Jun 29, 2023 | Goosebumps

Goosebumps #43:
Beast from the East

© 1996 by Parachute Press. Cover Art by Tim Jacobus.



Spoiler-Free Review

I prefer my Goosebumps to be unapologetically weird, and Beast from the East more than delivered on that front. I enjoyed the way it was equal parts silly and scary at times. The kid characters were relatable, the beasts were quirky and unpredictable, and the magical forest setting gave the whole thing a nicely creepy and fantastical ambiance. At its strongest moments, I was reminded of One Day at Horrorland. Its biggest weakness, and the only notable one as far as I’m concerned, is that the rules were all a bit too contrived. Everything in the plot happened a bit too conveniently. It made it feel like no one really had to work for anything. Luck can only drive a plot so far, and I wish the formula was shaken up a bit toward the end. I still enjoyed the book as a whole. The luck aspect was used as an asset and a punchline, and the twist ending certainly implied that maybe luck had finally run out. I would say I want a sequel, but Stine’s record on sequels has me pretty content with this being left alone. This was an example of Stine leaning into his best instincts and avoiding his worst ones. Beast from the East was the most fun I’ve had reading one of these books in a while. At 43 books in, that’s really saying something.

Score: 4.5


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ERMAHGERD #43: Beast from the East.
© 2023 by Daniel Stalter. All rights reserved.
Photo and editing by Daniel Stalter.
Photo collaboration with my very patient husband, Dierre Taylor.
Background photo by Lois Gobe; Standard Adobe Stock License.


Observations & Spoilers

Ginger and her twin brothers are on a camping trip. Their parents basically tell them to get lost while they set up the campsite, and the kids do exactly that. First, they can’t find the tent, then they notice the strange multi-colored plants. Ginger picks up a stick and gets some gross yellow sap on her hands. Then she touches some red moss that sticks to the sap and makes it even worse. She would really like to find their parents, but she would also really like to wash her hands. Her attempts to recall any useful knowledge from her time at nature camp last summer don’t bare any fruit. The kids are lost, and shit’s about to get really weird.


First, the ground shakes. Then they see the large group of beasts that caused it. They are described as gorillas with blue fur (or you can just reference the cover art, which to me reads more bear-like). Ginger and Nat want to lay low and stay quiet, but Pat runs off so they follow him. They end up losing sight of their brother and getting caught by the blue creatures. The first one tags Ginger’s shoulder and announces that she is now the Beast from the East. The beasts explain to Ginger and Nat that she now has to tag someone else before the sun sets behind the Gulla Willow. They explain this like it’s totally obvious what a Gulla Willow is. Context clues tell us it’s a tree of some kind. The kids are not given a choice on whether or not they want to play. Ginger has been tagged, and failure to tag someone else means you get eaten. 


The beasts have really interesting names. Fleg, the friendliest seeming of the monsters, gives them a rundown of the game’s rules. Not all of them, of course. Because the beasts operate on the assumption that the kids know exactly what the fuck is happening for the entire length of the book. The important points to know are: you might get eaten if you land on a brown “Free Lunch Square,” and someone can only be tagged from the eastern side. The beasts take off, leaving behind two very confused and terrified children. Ginger accidentally touches a leaf that gets a blue residue on her already really gross hand, because it’s been that kind of day for her. The visual of her hand was giving me old-school Bart Simpson vibes, specifically that episode where he refused to wash his hand after his babysitter crush gave him a spit shake.


Ginger and Nat decide they should try and get the fuck out of this weird ass forest but only end up getting stuck in some vines that turn out to be snakes. Fleg shows up and helps them escape, explaining that they are really lucky to have found Double Snake Eyes. This earns them twenty points. It’s entirely not clear how points are going to matter at the end of the game if you still haven’t tagged another Beast from the East. Fleg tickles the snakes to get them off the kids, then runs off before Ginger can tag him. Nat tries to climb a tree and get a lay of the land, but the tree branches come alive and start attacking him; PG Evil Dead style. Ginger tries tickling the tree to help her brother. It works and Nat is able to escape. The real lesson at the heart of this Goosebumps book: tickling can save lives.

A failed attempt to surprise some beasts leads to Nat touching a rock. It turns out this is the Penalty Rock. The beasts reappear and bring him to the Penalty cage, which is described as a giant wooden bird cage hanging in a cave. Fleg sees the mess of sap and bright colors and declares Ginger’s Nubloff colors prove she has played the game and knows the rules. Ginger tries to follow the bests back out to the woods but falls into a pit. The bottom of the pit is one giant Free Lunch Square. Fortunately, she is saved when a cloud passes overhead and the beasts declare her safe because she is “Made in Shade.” She comes across the beast name Spork and tags him, but she fucks it up because she didn’t tag him from the east. Thinking quickly, she offers to teach him a new game. The beasts are apparently unable to resist the allure of a game, and while she has Spork spinning in a circle, she comes at him from the east and tags him properly. Now she just has to find her brothers and GTFO of this fucked up forest.


Ginger finally finds her deserter of a brother, Pat. He doesn’t believe her when she tries to explain the situation. But then the beasts come back and they run. They come across a strange animal that looks like a dog fucked a squirrel and had exactly one mistake of a baby. The creature shows them to the Hiding Cave, which they are allowed to use once per game. The creature fails to mention that it’s filled with bugs. The weird creature stays true to its word and sends the beasts off in the wrong direction looking for Ginger and Pat’s trail. They emerge from the bug-infested Hiding Cave just as the sun is beginning to set. It’s looking like they are going to really make it out when Spork fucks it up and tags Ginger again. Ginger protests because the sun has already set, but Spork says it’s fair because Fleg hadn’t called the end of the game. Then Fleg calls the end of the game. Fucking Fleg.


The kids are led to a small clearing where the beasts have made a big fire to cook them in. Nat shows up just when Ginger and Pat are starting to lose hope. It turns out the Penalty Cage wasn’t constructed all that well. When Fleg notices Nat and sees that he and Pat are twins, he declares a Classic Clone. It’s a move that only Level Three players are allowed to perform. He explains that he, Spork, and the rest are only Level One players. Competing against different levels is not allowed. He apologizes and finally lets the kids go, even pointing them in the direction of their campsite. The kids are ecstatic and relieved, and eagerly make their way back to their parents. Then they have a surprise encounter with another beast. Ginger tells him that they can’t be tagged because they are Level Three players. It just so happens that so is this beast. He tags Ginger.


This was a fantastic classic Goosebumps ending. I love the way that the beasts had their own weird culture that felt alien and strange but wasn’t inherently evil. I got the sense that they were just giant monster children. The archaic rules of their game felt made up on the spot, and maybe they were, or maybe they made complete sense to this weird group of furry blue sentient beings. My biggest complaint about antagonists in this series is that they often lack any sort of logic. They’re either pure evil for funsies, really stupid, or obsessed with hands. But the beasts felt fully realized in a similar vein to the Horrors in One Day at Horrorland. They had their own culture. I didn’t need to know all the details to get it, because I had enough of the right details to work with.


The other thing that really worked for me here was I felt like RL Stine had fun writing it. Or his ghostwriter did if you’re in that camp of thinking. I tend to think, if anything, it was more of a writer’s room approach when Stine was really pumping these books out in the mid-nineties. We may never know for sure. He maintains he wrote them all and relied on staff only for outlines. Regardless, it feels like this one was fun to create. I felt like I was being invited into this weird fucked-up forest with nonsensical rules and smelly blue beasts obsessed with gaming. This is why I can forgive the fact that so much of it relied on the kids conveniently stumbling out of all of the traps. The other reason I can forgive is that the ending made it seem like that luck had finally run out. I love a book that can balance something so silly with an ending that bleak. 


I know Stine is not big on lessons in his narratives. And I don’t think there was one in here. But the other thing I really appreciated in this book is that it could all be one big metaphor for neurodivergent kids navigating the confusing world of archaic rules of social norms. I’m not about to spout off on a thesis here, but I think that could be a fun lens to look at it through. Maybe I’ll pick up this train of thought when I go back to school for my doctorate in Goosebumps.


Score Card

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


Concept: 2/2
The overall concept was simple, fun, and focused. It gave the right amount of details and left us with the right amount of mystery. 

Execution: 1/2
The only issue that nagged at me was that it was too bit contrived. All the rules that worked in the kid’s favor were fun, but I wish it shook things up a little bit with the formula by the end. I wasn’t necessarily mad about it, but I think it held the book back.

Character: 2/2
The main character was solid, and so were her brothers. Parents were straight-up MIA. I also really enjoyed the beasts and their strange quirks. 

Intent: 2/2
The very real threat of being eaten. A game with archaic rules no one explained. Then that ending with the game starting all over again was a chef’s kiss. The book’s aim was to be fun, thrilling, and scary. It was delivered on all fronts. 

 Originality: 2/2
Unwitting participants in someone else’s game is hardly a new concept, but this was a fresh take, unapologetically weird, and remains a series standout.


Based on GoodReads aggregate ratings, Beast from the East is:
Ranked 19th of 62 books in the original Goosebumps series.


TV Adaptation – Bullet Review

There was no episode made of this one! This makes sense because it would have been very CGI-heavy.



Don’t miss the next post in my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #44: Say Cheese and Die — Again


Also, be sure to check out the latest from my Pulp Horror blog series:
Lois Duncan’s Stranger with My Face


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  1. Cherrelle Strelbicki

    Love this review