Written by Frederick Forsyth
Bantam Press, 1999
This novel is a sequel to the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The entire story is told from the perspective of various characters, from Madame Giry to Erik himself, via supposedly discovered journals that each character keeps. Erik disappears from Paris and finds his way to Manhattan, where he works his way up from a Coney Island clown to a mysterious business tycoon with a sinister partner named Darius. From there, he composes an Opera titled Shiloh, a bittersweet romance set during the War between the States. The new Swedish diva Christine de Chagny is, of course, to come to the Metropolitan Opera house to star in the leading role. But Christine has her own suprise for Erik...
When I first began to build this web site, I had every intention of keeping things here as positive as I could. In this case, I shall make an exception. The "nuts and bolts" aspects of the story are alright. Examples include Erik's creative works such as the Hall of Mirrors, the music box, and his opera Shiloh. I am even one of the few online phans who likes the idea of a Phantom sequel, but I also think it would take some serious "brain sweat" to make it work. This story, however, is strung together like a stereotypical bad sequel that is obviously trying to ride on the coat-tails of the popular ALW musical. Additionally, Forsyth spends almost a third of his very short book trying to "prove" that Leroux's story is "wrong" and that the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber is "right," which I find unnecessary, unprofessional, and blatantly stupid.
The Persian could not be right, Forsyth claims. He insists the Persian must have confused Erik with someone else. I will be the first to confess my ignorance of 19th century Persia, thus this web site aka my "home school front," but this sort of comment makes me ask just a few important questions. Did the Sultan of 19th century Persia make it such a habit to employ homicidal magicians with a gift for music and architecture? Did they all make hexagonal torture chambers designed to resemble a dessert forest to the poor victims inside of them? How many skeletal musicians entertained in the courtyards with Punjab lassos during this era? Tell me. I'm dying to know! Silly me thought the Phantom had one of those faces that you never forget once you see it. I guess not. If the Persian chief of police confused him with someone else, I'm extremely curious to see how many of these sorts of characters actually worked in the Mazanderan palace in 19th century Persia.
Want to write a sequel to the understandably memorable musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber? GREAT! Go for it! It was the ALW show that inspired Susan Kay to write her lovely novel. Brigitta D'Arcy and Nancy Hill Pettengill have both written sequels to the ALW musical as well. Arthur Kopit totally went way off on his own merry way and wrote his own beautiful, cuddly romantic teleplay that I totally adore. But *none* of them went out on a crusade like this little bozo did! Speaking of bozo, Erik goes about in disguise in a clown suit? Forget disguising himself as a devil, or at least returning to his old faithful Red Death costume. I've read that devils, when they are not terrifying, can be quite funny. Eh, well.
Before anyone accuses me of having Leroux all up on a pedestal just because he was the one who originated the story, I have news for you. I don't, and never did have, Leroux up on any pedestal. I just happen to have notoriously quirky tastes for the macabre, thanks to my childhood fandom into campy Vincent Price movies, Hammer Horror films, and other things of that ilk. Leroux wrote more like a tabloid journalist than a real news journalist, which is not always bad. Tabloids are the (humorous) sources for Agent Mulder in The X-Files, but I digress. Even hardcore phans of the ALW musical (those for whom the lavish Broadway show is *the* definitive version) appear to have a serious problem with this novel. It's just plain daft. If he's going to spend this much time "proving" the ALW musical "right," then he could at least refrain from contradicting it so much, or refrain from using ideas from Leroux for his own story, or to at least put more effort into creating a more worthy, lavish, romantic story.
Pardon my angry rant there. He just rubbed me the wrong way. If he wants to spend so much time dismissing Leroux's book, then I will spend my time dismissing him. Now to complete this "review."
If you are a completist, I say read it just to say you've read it. While it does have a few cool parts, don't waste your money actually buying a copy. Borrow it from someone else or check out a copy from your local library. The audiobook is slightly better - I like the idea of having different actors reading for different characters - but it is still a bad story even with the wonderful actors trying to compensate for his big mistakes.
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