The 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.