The novel series that I am trying to identify was being published around the same time as Goosebumps and Animorphs though was not as popular and the subject matter what rather dark at times. Each novel was usually unrelated to each other and though I can't recall any titles I'll try to describe details I remember from some of the books I read way back in the day. The covers of these novels were very unique and somewhat minimalist and appeared to be computer generated graphics (like a video game screenshot) rather than paintings or illustrations.

One of the novels is about aliens abducting a brother and sister from an airplane in order to get an evil type of alien out of the sister's body. A particular detail I remember was the sister reliving a repressed memory about the evil alien (which was like a black liquid cloud) hurting her.

Another novel is about a teenage girl and friend and a mysterious lake monster. A particular detail I remember was the monster swims next to the girl in the night and she touches it with her fingers and the scales cut her skin.

Another novel actually takes one of the characters from the lake monster book and tells another story about dinosaurs still alive and loose on an island. I think that this novel was the first one where the cover designs departed from the computer graphics and took on the more banal cartoony illustrations.

Finally, a mini-series in the collection of novels that were all related were about a boy who discovers a gremlin-like creature called a Buru. This mini-series is more supernatural featuring various crypotozoological creatures, shape-shifting children and a dangerous game where teams of people and creatures from other realms compete to collect objects or artifacts and the creature called "The Collector" is the top player in this game.

I've racked my memory for more concrete information, but this is the best I can do and I hope the information is sufficient enough to jog someone's memory.

2 Answers 2


I have not read them, but these sound very much like the Strange Matter series by Marty M. Engle and Johnny Ray Barnes Jr.

Tvtropes gives a summary as:

It followed the students at Fairfield Middle School' encounters with supernatural phenomena. While similar to Goosebumps in overall concept, many of its plotlines were noticeably darker, and it was aimed at slightly older readers. Deaths of human beings, including teenagers, could actually happen onstage, particularly in the Strange Forces series. It didn't shy away from very frightening imagery and Fate Worse than Death scenarios were common. It also shared R.L. Stine's penchant for Twist Endings.

In particular, the main villain seems to be called "The Collector", and an important character is a "four-foot- high, scaly green creature known as Rilo Buru"

Tvtropes also notes the distinctive covers.

The series is notable for using CGI images that were incredible for its time on both its covers and the scenes within the flap that depicted parts of the story. It was also one of the first children's series to integrate the internet into its reading, with the now sadly defunct strangematter.com featuring bios, scenes and plot information from the books and actually being referenced in-universe during the Strange Forces saga.


I suspect this is the Strange Matter series (1995-1997) by Marty M. Engle and Johnny Ray Barnes, Jr. (on Goodreads).

The book about children on a plane being kidnapped by UFOs is Fly the Unfriendly Skies (book 7). Quoting from a review:

The plot is that he and his generally bitch-y sister Kelly are on a plane to visit family (or are coming back from doing so, can't tell) when a UFO appears and eventually kidnaps the kids. However, it turns out there's a conflict between two different aliens races that they are caught in the middle of and must get out of this.

The book about the girl in the lake is The Last One In (book 5). Quoting the books blurb from Goodreads:

Michelle Boyd enjoyed her first time water-skiing on beautiful Lake Wataga. She floated peacefully, waiting for the boat to rocket off, pulling her into another thrilling ride. Then her sister saw the dark shape gliding through the water, relentless, large and powerful. It broke the surface with a tremendous splash, a large brown hump as wrinkled as an elephant... and as fast as a ski boat. Watched through the sinister eyes of the oldest living resident of the lake, Michelle and Erin learn a dark and terrible secret. A secret submerged in the murky depths of Lake Wataga for forty years has returned to watch, to wait... and to feed.

The mini-series is the Strange Forces quadrilogy Strange Forces, Strange Forces 2, Strange Forces 3 and The Last Buru.

The students of Fairfield Junior High have noticed that the strange things happening in their town are becoming more common and more dangerous. With each dreadful encounter, they are further convinced monsters are real.

Morgan Taylor is convinced. He couldn't deny that a small lizard-like monster was rapping on his bedroom window, asking for help. A real monster, just outside his window.

Astonished, he lets it in. With wide eyes he listens to its amazing tale and desperate plea for help; but could he believe the little monster's story? A tale of an object so incredible it staggers the imagination and of the hideous man-creature, the Collector, who has come to Fairfield to claim it.

Dark forces have gathered under the Collector's command, in a hilltop mansion on the edge of town Fairfield Manor. The crumbling halls, once empty and silent, now echo with the howls of his army of creatures. They have filled the once-barren rooms with mysterious artifacts gathered from the four corners of the earth. Nothing will stop the acquisition of the Collector's greatest prize.

Join the students of Fairfield Junior High and the renegade lizard-monster, Rilo Buru, in a race against the Collector and his strange forces on an adventure that will change the natural and the unnatural world forever.

  • Thank you for identifying the individual titles!
    – Sky Dixon
    Aug 13, 2023 at 23:25

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