance to it, with a fairly simple rendition of the logo and a group photo split with orange cloth striping, which even runs down the spine. Sometimes it's better to keep things simple, instead of being an overcomplicated mess. I did notice the peculiarity of the phrase "Now A Major Motion Picture" - a tagline usually reserved for stories that originated in print and were later adapted for the big screen, not the reverse.

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The back cover gives a nice summary of the story, and includes the ONLY official instance of Jillian Holtzmann being referred to as "Jillian". Even the story inside keeps referring to her as "Holtzmann" or "Holtz", though author Nancy Holder actually gives a backstory for this name game (a pet peeve of mine). As noted on pages 206 and 207:
It's interesting that we all call you Holtzmann," Patty said as they collected their cheesesteaks and headed back to headquarters. "Jillian is a nice first name."

Holtzmann smiled and shrugged. "It started in engineering school. Most of the other students were guys. Shy guys. I think they called me Holtzmann so I'd seem less like a girl." She mock-shivered. "Because you know a girl is pretty scary."
Before I begin detailing what you'll find throughout the 24 chapters and Epilogue, I should point out that there are absolutely NO photos in the book, not even a few black and white photos mixed in here and there, like in the Richard Mueller novelization of the original movie (also published by Tor, over 30 years ago). You will find a few color photos later in this review, to point out deleted scenes, but these were taken from another book and are noted as such below each photo.

The book gets off and running with the touching "In Memory of Harold Ramis" dedication, and then starts its journey with, "It was a dark and stormy night." It's actually a faux opening, but I like that little touch. (You can read the entire first chapter on the Tor blog.) However, it doesn't take long before the novel's biggest fault rears its ugly head. The story gets mired in so many details that it's constantly losing its focus. It's obvious that Holder loves words (it would suck to be a professional author if she didn't) and loves being detail-orientated. If you've read a lot of the stuff that I post here on Spook Central, you'll see that I do, too. She's a woman after my own heart. The problem is that none of these extraneous words do anything to move the story along. To the contrary, they stop it dead (pun intended) more than all of the unfunny "jokes" in Feig's movie.

Throughout much of the book, I was constantly wondering if Holder was padding out the novel because she needed to fill up 259 pages and the movie script was too anemic to get the job done, or if Feig & Dippold filled the movie script with so much bloat, and Holder didn't (or couldn't) wield those editorial scissors to trim the fat. Lest I put forth the wrong notion, and for my own curiosity, I sent Ms. Holder an e-mail via her official site. She told me that she added the backstory elements I asked about, which were approved by Sony and other appropriate parties. So, I'm thinking that my first notion is the correct one.

I started noticing the padding when, in the first chapter, WAY too much time was spent giving tour guide Garrett a backstory of being an actor (with an extraneous "Cousin Lester"), doing this job in the hopes of getting famous in a YouTube video. The character isn't so important to the story that he needs a backstory. He's there just to deliver exposition and set up the ghost for later. Before the chapter is over, we are introduced to Samantha June, a character that does not appear in the film or the junior novel. She's a dumb blonde tour guest, with a lightbulb-shaped head (that is described in TOO much detail), whom Garrett flirts with hoping she will lead to him getting famous. The following excerpt is from pages 6, 7, and 8.
The last tour guest lingered. She was the twenty-something believer blonde. She had shown no inclination to tip him, hadn't even touched the clasp of her ridiculously tiny purse, but Garrett didn't mind in the least. A hottie, she had a head shaped like a lightbulb, which as Garrett had read in Success Secrets of Hollywood, was a big plus on TV. People with lightbulb heads looked way better on the little screen. His own head was relatively normal sized and shaped. On TV it would look like a bowling pin. Head expansion surgery was elective and costly, health insurance wouldn't cover it, and he had no health insurance anyway. It was a catch-22 or something and his cross to bear.

"That was amazing," she said in a breathy voice with a deep southern twang as sweet as pecan pie. "You should be on TV."

"Well, thanks. That's the dream, anyway."

She blinked at him, then nodded rapidly. "Oh yes. You should totally go for it. The tour was great. So scary."

"Thanks. Do you like to be scared?" he asked, letting an arch tone creep into his voice. The only thing about Aldridge Mansion that scared him was the thought of working there for the rest of his life.

Her big blue eyes glittered. "Oh yes."

"Why?" he said, moving close enough to get a whiff of the Juicy Fruit she was chewing.

"Because it's fun."

"Well, I know a lot of even scarier stories. Some of them have happened to me, right here in this mansion. If you're not busy maybe you and I--"

"Samantha June, let's go." It was the rude dude who had smirked at him during the tour.

The girl - Samantha June - pulled a moue of distaste and gave her hair a toss. "That's my daddy. We're going to Central Park."

"There's a couple of ghosts in the park by the boathouse," he said in his Sleepy Hollow voice. "If you go there at night, sometimes they manifest."

"That would be so cool," she said eagerly.

"Yeah. Really cool."

She cast a glance up at the portrait and shivered a little. "Unless they look like her."

"Back in her day they couldn't fix what she's got."

"What she's got?"

"Can't you see it? Those big bags under her eyes and the saggy chin?"

"Uhh, no..."

"It's butt face!"

Samantha June choked hard on her Juicy Fruit.

Garrett tried to pat her on the back, but she moved out of reach. "Are you okay?"

She nodded and gave him a forced little laugh before she resumed chewing. "Maybe you should be more careful," she said earnestly. "I mean, I know this is all probably just pretend, but it's not nice to speak ill of the dead..."

"In case they're listening, you mean?"

"Uh-huh."

"I guess you're right. There's no way of telling what they can hear." He fought the urge to grin like an idiot. Gullible chicks were so totally hot.

Samantha June glanced down at the candlestick, which was still lying on its side on the floor, then at him as if trying to decide if he had made it fall over, or if it had happened spontaneously. The strain of the problem made her frown a little and chew faster.

He would never tell. Those things had a way of winding up on Yelp.

"Was that a true story?" she asked out of the blue. "About the murders?"

"Yes, for sure. In fact, we have to kind of clean it up for the tours. The truth is much more extreme. It didn't come out until the 1940s, when Sir Aldridge's personal effects were made public."

"Like what?" She took a step toward him. From the huskiness in her voice, he knew that delicious little tingly tangly chills were working their way up her prim little backbone. Some people really did love to be scared.

"Well, she took a knife from a drawer in her father's gun case. It was a Paget hunting knife, actually very rare, and--"

"Samantha June!" her father bellowed. "The tour bus is going to leave!"

"Rats," she said.

And the spell was broken.

"Coming!" She beamed at Garrett and said, "Well, bye. See you on TV sometime."
Now, maybe because I saw the movie first, and then read the more concise junior novel before this one, I was spoiled by how the story could be told with less excess. So, the padding stuck out to me like a sore thumb. That said, I can't be the only one who found all FOUR of the flashbacks - yes, four whole chapters are devoted to stuff that happened to Erin in the past - completely unnecessary. Do we really need to know about Erin's asshole neighbor and what her house looked like, and that Erin saw a psychiatrist as a child because her dog killed the neighbor's trespassing beautiful black cock, which caused the neighbor to come back from the dead to haunt Erin? Normally, I wouldn't include such a long excerpt in a review, but here is the entirety of Chapter 2 (which runs from pages 14-22) to illustrate how the details in this whole chapter does nothing to advance the overall story.
CHAPTER 2

"Da da DA da, dadada DA da..."

Erin Gilbert smiled over at the TV as she finished spraying the clothes in her closet with freshener. On the screen was the cute cartoon ghost show she used to watch when she was little - back before a ghost had ruined her life.

No time to dwell on that now. I have a lecture to give. And it might be the most important presentation she ever delivered. The fate of her wonderful, reinvented life depended on it. She adjusted her plain skirt and blouse before checking herself top to bottom one last time. The uberconservative style choice projected an image of a serious scientist committed to teaching and research, and on a fast track to tenure at a major university.

Tenure! Go, Erin!

She grabbed her messenger bag and hurried off to her first lecture of the morning. As she left her apartment, she cast her mind back to The Incident, the catalyst that had ultimately led her into a life - and a brilliant career - in the world of hard science. She had been eight. So young to go through so much...

Second-grader Erin Gilbert was in love with life. She and her mom and dad lived in a picturesque little town in southern Michigan, a suburb of Battle Creek. She enjoyed being in the second grade and riding her bike back and forth under the canopy of tall trees on her street. Most of all she loved her little black dog, Corky. Her father said he was "part Spaniel, part who knows." Her father worked as an executive in a big cereal company. Her mom stayed at home and volunteered with the Soroptimist club. Their house was built of white wood and brick, two stories with a wide, wraparound front porch and a two-person swing, tall, narrow windows, and it looked brand new, inside and out.

The house next door was also two stories, but with a very plain front like a box, and a few little bitty windows. It was painted a yucky yellow with ugly dark brown trim, and there was always smoke and a bad smell coming from the backyard because the old lady who lived there burned all her trash. Mrs. Barnard was short and round, with sunken eyes and wrinkles in her pale cheeks. When she wasn't dressed up for Sunday church, she wore an apron over her housedress and stomped around in big clunky shoes.

Mrs. Barnard kept chickens in her backyard on the far side of her burn barrel. She fussed over all her poultry, but most of all over her beautiful rooster named Ernesto. He had shiny black feathers on his back and wings and a copper-colored chest. She carried him around the yard cradled in the crook of her arm like a big cat, stroking his head and back, and talking to him. He cackled and clucked back at her.

Mrs. Barnard had no close family who visited her, but Sundays she drove to church in the '52 Plymouth sedan she kept in her sagging garage. Church and chickens and lots of smoke. That summed up Mrs. Barnard.

Plus grumpy.

Every morning at sunrise, Ernesto woke up the Gilberts with his crowing. And when he started to crow, Corky started to bark. It made her parents angry (and sleepy), but there was nothing they could do about it, really. At least, that was what they used to say.

Corky was very interested in Mrs. Barnard's chickens, which were kept safe in a sturdy wire mesh coop, and there was a four-foot-high wooden fence separating the sides of the two yards. He'd tried to dig under the fence any number of times, but Erin lined the fence with stones to keep him on the Gilberts' side of the fence.

One day after school, Erin was playing with Corky in her yard, throwing an old tennis ball for him to fetch. He was a very energetic who-knows Spaniel and it took a lot of fetch to tire him out. She had just extricated the soggy ball from his mouth when a loud commotion at the fence made her and the dog look up. Waving his black wings to keep his balance, Ernesto perched on top of the fence, pretending to be an eagle.

Mrs. Barnard rushed up to the rickety wooden slats and tried to catch him, but she was too slow. The bird let out a squawk and flapped clumsily down into Erin's yard. Realizing the danger, she made a grab for Corky's collar. Her fingers couldn't get a firm grip and he shot away. In a blink, the dog jumped on the chicken. Over the terrible squawking and growling as the two fought, Erin could hear Mrs. Barnard screaming at her, and she saw the old woman trying desperately to climb over the chest-high barrier.

Then Corky got hold of Ernesto by the back of the neck and bit down. Bright blood started squirting in all directions as the two of them rolled on the grass. Ernesto stopped squawking and flapping. When he went limp, Corky ran off to his doghouse with the rooster in his mouth, dragging it inside with him. He was madly wagging his stub of a tail.

On the other side of the fence, Mrs. Barnard shrieked and screamed for the longest time. "You!" she shouted at Erin, over and over again. "You better watch out!" Her face throbbed bright red and her nose ran and she sobbed and wailed. She kept stopping in the middle of crying to put the ball of her fist against the middle of her chest and she closed her eyes like something in there hurt.

Then Mrs. Barnard disappeared into the house. A little while later, Animal Control came out and she ordered them to take Corky away and put him to sleep. But the lady told Mrs. Barnard that Ernesto had flown onto private property so it was trespassing and fair game. And Corky was licensed with all his shots, so there was nothing to be done.

After that, every time Mrs. Barnard saw Erin and her dog she yelled threats at them: "You better watch out!" And she took to burning her trash at all hours, so the nasty smoke would blow into their house. She seemed to get angrier and angrier by the day. Erin asked her father if she should apologize or send her a card, or maybe they could get her another baby rooster, but he said that would only stir her up more.

The Incident created a very tense atmosphere on the quiet, tree-lined street. At her parents' request Erin stopped playing in the backyard with her pup. Poor Corky got very restless and barky, which made her parents cranky. They said they didn't blame him, but Erin was worried. What if they called Animal Control and ordered them to put Corky to sleep?

Then Mrs. Barnard started parking her junky car in front of their driveway, blocking it, and instead of just burning her trash she took to throwing it over the fence.

Erin's father had to call the police. The officer took notes and then went over to talk to Mrs. Barnard. It was very exciting and at the same time scary.

The day after the policeman came, when Erin walked home from school she saw an ambulance parked in Mrs. Barnard's front yard. She got a glimpse of the old woman laid out on a gurney as people wheeled it out of the front door. She was covered up to her chin with a warm, soft blanket and an oxygen mask covered the bottom half of her face.

Erin's mother hurried out and pulled her inside their house, so she didn't see what happened next, but later she overheard her parents talking about how Mrs. Barnard had died in her front yard with the paramedics trying to save her. They took her dead body away in the ambulance very quietly, without running their siren or lights.

"That old lunatic won't ever bother us again," her father said.

But that night, Erin was awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of a cock crowing. She recognized the rooster's voice at once - it was Ernesto. She listened with her covers pulled up to just below her eyes, but the noise didn't repeat. And Corky hadn't heard it or he would've started barking downstairs. It couldn't have been Ernesto, she assured herself. She had watched her father pull his mangled body out of the doghouse - a rooster that would never wake up anybody ever again.

After a minute or two, she decided she must've dreamed it. She slipped further down in the warm bed and closed her eyes. She was just drifting off again when she smelled something icky and familiar - burning trash. Her heart started to pound. With eyes tightly closed she was suddenly wide awake.

Then something touched her on the nose. Cold like an ice cube or a snowball.

"You!"

She jerked and her eyes flew open. She would have screamed, but her throat closed up.

Death had changed Mrs. Barnard, and not in a good way. Her skin was gray and her eyeballs were white. Her compact, grandmotherly body was stretched like a fun-house mirror; she was sticklike and tall, legs and arms so long that she could stand flat on the floor at the foot of the bed and reach over it to grab both sides of the headboard. Her fingernails scratched into the wood as she shook the bed. Erin flopped left and right, struggling not to fall off.

"You better watch out!" the apparition shrieked down at her.

The burning trash smell blasted from Mrs. Barnard's gaping mouth and as it washed over Erin, she held her breath to keep from inhaling it. She was terrified and at the same time fascinated by the strange turn of events. If Mrs. Barnard was dead, was this really her ghost? The old woman's face seemed to pull this way and that, milky eyes by turns bulging then sunken, and Erin could see through the shifting form to the curtained bedroom window behind it.

"You better - uh, uh..."

The ghost convulsed above her, as if choking on something deep in its guts, eyes squeezed shut, mouth gaping, strange narrow tongue extended onto its chin.

"Uh, uh..."

Then the dam broke. With a mighty lurch that quaked the bedframe, Mrs. Barnard threw up.

A torrent of what looked like blood gushed from her mouth and poured onto Erin's face and chest. It was red like blood but it wasn't warm, and it was so gooey and sticky it was barely liquid. Mrs. Barnard kept retching and the stuff kept splattering down. Erin struggled for air, thinking for sure she would drown in it.

Somehow she twisted away and slipped out the side of the covers. She ran out of her room, barefoot and screaming down the hall to her parents' bedroom. They were already awakened and sitting up in bed when she burst into the room. She burrowed into the covers between them, burying her head and pleading, "Don't let Mrs. Barnard get me! Her blood is all over my bed!"

Her father jumped out of bed while her mother held her and tried to comfort her. When he came back he said, "There's nothing there."

"You just had a nightmare, Erin," her mother said. "No more ice cream for you after 7 P.M."

"Nightmares just happen sometimes, honey," her father said, trying to assure her. "They're nothing to worry about. They're perfectly natural."

After the perfectly natural nightmares - the cock's crow, the smell of burning trash, the angry spirit barfing buckets of red goo on her face - repeated night after night for the next month, her parents told her they were going to get her some help. She assumed they meant that they would help her get rid of Mrs. Barnard. But she was wrong.

Erin sat alone in the backseat of their car as her father and mother drove her to see a new doctor. She was scared when they first told her, but her parents promised she wouldn't be getting any shots because this wasn't a "shot doctor." They pulled up in front of a one-story house in a different suburb of Battle Creek. It didn't look like a doctor's office. They went up the walk to the front door and her father rang the bell. When the door opened, it smelled like someone was baking cookies inside.

Erin thought Dr. Marsha Malone was pretty. She had beautiful chocolate skin and gold jewelry. And she was fun to talk to. She made jokes while just the two of them played board games, asked a lot of questions, and unlike her parents, never seemed upset by the answers Erin gave her. Her office was like a living room, only in a separate part of the house off the driveway, and it always smelled like ginger cookies.

"Why do you think you're having the nightmares, Erin?" Dr. Malone asked one day.

"I don't know."

"Your family had some problems with Mrs. Barnard before she died, didn't they?"

"She wasn't a very nice neighbor," Erin said softly, staring down at the game board. "After Corky ate Ernesto she got even meaner. I was afraid of her. So was Corky."

"Do you feel guilty about Ernesto?"

"If I had kept Corky in the house it wouldn't have happened. Ernesto wouldn't have gotten killed."

"But you didn't know Ernesto was going to get free and hop into your yard," Dr. Malone said. "You had no way of knowing that. And you couldn't have stopped him from flying over the fence. So that isn't your fault. What about Mrs. Barnard? Do you feel guilty because she died?"

Erin fidgeted in her chair, squeezing a game piece. "Kinda."

"She was an old lady, and she had a bad heart," Dr. Malone said. "She wasn't taking her medicine. You had no control over what happened to her, either."

Erin looked up at her. "Then why doesn't Mrs. Barnard know that? Why is she after me?"

"Erin, do you believe ghosts are real?"

She met the doctor's gaze and nodded emphatically. "Will she get me? What will she do to me? Can you make her stop?"

Dr. Malone sat quietly for a moment. Then she inclined her head as if she had decided something.

"Erin, could you please wait here for a moment while I speak with your parents? I'll be right back."

After she left the room, Erin started to feel weird being alone. She got up and went down the hall after Dr. Malone, hoping to find the source of the cookie smell. On the right was another room with the door slightly open. She could hear the doctor talking. She stopped outside and listened.

"Honestly, Mr. Gilbert, there seems to be no family history of mental illness on either side of the family. I don't think this is something you and your wife need to worry too much about. I think this is a passing phase. It could be an attempt to remain a helpless child and draw your attention. A final burst of infantilism is not uncommon at her age. I think the dreams will stop when she realizes she's not going to lose your love if she grows up."

"So she's lying about the ghost in order to manipulate us?" her mother said.

"This goes much deeper than that, below the conscious level. I don't think Erin is at all aware of the need she's actually expressing. She sincerely believes what she has seen is real."

"We're not getting any sleep," her father complained. "It's worse than that damned rooster. Can you give her something to calm her down?"

"I'm sorry, I don't prescribe sedatives for children her age. Perhaps some warm milk and a bedtime story might do the trick. That would make her feel more comfortable and loved, and make her drowsy as well."

"Is that all? Her father sounded mad.

"I would like to keep seeing Erin on a weekly basis, monitor her progress in the short term to make sure nothing else is going on with her. There could still be an underlying organic cause for her hallucinations."

Erin tiptoed back to the doctor's office, crying softly. She didn't understand half of what she had heard, but she was wounded to learn her mother thought she was a liar and scared there was something wrong inside her. It was all Mrs. Barnard's fault. Everything. She wiped back her tears and steeled herself, determined to ask Dr. Malone for the shot, no matter how big, that would just make it go away.
That entire flashback, plus the middle school flashback, would both be covered in far less words later on (on pages 135 and 136) when Erin relates the tale to Patty and Jillian during some downtime in the headquarters (as also seen in the movie), thus making Chapters 2 and 4 even more pointless.
"So, how did you two meet?" Patty asked Erin and Abby as she deftly folded over a cheese-dripping slice, her second. She took a big bite, tip first, skillfully steering the inevitable drip of olive oil away from her fingers and onto the cardboard box.

"Oh, Abby transferred to my high school junior year," Erin explained.

Abby took up the thread. "We started sharing ghost stories and bonded immediately. All the other kids were getting drunk and going to parties and we were like 'that's stupid.'" She wrinkled her nose. "Also, we weren't invited to any parties," Erin said. Abby gave her an incredulous look, as if she had just given away the secret of cold fusion. "Well, we also put out a vibe that indicated we were not accepting any invitations," she said.

Erin shook her head. Abby was rewriting history. If they'd been invited to any parties before the "vibe" went out, she would have remembered it.

"Why were you so into ghosts?" Patty said. "Had either one of you actually seen one?"

Erin pretended to chew what she had just swallowed, stalling. It was that sensitive a topic for her. Abby didn't say anything, letting her tell the story if she wanted to, and skip it if she didn't. It had been a long time since Erin had shared Mrs. Barnard with anyone. It seemed weird to hide it from Holtzmann and Patty.

"Yeah," Erin said. "When I was eight, the mean old lady who lived next door to us died. That night, I woke up and there she was standing at the foot of my bed. She was just staring at me, and then blood started coming out of her mouth. She slowly started falling toward me. I pulled my covers over my head and waited until morning."

As she paused in telling the story, she realized her entire body was tense, steeled to defend against the expected and familiar laughter and teasing. Instead, Patty nodded and gave her a sympathetic look. So Erin continued, delivering the astounding punch line.

"She did that every night for a year."

"What?" Patty cried.

Holtzmann exclaimed, "Whoa!"

"I told everyone, but no one believed me." Words began to rush out of her in a torrent. "My parents thought I was crazy. They had me in therapy for years. All the kids at school made fun of me. Called me 'ghost girl.'" She looked over at Abby. "But Abby believed me right away."

"Hey, I believe you, too," Patty announced.

"Hmm, I have some questions," Holtzmann said, then winked at her.

Erin smiled back. It was such a relief to get this off her chest.
Chapter 2 is a flashback to Erin's childhood, Chapter 4 is a flashback to Erin and Abby meeting in high school and the teasing they got from other students, and Chapter 6 is a flashback to Erin and Abby as college freshmen going to an abandoned murder house - an event which is only there to serve as backstory for their "Ghosts From Our Past" book. Yes, the book gets its own backstory! Bear in mind, that you get THREE backstories before the ladies even investigate the Aldridge Mansion, much less meet Patty, Rowan, or the actual plot of the movie. The beginning of the book was such a slog to get through, I would actually advise reading from Chapter 7 onward.

The novel eschews chapter-long backstories for a while, finally given us the FOURTH and final one at the start of Chapter 15, and running for 8 pages (not the entire chapter, thankfully). This one is about the science fair that Erin and Abby attended while at C.W. Post High (C.W. Post is actually a college here on Long Island, New York). Besides giving us more male characters to despise, this flashback culminates in the Battlebots-like science project of Erin and Abby's high school nemesis, Carl Lund. The following excerpt is from pages 143 and 144, and the whole time I'm reading it, I kept thinking to myself, "Why is this in a book about people who catch ghosts?" and "Did Nancy Holder forget that this is Erin and Abby's story, not Carl's?"
As the audience began to crowd in around the makeshift ring, Carl and his nerd buddy donned crash helmets.

"You know we can't miss this," Abby said. And they abandoned their posters for a spot at ringside.

Carl picked up Blade Face and his partner grabbed Senor Pain. They put the machines facing each other on the mats about four feet apart. Carl and his nerd bud held game controllers in their hands.

"Imagine a not-too-distant future," Carl bellowed at the audience, "where robots fight the wars and we are their slaves!" On his count of three the machines charged each other and music blasted out of a speaker under the table—a rousing hip-hop beat.

"This is not America..." the chorus repeated over and over.

"That's from the movie Training Day," Abby said while the crowd cheered and whooped. "'American Dream,' sung by David Bowie and P. Diddy."

Erin decided she couldn't root for either machine; she wanted them to mutually self-destruct. Or better yet, go berserk and chase Carl out of the gym.

Much to the amusement of the audience, which was moving to the music, Senor Pain drew first "blood." Apparently it had more mass, because their initial collision turned Blade Face sideways. Before Carl could recover, Senor Pain did a hatchet job on its foredeck, landing a rain of blows.

To Erin, it looked like game over. Senor Pain was going to batter its opponent into smithereens without even getting a scratch. She had to admit that watching Carl Lund so quickly and easily defeated by one of his minions came a close second to seeing Senor Pain chop off the odd toe.

Then in a perfectly timed move, Carl/Blade Face used its hand to snatch hold of the hatchet's handle just below the ax head as it swung down, pinning the sharp edge into the mat. The audience gasped as Blade Face used the power of its arm to drag its torso into attack position. The saw blade whined shrilly and sparks flew as Blade Face planted the vaunted kiss of death, then quite efficiently cut poor Senor Pain in two.

The judges and audience applauded and cheered, dancing and laughing as the music reached its crescendo and faded out.

One of the professors clapped Carl on the back as he removed his crash helmet. "You have a great future in robotics, my boy," he said.

Carl looked over at Erin and Abby and shot them a smug, nasty grin. Then he mimed a hanging, yanking up on an invisible noose around his neck, sticking out his tongue like he was choking to death.
You'll notice the mention of the movie Training Day, which was released in 2001. In an earlier flashback, it was also mentioned that Erin and Abby memorized The Blair Witch Project, a movie that was released in 1999. If we were to assume that this scene takes place in their senior year of high school, and they were 18, then that would mean that in 2016 (present day) Erin and Abby would be 33 years old. Sorry, but Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy do not look that young in the movie, though I'm sure they both don't mind having 10 years shaved off their ages.

More messing with the timeline when, on page 74, this is said of Rowan's past in middle school: "And Julia Roberts had ignored his selfie video inviting her to prom." Considering that the term "selfie" (for a photograph, not a video) was not in public usage until the 2000s, and the phenomenon of teens asking celebrities to the prom only became popular around 2010 or so, there's is no way that in 2016 Rowan is young enough to have been in middle school to make a selfie video to ask Julia Roberts to the prom.

The way the novel is playing fast and loose with time-based facts is giving me a headache.

Anyway... The high school science fair flashback is followed by Erin and Abby doing a rap presentation of their project for Patty and Jillian (pages 146-148). This was also in the junior novel, but was deleted from the theatrical version of the film. The scene WAS filmed, as evident by this photo that appears in both Proud To Be A Ghostbuster and Ghostbuster's Handbook.
Image
(photo from Ghostbuster's Handbook, page 57)

At their headquarters, Erin smiled wistfully as she studied the science fair photograph. "Oh, I wish we still had the presentation. It was fantastic."

Abby raised a Spock-like eyebrow as she smirked knowingly. "Patty's wish might just be granted."

Patty shook her head. "No, that wasn't my wish--"

"You still have it?" Erin cried. "What?"

Abby reached behind the buffet table and pulled out the title board of their project. She set the poster on a table and plopped an old cassette tape recorder down beside it. The poster was decorated with pictures of ghosts cut from books and magazines and pasted in place. But Abby wasn't finished. She took a box out from under the table. She opened it and whipped out two more blasts from the past - their black turtleneck sweaters - and they hurriedly put them on. Abby's looked a little tight, but Erin's fit fine.

"Okay, per Patty's request," Abby said, reaching over to push play.

Patty waved her hands. "No, I can't express enough that I don't--"

Abby and Erin stood side by side in their matching pullovers, very serious as they gazed into each other's eyes and silently counted down.

"Good evening," they said, hitting their mark in unison.

"Oh lord," Patty groaned, but she was clearly amused.

Holtzmann smiled, then opened two beers and handed one to Patty. "I've only heard about this," she said. "Never actually seen it. This is history." Holtzmann winked at Patty and then downed her beer.

"Prepare for takeoff into the unknown," Abby and Erin chanted. "Five...four...three...two...one."

Abby hit play on the recorder. What they had thought back then was the coolest science fiction music ever ooh-wee-eww'ed from the little speaker. Erin still remembered their moves, and they began waving their arms dramatically, orbiting like planets, with Abby spinning around her.

"The universe is mysterious," Erin said in a mysterious voice.

"Ninety-six percent mysterious," Abby shot back.

"And what of the topic of ghosts?" Erin demanded.

Abby whispered loudly, "They're real!"

The music boomed across the dining room. Erin and Abby broke into more dancing, happy exuberant you're-my-bestie dancing, and memories of dancing at the fair washed over her. Abby had been a true friend, defending "Ghost Girl" from her tormentors, telling her over and over, "You are not crazy. I believe you."

Erin poured her heart into the re-creation of their spur-of-the moment skit. "Then why don't I see ghosts flying everywhere?"

"For the barrier stops them," Abby declared. "It is the only line of defense in the portal betwixt the worlds of the living and the dead."

Patty shifted a bit uncomfortably. "What century did they write this?"

Holtzmann nodded, ignoring her question, totally into the performance.

Abby said, "Now let's break it down."

The music abruptly shifted to a corny old-school hip-hop beat.

"Yo. How many different types of ghosts we got, A?"

Erin picked up the rap beat. "Humanoids, vapors--"

Abby glanced over and saw Patty's grimace. "You know what, let's skip ahead."

Erin didn't want to admit that she was a little winded. "Yeah, that part is thirty minutes and involves break dancing."

She popped open the tape player and flipped the tape. The booming sci-fi score returned and they both leapt into a rapid crescendo of ecstatic dance and arm movement. Erin couldn't believe that she remembered every step, but she did. The routine was elaborate, and holy cow, they were pulling it off. It was as if all the years between the science fair and the present moment had themselves become ghosts. She flew and spun, freer than she had felt in forever.

"So protect the barrier! Protect the barrier! Or mankind will end! Word!"

When it was over, Erin and Abby struck rapper poses. They laughed and hugged, and Erin was overjoyed. They had promised to be each other's lifelong friends. Could they still be?

Holtzmann ran up and threw her arms around both of them.

"I am so goddam happy you two are together again. So goddam happy."

Erin and Abby turned to look at Patty, and her face was radiant. "I was all set to make fun of you. But goddamn, that was actually beautiful." Then she choked up. "Thank god you had each other."
Another deleted scene that was filmed, this one from the college flashback, appears later when Erin has broken off from the group and is moping around her apartment. The reason for the original break-up between Erin and Abby was because Erin did not show up for a college talk show they were supposed to appear on to promote their self-published "Ghosts From Our Past" book. While at her apartment in present day, Erin watches a clip from the show on YouTube, as noted on pages 200 and 201.
Image
(photo from Ghostbuster's Handbook, page 13)

Once there, she tossed her Ghostbusters uniform into the laundry basket, walked over to her computer, and stared at the monitor. Then she typed a URL she had memorized. A YouTube video came up and she shrank inside. It was the University of Michigan show, Best Reads "On the Quad," that she hadn't shown up for. The show she had tried to watch live, but couldn't. Abby was sitting alone facing a snarky man in a tweedy jacket. She was wearing a nubby black-and-white turtleneck sweater. The two of them had spent hours discussing what to wear. What looked authorial. She looked lost and uncomfortable.

I didn't even call her, Erin thought. I didn't warn her that I was bailing. I was such a coward.

The host smirked at Abby as he said, "So you're saying that ghosts are actually real? And you can back this up with science? What could be less scientific than that? Have you actually ever even seen a ghost?"

Abby was squirming like a bug under a microscope. "We have... um... I mean, I have experienced... um... theoretical contact with the, um, spirit world--"

The host was practically laughing in her face. "I'm sorry, but I find that hard to--"

Erin turned off the clip. She felt terrible again, queasy.
On page 196, is the deleted scene (also filmed, footage used in the Erin vignette released online) in which a male blogger confronts Erin after the first hotel scene. In what is a running theme of this movie, which even permeates the novel, this male character is seen in an unflattering light when he runs away crying after Erin punched him in the face.

Thanks to all of the flashbacks, it isn't until Chapter 16 (page 151), more than halfway through the book, that we finally get to the Stonebrook Theater. Before the Ghostbusters enter, they meet a couple of Metalheads, who treat us to a bit of Feig's trademark sexism to remind you that these are women: "The other nerd grinned. Chuckling at his own sparkling wit, he said. 'Lame. Girls can't catch ghosts. Go use those vacuums on you back to clean a house.'" In fact, I don't recall one single new male character that was shown in a positive light. They either made fun of the Ghostbusters, or looked down on them, or looked dumb or inferior in some way.

Nancy Holder fills the book with lots of extra little details (besides the flashbacks). Sometimes, they're good, such as on page 94, where she thought the same thing I did about Abby and her hatred for the food she receives from the Chinese restaurant: "His name was Benny, and apparently had been delivering Abby's Chinese food for years, and pissing her off for just as long. Why she hadn't picked another restaurant from the hundreds available was a puzzle too complex for Erin to unravel."

Other times, she gives us excess details that just don't matter. Here is an excerpt from page 162 that goes into excruciating detail on the lead singer of Beasts of Mayhem for no reason whatsoever: "The microphone squealed feedback into all their speakers. Equipment they had yet to pay for. All Adam's credit cards were charged to the max and he had been forced to move back into the basement of his parents' house." Why should we care that he has money problems and had to movie back in with his parents? I guess he is one of those "lives in his parent's basement" types that Melissa McCarthy was making fun of on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

There were a few instances where I felt that Nancy Holder forgot that this was the adult novel, choosing to use phrases more appropriate for a younger audience:

• Page 66 - "Erin threw up her hands, unsure how to deal with her ex-bestie at the moment."
• Page 171 - "...then she and Patty added a bit of whip to their nae nae."
• Page 196 - "As the kids said these days, achievement unlocked."

Okay, I wrote down more notes, but I'm not sure I can arrange the rest into a narrative flow, like I hope I've done so far, so I'm just going to run through some of the rest and then bring this review to a conclusion.

• Page 97 - When describing what Erin felt when she first saw Kevin: "Then as her pleasure centers became drenched with the sheer delight of his presence, her mind emptied of thought as if it had been flushed." If we ever needed someone to write Ghostbusters erotica (that's high-class artsy porn) written from a female perspective, I know who to call :-)

• Pages 217 & 218 - Rowan gets a bit of backstory telling us that he was bullied in high school. This is no surprise, as I kinda surmised this from what little the film told us about Rowan and his reason for bringing forth the Fourth Cataclysm. Still, this was actually a nice little detail that didn't drag the story out. So, not all of the details Holder added were bad.

• Page 229 & 230 - The deleted military dance scene is here, just like in the junior novel.

• Lady Slimer, here called "Slimette", is present here, though she was absent from the junior novel.

• Page 248 - "Abby fired her proton beam right into that his Interstate Cloverleaf of a crotch." I have no idea what that expression means, but Holder sure can turn a phrase.

• Upon going back to her apartment, while wearing her uniform walking through Times Square, Erin is mistaken for a cosplayer. A mother wants to take a photo of her kids with Erin.

• The book actually explains a few things that the movie didn't make too clear to me. On page 243, it explains why Erin and Abby were inside the Mercado lobby when they came out of the portal: "They dashed out of the alley and retraced their steps to what had once been the front of a Manhattan Landmark. There was virtually nothing left aboveground. The lobby floor had disappeared, revealing the cyclonic supernatural portal below." Later, on pages 248 & 249, it is explained how the entire destroyed skyscraper instantly rebuilt itself: "Patty cried in horror as the portal's spinning slowed and it finally began to close. Its final blast of unearthly light and sound knocked the two surviving Ghostbusters off their feet. Overhead, the dark clouds faded and daylight returned. [...] The Mercado building re-formed, all the chunks of plaster, shattered glass, and tenants possessions [...] streamed back into the structure."

• The movie's credits cookie is there as an epilogue, and it gives a detail about where the EVP came from. This "new client" seems awfully familiar :-)

• I realized, while reading the book, how the Ghostbusters defeating Rowan was all based on luck. If Slimer was not joyriding around Times Square, and just kept driving away from the paranormal epicenter, the Ghostbusters would have had no way to defeat Rowan. This hardly makes them look skilled.

• I also realized that Abby and Jillian are apparently unemployable "losers" who spend all their time working on a hobby. They only remain "employed" by the Higgins Institute because their boss didn't even know they were there! Erin finances the Ghostbusters business, and apparently doesn't pay the "employees" as Jillian makes a comment about working for free. Patty is the only one with a paying job and stupidly gives it up to "play Ghostbusters" with a bunch of ladies she never met before. None of these characters are living in a believable "real world". Abby even realizes this when she jumps into the portal and says on page 246, "Erin, I don't know if you've noticed, but I haven't done much else besides this."

• Holder even expanded upon the script by adding Erin's thoughts, and occasionally the others as well, which was a really nice touch.

Now to conclude this beast of a review...

I have to admit, it was a real slog to get through this book, especially the first six chapters. The movie would have been three hours long with all of these added flashbacks. Honestly, if you want to read the story, the best presentation of it is in the junior novel. It even betters the movie, in my opinion. If you are interested in the adult novelization by Nancy Holder, go into it thinking of it as the super-long "Extended Director's Cut" of the movie. Otherwise, you may find it hard to get through.
2 comments »

2 comments

Comment from: Jason A. Matthews (TheJAMMan1988) [Visitor]
Hey, Paul. Can you upload the whole book in .PDF format file, just like you did with Ghostbusters 1 & 2 on this site?
Sep. 10, 2016 @ 05:18
Comment from: Paul Rudoff [Member] Email
Absolutely not! The Ghostbusters 1 & 2 novels are 30 years old and out-of-print. This one is only three months only and readily available.

You can buy it for a little as $4.24 WITH shipping at Amazon (look in the marketplace section). - Paul
Sep. 10, 2016 @ 11:21

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