hen I first cracked this brick-thick novel open, I wasn’t sure what I was reading. Was this some sort of parody? I was reminded of The Further Adventures of Captain Gregory Dangerfield, a novel about an English hero perfect beyond perfection. Rich, cunning, trained, handsome, and adventurous, that book was a lampoons of men’s adventure books. And when I first started reading Phantom, I thought it was the same sort of thing.
My evidence? Lord Alex Hawke (yes, an English lord, complete with an estate and bazillions of dollars to play with), who is respected in society yet also an English agent. And then there is the villain, an Iranian dwarf/super-scientist who flies around in a hover-seat and works on his world-changing computer AI, hidden in a glowing electrical-crackling palace at the bottom of the Persian Gulf. And now horrible things are happening to Americans (even, gads, at Disneyworld!). So Hawke is called in to solve the case.
Was it far-fetched, that this guy would face torture unflinchingly yet also hang out (in the same month) with Putin and Scarlett Johansson? Yes. And that he has a super yacht with all sorts of cool upgrades below deck (look, I know it’s big, but to carry it’s own armored gunboat?). So yes, it was crazy and far-fetched, totally unbelievable, and yet… a hell of a lot of fun.
Sure, it was exactly what the audience wants. We want to sneak into an Iranian port, and see Somali pirate boats tied up in the docks (because, you see, they are all in this against us). We want to wade into combat with Hawke and his seal-team buddies (all of who stand shoulder to shoulder with him, because he’s just so God dammed butch). We want to see the Iranian Republican Guard’s literally throw themselves like the fuzzy-wuzzies they are into the hero’s scything fire. And once the charges are set and the hero is escaping in his yacht, that’s when we want the big toys to come out. And isn’t it grand that the Iranian Captains all graduated from the Klingon School of Battle Tactics, coming in one at a time so they can take some new weapons system full in the face.
Christ, yes, it was silly. It was silly enough that Michael Bay might flinch at what he was reading. But, hell, it was fun.
I’d give this one four buckets of popcorn as a ranking. Don’t take it serious. Don’t out-think it. Just enjoy it.