[Read along with me!]
“No you don’t, Count Dracula,” said Simon Belmont, his long blond hair streaming in the night wind. He held up the magical item he had worked so long and hard to obtain. “For I have the power of the Magic Crystal and that is the one—“”
Simon Belmont started.
“Timothy Bradley! Are you listening to me?”
Simon dropped the Magic Crystal. It smashed to the floor and burst into a thousand brilliant pieces.
Count Dracula laughed cruelly. “Ah! A vampire has no better ally than a mother!”
He leapt on the boy, and then…
That's...disappointingly clever. I was led to believe this book was massively stupid. And: “Well, mothers never do understand, I suppose,” said Mrs. Bradley. “That’s part of our job." Also: The magical world of Castlevania dissolved around Tim Bradley like twinkling gossamer. That simile's overused and twee, but not stupid, particularly considering the target age cohort.
Tim shook his head as he got up and began digging through a pile of comic books for his prized pair of black leather Reebok shoes. Reeboks were quite a thing back in the day, weren't they? You hardly ever hear of them now.
Standing behind him was a tall, blond-haired man who looked like a superhero from a comic book only with short hair and a vulnerable, perplexed look on his face. But boy, his costume sure wasn’t anything from this century! He wore what looked like hand-made sheep’s wool jacket and trousers with a sackcloth shirt cinched at the waist by a wide leather belt. His black boots were leather as well. He smelled distinctly of garlic. Was this before or after Captain N? The jacket seems a deliberate callback. (Also, Simon goes around wearing a wreath of garlic in this book.)
“Righteous, dude,” said a long-haired guy with leather pants, just coming into the boys’ room. “Aren’t you Metallica or somethin’!”
“No,” said Simon, eyes flashing with dark earnestness. “I’m from Castlevania!”
“Great group, man! Got all your CD’s!”
The guy cruised out of the boys’ room thrashing power cords on his heavy-metal air guitar. I dunno. I'm beginning to like this book. Simon's kind of a dumb puppy in this.
Tim on being teased at school for being a gamer: "I’m being persecuted for my hobby."
“Dracula. Right. I thought the old popsicle sucker was dead!” Uhhh...
The mystery woman who gives Simon the low-down on the plot in the manual is here named Linda Entwhistle, and she's Simon's now-kidnapped girlfriend who communicates with him telepathically. If this is a reference, it's lost on me.
Tim began jamming stuff into an empty laudry bag. Stuff he was going to need. Like chocolate bars. A Swiss army knife. Chocolate M&M’s. A sweater. Some more Hershey’s Chocolate Bars (semi-sweet, milk, Mr. Goodbar and gosh, don’t forget the one with almonds). It's sad that Mr. Goodbar isn't made with real chocolate anymore. Also, Tim thinks he might lure "E.E." down from space with some Reese's Pieces. I don't know if that's a typo or the transcriber isn't old enough to have seen that movie.
Chapter 5's title is "Dr. Simon and Mr. Dracula," since the Curse in this version is Dracula trying to take over Simon's body.
But Tim manages to forestall him:
You are a silly thing, aren’t you. I shall enjoy hearing you squeal and feeling you squirm when I sink my lovely fangs into your soul!”
“Is that the tooth?” Tim shot back.
“Arrgh!” cried Dracula’s voice. Simon’s body jerked back as though physically struck. “A pun! I abhor puns! If there’s anything I can’t stand more, it’s stupid, silly jokes!”
Chapter 9: There is only one church in the entirety of Castlevania. This seems unwise.
The church does, however, hold white elephant sales, and yes, they call them that. I wonder if they hold baked bean suppers and get together for lutefisk, too.
But what do they sell at Castlevania white elephant church sales? Why, thorn whips, of course! And the Red Crystal. Novel Simon Belmont got his Red Crystal at a garage sale.
Chapter 10: Berkleley Mansion has a backstory here: its previous owner, a baron, went mad and slaughtered his entire family and waitstaff.
“You are the puzzle solver, Timothy.”
“You know, you can call me Tim.”
“Tim. Somehow it doesn’t sound right.”
Chapter 11: In the basement of Berkeley Mansion, behind a holy-waterable wall, lies the antique shop from King's Quest II:
...it seemed to be some sort of room filled with antique chairs, lamps, mirrors, knick-knacks, doo-dads, and whatnots, to say nothing of whatsits!
In the very middle of the room, sitting in a creaky old rocker was a creaky old lady with a very large black cat square in the middle of her ample lap, purring as it was petted.
The proprietor's name is Ezederada Perkins. I'd ask how someone with the surname of "Perkins" came to reside in Romania, but then we'd have to settle the issue of House Belmont, and that'd take enough time for a couple castle resurrections in itself.
Ezederada also uses the expression "hush my puppies." Do they have soul food in Transylvania?
Ezederada (did she just escape Malkil's clutches or something?) is the caretaker of the famously haunted Berkeley Mansion, but it's her job to make it look ramshackle instead of kempt: "I distribute the cobwebs, the dust, and the clutter just so." Again, that's actually kind of clever.
"You clearly think in puns, young man. An unhealthy habit."
In Chapter 12, "Stake Out," Simon & Tim run into the mansion's boss monster, a fishman. In fine Simon's Quest tradition, he's a pushover - he actually doesn't want to fight Simon at all, claiming that it's only the "dumb monsters" who work for Dracula. He introduces himself as "Freddie," which is an instruction-manual joke, and when Tim starts going off about the Freddy in the monster movies at home, Freddie starts explaining that "[a]ll good monsters have there names end with an i-e; all bad ones with a y. Helps keep things straight."
Freddie fills us in that Dracula actually comes from another dimension filled with monsters but prefers Transylvania because "[h]ere, he’s big stuff. Back home, he’s just another creep." Other Dimension is ruled over by "the Master of Death, Thanatos," so I guess the employment situation here is the reverse of that of the games.
Chapter 13: Simon apologizes to a monster before slaying it. Kid Protagonist has a whip, but doesn't quite have the hang of it.
Also, there's this bit of imagery: The wall shimmered like torn sandwich wrap.
Meanwhile, Dracula appears in a visage assembled from discarded bones and skulls. I'm surprised this hasn't been used for a monster in the games.
Chapter 14: A health notice:
Simon had taken Tim aside and told him that maybe he was eating far too many chocolate bars to be good either for his nerves or for his health. Tim had asked him if Simon thought he were his mother, for goodness’ sake, and Simon had said no, but as leader on this quest he felt that he should point these things out.
There's also a visit to "The Ye Olde Anti-Vampire Shoppe": The place looked like an Italian deli, what with all the strings of garlic bulbs stretched around the room.
Shopkeeper: "May I ask, why laurels? They are a symbol of victory, and that seems a long way away, if I may say so?”
“The power of positive thinking!” piped Tim.
Both Castlevanians looked at him as though he were from another dimension.
Chapter 15: In disguise as a local schoolgirl, Dracula tempts Tim with Godiva chocolate truffles (brand name explicit). But Tim is suspicious: What was a girl doing with this stuff?
Chapter 16: Apparently, the lineup of Impaler organs includes a brain. Haven't been keeping close track, but I think they did away with the game's Ring to make room for it.
Chapter 17: Here is the description of Death:
He seemed to be about twenty feet tall, with legs like the trunks of trees, arms with biceps that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger gasp with envy and a chest as thick as a Sherman tank. But it was as much his outfit as his size that made Tim freak out almost totally.
Thanatos looked like a hood straight out of Flatsbush, Brooklyn, in the 1950s, who had made a time stop in the current heavy-metal era for some jewelry.
He wore black leather pants with a black shirt, littered with chains and spangles and other cheap jewelry. He wore the classic black leather motorcycle jacket. On his wrists were leather bracelets with studs.
His face was like a cross between some-thing out a fifties’ horror movie and someone out of a forties’ gangster film. His entire face was broad. His hair was cut flattop style. There was a ring in his nose, making him look much like a bull who’d just stepped off a motorcycle after a high speed dust up with the cops.
Death-come-Arthur Fonzarelli, however, has acquired a Lovecraftian tinge: The mouth opened, and Tim had a glimpse beyond jagged fangs and rotting molars… a glimpse of stars and nebulae, of shadows between planets and worlds being born and worlds dying.
Chapter 19: Tim & Simon pass through a cemetery, where the real danger, we're told, is getting snagged by all the chatty-Cathy dead who want one of the living to listen to all their old stories. They do, however, tell the duo how to get past Deborah Cliff, which is far more intuitive than in the game.
Speaking of which, game hint:
You must kill Thanatos.
That is a lie.
Tim to a Dracula complaining about being deracine: “Go somewhere else then.”
“What? Earth? I didn’t fare very well there. Not well at all. That is why I came to Castlevania. Why should I leave?"
So the book is canon in this Castlevania. (Tim's rejoinder to the above, BTW: “Because,” said Tim. “You’re such a jerk!”)
Tim, victorious, prepares to return home, and muses that after confronting Dracula, a fight with the neighborhood bully will be nothing. Simon corrects him with this mythic advice: “They are all Draculas.” I think we can all take this advice forward with us in our lives.