The Phantom Speaks – Stephen Baum

19 Sep

screen-shot-2014-09-09-at-8-59-39-pmThe Phantom Speaks or More in The Lives of Chester Knowles is the “wonderfully entertaining” sequel to The One Life or The Lives of Chester Knowles novel. Charmingly illustrated by Alexandria Skaltsounis, The Phantom Speaks is perhaps Baum’s most interesting work to date.

A deliberately vague blurb is always fitting for a sequel, this book being the follow-up to the inventive One Life or the Lives of Chester Knowles which some of you may have read my review for, way back in May.  As I am feeling benevolent, I shall refrain from any spoilers so read on if you wish.

For those of you who have never come across Chester and his frankly bizarre set of circumstances, this book may seem a little bewildering with references to people who you haven’t met yet.  Do not fear though you can buy both books together as a set as well as the rest of the author’s work here.  For reviews of said work, you can find them elsewhere on this site.

It is nice to catch up with the surviving characters of the last book and find out what happened to them.  The lives they lead are far more intimate and normal compared to extraordinary lives of some characters and that is where the charm lies. Perhaps it is just me but everyday people getting through the days and living life is much more interesting, as I identify with such circumstances.

As ever with Baum’s writing, you get a lot of witty observations, a mix of light-heartedness and serious musings on life, it’s wonder and shortness.  These observations come mainly from the ambiguous character of the Phantom who runs his eye over such subjects as the nature of love, sports, quantum mechanics and loneliness.  The American politics section especially had me nodding in agreement with this astute spirit.

Part of the fun is that some characters are self-aware of their fictional nature whilst they are addressing the reader, which is perhaps as close to breaking the ‘fourth wall’ in literature as it gets.  That’s a separate debate though, which may do for a blog post at some point…The acceptance of the mystery surrounding Chester, the Phantom and his notes adds an extra layer of magical realism, which on top of its positive nature adds an air of intrigue to this fun, quick read.

I should also mention the accompanying illustrations which fit into the book perfectly, showing the Phantom getting to grips with human pastimes as well as some smile inducing, imaginative pictures.  If I was to be a picky I would complain about the solar system not featuring Pluto which we all know is still a planet despite what scientists say but even such a travesty as that was never going to ruin such a pleasant read.


Posted by on 19/09/2014 in Fiction


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9 responses to “The Phantom Speaks – Stephen Baum

  1. Al

    19/09/2014 at 10:43

    I hate it when you read the blurb for a sequel and it tells you what happened in the previous book. Like one of the Game of Thrones books “King Joffrey is dead and Tyrion Lannister is in prison wrongly accused of his murder”


    “Since the destruction of the Death Star, Luke and the rest of the rebels are hiding on the ice world of Hoth”


    “Iggle Piggle has escaped the hunt after he murdered Tinky-Winky and Barney MacGrew with Postman Pat’s car, and now Noddy is on his trail”


    • Ste J

      19/09/2014 at 10:48

      That last one sounds explosive, I wish that was a real book, or maybe it is? The copy I have does have more of a blurb on it but I hate to give anything away, that is why I never mention Keyser Soze in my conversations. I haven’t watched any Game of Thrones past the episode you just mentioned which is handy. I did attempt book one but it was so close to the show, I thought it would be easier to watch the show and read other stuff, the jury is still out on that decision…


      • Al

        19/09/2014 at 10:55

        I read the first book and started on the second, but when the one word I abhor is used for no reason, I stopped reading. If it was used in a conversation, or in someone’s thoughts, then that would be fine, the word is used throughout all serieseseses anyway, but not as a general description like using “gob” instead of “mouth”, or “flapped his gums” instead of “spoke”


        • Ste J

          19/09/2014 at 20:45

          I think I know the word you mean…it certainly has some ‘earthy’ bits to it…

          Liked by 1 person

  2. shadowoperator

    19/09/2014 at 13:39

    You really are full of fun, games, and surprises! This sounds like a very engaging book (series). Thanks for mentioning it.


    • Ste J

      19/09/2014 at 20:43

      The surprises will keep on coming as well, the book I’m reading now is a non fiction book by one of the great Russian authors, I won’t say any more at present though because I am the worst sort of tease.


  3. Love, Life and Whatever

    19/09/2014 at 14:42

    That sounds like some interesting plot and as you mentioned hopefully some balanced musings….


    • Ste J

      19/09/2014 at 20:42

      yes it’s a bizarre plot but well grounded and allows for plenty of musing about life and how we lead it.



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