Aug 3, 2023 | Goosebumps, Pulp Horror

The Beast 2
by RL Stine

© 1995 by Parachute Press. Cover Art by Broeck Steadham.
THE BEAST ® is a registered trademark of Paramount Parks, Inc.

Sequel to: The Beast



Spoiler-Free Review:

The Beast 2 is the sequel to one of my favorite RL Stine books. I like to think of The Beast duology as the “lost” Goosebumps books (where “lost” means “published by a different publisher”). Regardless, they fit in perfectly with the rest of the franchise. I’m having difficulty summarizing my thoughts on this one. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad either. So far as RL Stine’s track record on sequels goes, this was one of the better ones in that it wasn’t actively terrible. It had some good weird moments with the Children of the Future and the makings of a good villain with Captain Time. James and Ashely were solid leads, and I liked the struggle of life with braces as a subplot. Stine attempted to bring some new depth to the time travel element, but I’m not sure it worked. It ended up being silly but remained on the cusp of being something better. It was entertaining but ultimately hollow. I think that is how I would describe this book as a whole. It avoids the usual pitfalls of Stine’s worst sequels but fails to stand on its own in any significant way. Which is a shame, because it had the potential to. I think it went wrong on one specific aspect, and that choice derailed the rest of the book. All of that leaves us with an OK sequel to what was one of Sine’s single best works.


Score: 2


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Recap & Observations:

The Beast 2 picks up in the summer following the events of the first novel. James and his cousin Ashely have returned to Paramount Park theme park. This is an actual theme park in western Ohio, and The Beast is an actual roller coaster. I one day hope to visit and ride it because I love wooden roller coasters. Anyway, they have already ridden the Beast a few times, and want to ride one last time. James is late getting in line because he needs to get his favorite new caramel candy from the snack stand. He catches back up to Ashely and finds that she has secured their seats in the coveted front car. The ride, the scream, they have a blast, and then the ride ends. James turns to Ashely and sees that she is gone. He tries to alert park employees to this but they seem unbothered by the fact that a kid may have fallen off the roller coaster. That’s not what happened, but the reality is that this situation would have triggered a ride shutdown and massive investigation in the real world. But this is the world of Goosebumps logic, where adults are fucking idiots about obvious things. So Ashley is missing and no one cares except James.


James stays late at the park hoping that maybe Ashley is playing some kind of trick on him. His hopes of this evaporate as the park closes. He gets caught by security, but his good ghost friend PD helps him by scaring them away. He gets back to The Beast and has PD set it off again. This time he sits where Ashley was sitting, and he gets himself transported to the past. The first person he meets is Captain Time. Captain Time immediately makes him strip from his 90s clothing and put on a weird silver costume. This point is not addressed, but a strange adult commanding a child to strip definitely dredged up some discomfort for me as an adult reader. James is then led through a weird building and passes a fish tank where a fish-boy hybrid seems to try and warn him to get away ASAP. If I were James, I’d listen to the fish boy.


James is hastily shoved into a Circus show with the Children of the Future. He finds that he is stuck in a cage with a bunch of other children in weird silver costumes like his. The curtains come up and Captain Time calls spectators to their sideshow. He encourages the crowd to ask the children from the future questions. The answers of the other kids are very robotic and rehearsed. James quickly realizes that he is back in Fireside Park in the early 20th century. He thankfully finds Ashley among the children. She is being treated as a princess because of her braces. When the show ends, he and Ashley are able to debrief. Captain Time is basically the amusement park owner’s son or something, and nepotism leads to him running the circus. His true aspiration is to be a scientist. Basically, he’s the 1920s version of a trust fund kid. So the fact that he’s into explorative child labor makes sense.


Captain Time forces the Children of the Future to do 16 shows a day. While he is “ingenious” enough to bring people from the future back in time, he doesn’t know how to send them back to the future. Ashley and James try and escape back to the pod they arrived in. They pull a bunch of levers. They end up aging rapidly instead. Basically, they fucked around and found out. James manages to hit a button that reverses their aging. Clearly, this is fantasy time travel, which means it makes even less sense than sci-fi time travel. Captain Time catches them and punishes them, threatening to make them like Fishboy if they keep up their rebellious attitudes. Then he changes tactics and tries to win their trust by inviting them to see the next person he is bringing back from the future. Only instead of a kid, a giant pterodactyl comes out. A pterodactyl with bad breath.


The kids help save Captain Time, and the pterodactyl is eventually pulled back into the pod and (presumably) sent back to its prehistoric past. James takes note of this and hypothesizes that they need to wear their clothes from the 1990s to go back, and that was why Captain Time had been so eager to get them into their silver costumes. They sneak back into the room and find them. Nothing happens after they put their regular clothes on. They even pull a few levers on the pod for good measure, but nada.  Then Captain Time comes in and catches them. He announces he is going to turn their insubordinate asses into a frog and something else I can’t remember. It’s not important. James has another bright idea. He finds his caramel candy in his pocket and pops one in his food hole. He thinks they need to be different on the outside and the inside, or something to that effect. As I said, fantasy time travel.


Ashley is reluctant to eat the caramel because of her braces. I understand this logic. When I first got braces I had to put pasta in a blender in order to eat it because it hurt too much to chew otherwise. She eventually relents. James pulls some random levers and they get pulled back to the 1990s, in the front car on The Beast. Fireworks are going off around them, and James remembers that fireworks were the whole reason they picked that day to come to the park. Then Ashley, having learned absolutely nothing from their latest adventure, suggests that they ride The Beast one more time.


I think the place where this book went wrong was in returning to the past. It would have made more sense and offered enough distinction if they had gone into the future instead. Give us Paramount Park in the 2030s after the aliens have invaded. Give us a weird post-apocalyptic angle. You could have even had Captain Time but with advanced tech instead. The other thing that I wish is that PD had been more central to the plot. He got a brief cameo scaring some park guards to help James out, but I wanted more of him. I wish Stine played into the weird time-warp aspect of his life. Maybe he needed help from his two besties in the future with Captain Time taking over the park and doing weird experiments with children. There were a lot of directions that this could have gone in, but I firmly believe it would have been better as a future story with PD at the center. It would have helped make the book its own distinct thing instead of feeling like a rehash of the first book.


So far as Stine sequels go, it wasn’t all that bad. I read this one as a kid and I can confirm that my memory is not all that reliable. I had a vague recollection of this book having pirates, but I think that may just be me remembering Captain Time in some capacity. Anyway, I don’t have much else to say. There is no Beast 3, so this is where the story of James and Ashley ends. I can’t say I’m mad about it. I would have been fine with just the first book as a stand-alone. Basically, I’m fine. I have complaints but not all of them are worth airing. Sometimes it is just best to let a sleeping Fishboy lie.


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: 1/2
The premise just seemed really confused about itself. In trying to distinguish itself from the first book, it managed to somehow change the wrong things while leaving the rest too similar.

Execution: 1/2
The pacing was solid, even if it lacked the fun of the first book. But it kinda hit a wall halfway through, where it was just the kids making different attempts to get back.

Character: 1/2
James and Ashley are fun. Captain Time was demented but just smart enough to be believable. I only wish PD could have been more closely tied to the central plot.

Intent: 1/2
The book managed to be fun, even if it didn’t capture the highs of the last book. It had some good scares and a sense of adventure. Its biggest crime is that it was forgettable.

Originality: 1/2
It tried to do something new to build on the last story, but it didn’t go far enough in giving us something new.



Don’t miss the next post in the Pulp Horror blog series:
RL Stine’s The Babysitter IV


Also, be sure to check out the latest from my Goosebumps blog series:
Goosebumps #43: Beast from the East


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