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Item - It's Only a Nightmare!

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Series: Give Yourself Goosebumps — no. 32
Author: Stine, R. L.
Illustrator: White, Craig
Date: December, 1998
ISBN: 0590767852 / 9780590767859
Length: 137 pages
Number of Endings: 40
User Summary: You're trying to sleep while visiting an inn with your parents; this is a little difficult since your bed's headboard is covered in creepy gargoyles and you have recurring nightmares about a strange being who calls himself the Sleep Master.
Demian's Thoughts:

I think that I probably would have enjoyed this book had I read it when I was younger; since it's about dreaming, it covers a broad variety of scenarios, many of them not even attempting to be horrific in any way. It's fast-paced and surreal, and it just feels a little different from the average book in this series. It lacks substance and direction, though, and being different doesn't really save it from being mediocre. It's a change of pace, but it's not an especially worthwhile one, nor does it come close to living up to its potential -- the Sleep Master could have been much creepier, and most of the dream scenarios lack originality and miss opportunities for both scares and laughs.

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KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

I wonder if I was the only one who read this book sort of hoping it might be another Dream Trips by Edward Packard, just slightly darker and substantially longer. R. L. Stine at his best as a gamebook writer is a captivating force, drawing into existence diverse story opportunities that reach out and seize the reader by the collar, and it's hard to imagine what he could do in a story veering back and forth between reality and the land of dreams, never leaving us sure what side of REM we're on at any given moment. What fiendish originalities could R.L. Stine imagine in a world of dreams set in an atmospheric old hotel where you're sure nothing is as appears at first glance? The possibilities are virtually endless.

You awaken from a bad dream in the middle of the night, lying in a decidedly gothic bed in a creepy inn while vacationing with your parents. The sneering form of four gargoyles at the head of your bed isn't exactly helping you sleep well, and your nightmares have been particularly intense and frightening since arriving at the inn. The recurring presence of a strange shapeshifter in your nightmares who calls himself the Sleep Master only adds to your disquiet, and you aren't sure what to make of his cryptic remarks about the nature of dreams in connection to reality. After awakening from yet another nightmare, you're hesitant about trying to sleep again, but there's no use staying up the rest of the night and getting no rest.

What should you do? If you attempt to ignore the unsettling gargoyles attached to your headboard and go back to sleep, you'll have hordes of new nightmares to handle, and more than a peaceful night's sleep at stake. Somehow, the inn is a conduit for alternate dimensions of reality that can intrude on your sleep without warning and morph perfectly harmless dreams into lethal ones. There's no bailing out of these dreams by waking up at the last second. Even as you dive into fantasy scenarios you may have envisioned all your life, the fantasy can take a gruesome turn for the fatal at any moment, and with little provocation. Maybe it isn't so great to have everything exactly how you wish, after all.

If you wander the inn to calm your thoughts and get a bite to eat before returning to your bedroom, you may discover there's more that can do you harm in this place than sinister gargoyles. The inn is full of ways to set you drifting off into dreamland, and you'll find no more rest outside your room than in it. Of course, who could expect to sleep well alone in the eerie corridors and offshoot rooms of a spooky old inn, especially when you already have nightmarish thoughts crowding your brain? Tread carefully in the dream world and try not to do anything too off the wall, and if you should run into the Sleep Master in your adventures, make sure to weigh all options carefully before deciding how to proceed. The way you handle the mysterious Sleep Master, more than any other choice you make in the story, could be the tipping point between whether you meet a violent End...or escape the nightmare inn with your parents and make it (relatively) unscathed back to your old life. Will you win out against terror?

While It's Only a Nightmare! may not have quite the charm, imagination or internal cohesiveness of Edward Packard's Dream Trips, and I would have loved to see more action in the real world (as opposed to your dream landscape) since the scary old inn seems so wonderfully atmospheric, I did like this book. There are some clever twists to it, and a few of the endings are creative. For the devotee of the Give Yourself Goosebumps series, this book is, of course, a must read.

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