You Are Not Alone: Erik and Christine (2005)
by Lauren R. Binkley
This book is goddamn boring. Boring cliches, boring cardboard characters, boring lack of depth, boring, boring, boring. The only thing that isn't boring is the author's inability to write in the English language, which while definitely not boring for me is still not going to win it any points.
As you may have noticed on the cover, this is the "revised edition" of this book. Yes, it's been through more than one edition, as if it were some kind of highly in-demand volume. I don't know much about its demand, but I do know that I could seriously have done without the highly-vaunted extended epilogue it now includes.
It’s worth noticing that there has been a lot of drama on the internet about this book; Binkley has been accused of plagiarizing large swaths of it, lifting material from online fanfiction written by other fans of the story. I have no idea whether or not that's true, but if she did plagiarize it didn't help very much because this is still like reading paint dry.
It seems you can judge a book by its cover, because whenever something has gone terribly wrong on the cover, it turns out that tragedy is in store in the pages. In this case, we have discussion of the "Changy family" in the back cover copy. Sigh.
"Would Christine have been able to love and appreciate Erik as he was, not just as her Angel of Music? Would a modern Christine have been able to look past his face and into his heart? Every society in every culture has rejected the ugly and unusual, but I decided it was time for Christine to make her own decisions."
Leaving aside the entire lake of cheese that it's obvious we're about to dive into, thank god for this book. I mean, I know that when I'm reading Leroux's novel, all I can think is, "God, why doesn't this woman make any affirming, life-altering, incredibly difficult, life-changing or defining decisions all on her own through her incredible strength of will and character?" But at least we know we’re about to read a modern-day adaptation!
Bizarrely, Binkley claims here that Erik is never portrayed as a flesh and blood man in any of the film or stage versions of the story. Is she watching some other versions that I don't know about? Even when they try for ambiguity, the vast majority of the film and stage versions are very clear about Erik's mortal, non-ghostly status. Most of the films actually show his origins as just being a dude who suffers a tragic accident and does not react well. I have literally no idea what she's talking about. Did she find the only copy of Midnightmare outside of China or something?
She follows up by saying that "...heartbreak around every corner would not have rung true in a realistic modern setting." So I guess she lives in a parallel universe where this kind of thing doesn’t happen regularly all over the world.
The writing misery is beginning here, so get comfortable with it now. It's not a wholesale slaughter of the language, just a gruelling, constant water-torture of it that had me screaming for relief by about halfway through the book. Numbers are not written out; commas are frequently omitted or put in the wrong places; the hypen appears to be a mysterious and frightening idea, since I can count the number of times it appears correctly on the fingers of one hand and yet I promise you it is used upwards of fifty times.
The author closes out the preface by claiming that realism is, above all other things, her goal in this novel. Let's see it!
We open with Christine en route to the hospital, where her father has apparently just been admitted. Naturally, he's dead when she gets there. Cue the sad violins! I had trouble maintaining a properly funereal mood because I could not for the life of me figure out what had killed Daddy Daae; for five pages, while Christine wailed and moaned and laid haplessly on her bed, I was trying to reconcile the facts that he had heart medication and was on a strict diet yet has fallen over of an untreated heart condition, or the fact that the hospital called and said she should hurry to see him but later they tell her he was dead on arrival, or wait, now he had a brain tumor, but his heart... look, he’s DEAD, just accept that. Realism!
Fifteen-year-old Christine is now an orphan, but luckily her father's longtime friends, Jonathan and Rebecca (no de) Chagny, are all ready to step in and adopt her as her guardians. Apparently they'd already discussed this with Daddy Daae, despite the fact that his sudden death came as a massive shock to everyone. Jonathan and Rebecca are Raoul's parents, in case you wondered, which makes Christine and Raoul now effectively siblings and clues you in as to Binkley's very subtle approach to the question of Christine’s romantic prospects.
We kick off this chapter with a recap of the fact that Daddy Daae just died of a heart issue (or possibly brain cancer or something), which is totally unnecessary since we just heard all about it in the prologue.
It turns out that Raoul is already twenty-seven while Christine is not yet seventeen, and that they have grown up together and he treats her in all ways as a younger sister. Again, the carefully trained eye can see the enormously looming subtlety of Binkley's cunning plan. Raoul lets us know in his inner monologue that he is fully prepared to sacrifice their friendship in order to take on a guardian role for her, which is a good thing because her new adopted parents have apparently decided to send her to live alone with him in New York while they hang out at their house in Islip, eating cheese and crackers and being pretentious (she does not ask for this; they just decide to do it). I mean, right? Inner city schools are way better than the expensive and prestigious ones on Long Island, aren't they? And sending a sixteen-year-old to live alone with your twenty-seven-year-old son so she can "experience the city" is a sound parenting decision, right? Realism!
Raoul is a totally different character who just happens to have the same name, an older brother/guardian and lawyer who rarely turns up and never evinces even the tiniest whisper of romantic interest toward Christine. He's like white bread put in a blender and stuffed into a suit. He has nothing to do with the original Raoul except for the name. Obviously, it’s very important that we prevent any competition from interfering in the Phantom’s enormous romance.
The text wanders in and out of both Raoul's and Christine's points of view as well as taking random side-trips to Third-Person-Omniscient Land, which is jarring and difficult to keep track of as well as painfully amateur.
Erik lives in penthouse number 666 (conveniently, it's just upstairs from Raoul's and Christine's apartment). See what she did there? Slightly less fun is the following realization that that Binkley is probably using the number not because it has anything to do with the occult but because she heard it in Lloyd Webber's musical.
Why are we at penthouse number 666? Well, Raoul decides that Christine is mooning around being sad about her dead dad too much, so he goes and finds his best friend Erik and wheedles him into giving her free music lessons to encourage her to try out for the school musical. Erik and Raoul: best friends! Raoul sending this girl that's supposed to be his ward off to spend every evening after school in Erik's bachelor pad: good parenting and a solution to problems! Erik: totally okay with tutoring whiny kids who don't even want lessons for free! Realism!
Erik's not around when she gets there, of course, but his assistant, Tomas Goldberg, is. Tomas serves as a combination butler/manservant/gofer for Erik throughout the novel; I'm strongly reminded of Hal in the Vale Allen novel, though his roots may go back even further to the various film assistants for the Phantom. Like Hal, and possibly to some extent Lajos and Ivan, Tomas' job is to make the Phantom seem much more sympathetic and human through interaction and loyalty. Regency era fiction cliche #4857, transplanted to the modern day for our pleasure: if the master is secretly a good man despite his horrible face/temper, all the servants will love him and defend him to the death even if he treats them like shit.
Cesar rolls in at this point. No, this book isn't quite ridiculous enough for Erik to own a horse in Manhattan, but it is ridiculous enough that he has a giant black wolfdog named Cesar living in his penthouse. Why? Well, as we all know, animals are as much shorthand for "secretly a wonderful person" as loyal servants are, and besides, he's huge and half wolf, which is also shorthand for "my owner is massively masculine and sexy". Why he's black as midnight (dark! tortured! sexy!) instead of white like the original Cesar I don't know, except that it's probably borrowed from the 2004 Schumacher/Butler film, which went for traditional black/white evil/good imagery when they brought out the horse. Like most things in this book, this Cesar is only linked to the original Cesar by his name and bears him no other resemblance.
Erik himself, when he arrives, is of course devastatingly handsome with thick dark hair and piercing green eyes. Hi, Gerard Butler! Like most other modern versions, he's given a last name, in this case "Drennan". One might think this is a random name starting in D (to match Destler, naturally) that Binkley pulled out of a hat, but if we look closer at its etymological roots, we can find that it's an Anglicized version of "O'Draighneain", which means "descendent of Draighnean", which is a name meaning "blackthorn".
So I’m putting it into the canon that this Erik is a descendant of Jason Blackthorn. I cracked the code!
Erik wears black frowny-faced masks the first few times we see him, which made me wonder if Binkley was drawing from Leroux, but it turned out in short order that he actually has a vast collection of fanciful masks, some full-faced (though of course he has a half-face disfigurement so he doesn't need those), some half-faced, and some fantastically glittery! He is fabulous, like the Phantom from the 1990 Richardson/Dance miniseries! He's got to be fabulous in some way, since apparently he's a fucking terrible music teacher, judging from the fact that it took him two entire lessons to "be able to discern her pitch and vibrato".
Christine is still extremely broken up over her deceased father, so she starts bawling in Erik's living room and, since he's of course a gallant, dashing comforter of the ladies, he takes care of her with some casual embracing and patting. Sorry, Daddy Daae, but sometimes you have to fridge a parent to make romance blossom.
Erik is already not making sense and we've just met him. Somehow he's very excited about teaching Christine, even though he's... well, not, because we just saw him inner-monologue about how much he didn't want to when Raoul asked him to. And he composes new songs for her for each lesson? Who the fuck does that, even for students they love? Wait, he's telling us that he could have trained her to be an operatic diva within a month if he'd so chosen (he didn't because she just wanted a part in the school play)? You can definitely train and develop an operatic instrument in a month, y’all. Realism!
Christine's big moment, by the way, that everyone has been preparing for for a month, is singing "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" in the Christmas pageant. So, yeah. I'm so glad we didn't miss out on that and how devastatingly important it's going to be to none of the rest of the plot.
Erik works at the Metropolitan Opera House, which makes sense if you throw him into modern-day New York City. Apparently he writes new operas for them all the time and they put on at least one a year, which makes much less sense. Does he own the Met? Is that how he can somehow put on a Drennan opera every damn season? Is this more realism?
Erik's current opera, the cleverly named Hart's Cross, is premiering, so naturally he wants to take the underaged student that he was bullied into teaching to see it. He demands that she wear red, which is not creepy or inappropriate or anything, right? Luckily, Christine has a zillion dollars to go buy fancy dresses on Madison Avenue even though we've been told she has no inheritance until she's an adult, so that all works out okay. Realism!
Madame Giry is a ballerina and successful Broadway actress; she has no real role in the story except for being Meg's mother (Meg is, of course, Christine's best friend from prep school, because what would a story be without Meg? Oh, right, it would be the original novel) and wanting vaguely to get into Erik's pants (don't worry, she never actually makes a move because No Other Woman Can Ever Truly Want Him). Her first name is Ann, which initially intrigued me because I always like seeing the different names new authors come up with for the old characters, but then I realized that it's likely derived from Antoinette, Forsyth's Giry's first name, in much the same way that Drennan is probably partially derived from Destler.
There are a few interesting things going on in this chapter which should be treasured because they are in the minority for the rest of the book. It is alluded to that Erik dated a redhead in Paris a while ago and that the relationship ended badly, though nobody will yet tell us any more information than that; is that a little clue that he and Carlotta used to date that I spy? This didn't turn out to be the case, but giving Erik previous relationships is interesting and provides several avenues for exploration. Also intriguing is Christine's tour around his apartment when she's not supposed to be there, during which she turns up, among other things, a jade scorpion and grasshopper, a monkey-shaped musical box, and a red crystal rose, all pointing out that Binkley is trying, at least, to somewhat involve Leroux's text, though she's much, much better at adding cosmetic touches than at actually examining anything the novel is, you know, about.
Since she's sneaking around his apartment, Christine catches a glimpse of Erik's face while he's working on making a new mask (apparently he also makes them, because he doesn't do enough shit yet). There is no explanation of the actual disfigurement aside from her immediate panicked reaction; in fact, there will be precious little detail ever given to the deformity, which is described in only one scene and referred to incredibly vaguely over the course of the novel. Unfortunately, this doesn't come off as artistic or make me think that Binkley is trying to make a statement about the specifics not mattering; mostly it makes me think she doesn't know.
Pages 41 and 42 are tiring in the extreme. They are basically a great example of the author stepping in to argue directly with Christine via internal monologue, slapping down all her bad reactions and forcing her to reconcile and decide to love Erik in spite of his face at the speed of light. Bam, boom, she's seen it, she doesn't care, she doesn't so much as twitch, and she starts weeping for his pain before he even makes it into the room. Ah, I love compelling internal conflict in my characters, don't you?
As always with a modern-day Phantom who isn't played by Robert Englund, I have to ask this question: why no plastic surgery, Erik? It's 2001. You are rich as fuck (somehow). What are you doing running around with nebulously described "scars" and "devastation" on your face? Manhattan plastic surgery is superb - expensive as hell, but very, very good when it comes to reconstruction and cosmetic tweaking. If it bothers him enough to wear a mask everywhere and look super weird, why wouldn't he just pony up the money and get it fixed? Binkley doesn't know, and also obviously doesn't know much about plastic surgery judging from the continued vagueness and hand-waving of possible solutions.
There are problems that could arise - in fact, we've seen them addressed in some other modern versions - but Binkley glosses past them and leaves Erik hanging there, looking like a waffler who doesn't actually want to solve his problems enough to try (even if he failed, at least if he tried we’d know he cared). It's a problem that comes up primarily for Lloyd-Webber-style, fully-human modern-day Phantoms; the disfigurement's often not severe enough that it can't be treated with modern surgery/grafting/what have you, and without the deformity the Phantom becomes a different character entirely. You have to either come up with a plausible source for and reason that the deformity can't be treated (that involves research!) or come up with a substitute that functions similarly but can't be treated (trimethylaminuria, for example, though I notice a dearth of writers willing to tackle the idea that someone stinking to high heaven can be looked past to find the true love underneath). Binkley does neither.
Raoul (who now has a steady girlfriend named Theresa in case anyone was still worried he might start hitting on Christine) gives Christine a kitten for Christmas. Aww. She names it after the lead from Erik's opera, which she has just seen and been whisked away on waves of rapture by. Aww. All the overwhelming maudlin happiness does not manage to camouflage the fact that Binkley apparently can't manage to stay in the same tense consistently throughout a paragraph.
Oh, lord, page 52:
"Stealing a glance at Christine, [Erik] saw tears rolling down her cheeks, but she was not crying.
He knew what she was experiencing; he had seen it happen many times.
She was slowly being overcome with passion.
The tears were a natural reaction to being exposed to true beauty for the first time."
Do you see what reading this book is like? I need a literal breathing apparatus to avoid aspirating the cheese. While the original Erik's music was supposed to be a transcendental, superhuman experience, to be honest I have seen not even the tiniest little indication out of this putz that he has any kind of comparable talent (or the comparable madness/torturedness/need for expression that it represents). And even if he did, I could really do without the phrases "overcome with passion" or "true beauty" in pretty much any context.
At the end of the chapter, the gossip pages run a story about Erik and Christine, the mysterious young woman he took down the red carpet (!) from his limousine (!) to the premiere of his opera. Somehow it had never occurred to him that people might think they were dating even though he has frequently mentioned how much the gossip columnists love to speculate about his love life (Erik is apparently a celebrity, though why remains a total mystery to me). He is VERY ANGRY at this flagrant… business as usual.
Erik has already conceived his burning passion for Christine now, which is absolutely gross considering that she's just turned seventeen and he's in his mid-thirties. She is literally half his age and still legally a child. The underage romance aspect is somehow actually MORE horrible and uncomfortable here than it was in the Vale Allen novel; Binkley doesn’t try to show why this relationship is happening, so this Erik has had plenty of lovers and is a mature adult, which means that the more he plans things, the more of a horrifying obvious predator he is. I guess you could say that at least Binkley isn’t trying to hide the fact that this asshole is a predator grooming a teen girl, but… that’s not any more admirable. Nor is the fact that Binkley obviously doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with this, since it’s presented as passionate and romantic.
And Erik is not just passively noticing she’s attractive, either. He’s having active fantasies, making her wear sexy dresses he chooses for her, and deciding to teach her the tango. A romance with such a wide age difference is always difficult, and Binkley doesn’t have even close to the skill needed to pull it off, ending up with an older man in a mid-life crisis and a teenager being taken advantage of. It’s horrible, and as USUAL, I would like to submit to authors to STOP DOING THIS.
Turns out I was totally wrong about that Carlotta stuff earlier, because she's actually shown up now and is a character in her own right, the reigning diva of the Metropolitan Opera House (but it doesn't work that... oh, never mind). Oddly enough, she and Erik are great friends and he delights in writing music for her. As with everyone else, neither her character nor her interactions with others resemble any other version of Carlotta in anything but name and ability to sing, but at least she isn’t being endlessly dumped on the way she is in most adaptations.
Erik sings Tamano for a rehearsal of The Magic Flute in this chapter, since the tenor is out with a cold. I couldn't help giggling a bit; somehow, the man who mocked Mozart as insipid seems like a strange choice for what might be one of the most intentionally insipid roles Mozart ever wrote.
The friendship between Erik and Raoul is interesting - or could be, if Binkley did anything with it, but she doesn't. Since Raoul has nothing to do with his original roles or characterization, he's pretty much just a random foil friend who occasionally hangs out with Erik and further humanizes him, and since the two of them never have any kind of meaningful interaction, it's just as boring as the flat cardboard relationship between Meg and Christine.
By halfway through this chapter, I really need to know how many more descriptions of Erik's jock catching on fire whenever Christine walks into the room we're looking at here, because I'm going to need to break into the limoncello if it's more than, say, zero.
Excuse me, why is Christine "lining her eyes with black kohl"? Do we not have access to modern cosmetics in Manhattan anymore? Who uses kohl - which still has a pretty good chance of having toxic amounts of lead in it - anymore? feel like I should be a Google search for this book: "You searched for kohl. Did you mean eyeliner because this is not a period piece?"
Aha! The mystery ex-girlfriend is named Elisalette Mara. That's... wow. That’s a real frontrunner in the unnecessarily fancy overwrought names category. I checked, and that name does not exist except in this book. Realism!
But oh, no! Christine has a boyfriend now, the young, handsome, in-her-own-age-bracket James! Erik is, of course, jealous of him and fantasizes about killing him, which is both an entire field of red flags and also vastly disproportionate to the actual relationship Erik and Christine have so far cultivated. James is an attractive young student and musician, reminiscent of the Raoul figure from the 1944 Waggner/Karloff film, and will function in all ways exactly like Raoul, which is really confusing because if you were going to remove Raoul from his normal role, why would you then clone him and put him back? I really don't know if I understand this choice at all, unless it's an attempt to avoid demonizing or trivializing Raoul, but still find a way to demonize and trivialize Christine's boyfriend so there's no competition for Erik, which... well, I mean, it works, but it's also not a great writing choice. It's not Raoul's name that matters in the original story; it's his representative role as light, warmth, youth and love, and his personality as a valid contender for Christine's affections. Ignoring those while he's named James is not actually any different from ignoring them while he's named Raoul.
It turns out that things broke off with Elisalette because she couldn't handle Erik’s hideous face. This is kind of weird since like, they dated for a while, so what changed? Did something happen to make her suddenly not be able to handle it anymore? This is obviously meant for us to hate Elisalette for being an intolerant jerkface, but having all these important emotional moments happen offscreen is not helping there be actual interest or poignance in any of them. It’s also a weird choice that sets Elisalette in one of Christine’s original roles as the person who rejected Erik in fear of his appearance… essentially, we’ve split Christine in half so that she won’t have any qualities that aren’t fully on board with Erik, which really just says that the author didn’t like her being a complex and potentially flawed character.
So Christine goes to this party that everyone who's anyone in Manhattan (including Erik, of course) is at, and she gets roofied by a young man intent on raping her. Why? Because the author is making a statement about how young women are taken advantage of and the world of powerful men is especially dangerous for a teenage girl? No, unfortunately because we need an excuse for Erik to powerfully save her and thus be an irresistible hero. When you have a “hero” who is a statutory rapist, I guess the only way to make sure the audience knows he’s the protagonist is to have him rescue his victim from a more violent rapist.
Erik does not collar the guy, call the police, take Christine to a hospital, let the hosts know, or otherwise assume any responsibility for what he's just witnessed. Instead, he decides that "the only logical course of action" is to go take Christine up to a dark room upstairs and sit there alone with her until she wakes up, because THAT’S not hideous or anything. He actually manages to make it worse by also whining about how much pink is in the random room's decor and thinking sexy thoughts about the unconscious drugged girl he's got draped helplessly in the bed next to him. He also muses on the fact that the drugger, Donald, is a notorious date-rapist who has done this to lots of girls, but does not explain why if he KNOWS this he has never DONE anything about it. That predator code of silence, I fuckin guess.
Naturally, some people come around looking for Christine and Erik lies about having her in the other room, ostensibly to protect her reputation, though what he thinks is going to happen if somebody catches him lying about having a heavily drugged girl in a dark bedroom I really can't fathom because he doesn't seem very concerned by it. He steps out into the hall to have this conversation, and pulls enough "These aren't the droids you're looking for" shit out of his hat to convince Christine's friends to go back downstairs, but when he turns around he finds that the door has been locked!
Yes, Donald the Date-Rapist (random antagonists are fun!) sneaked behind him while he was talking to the girls mere feet away, slipped into the closed bedroom, and locked the door behind him in order to get ANOTHER shot at raping Christine. Why is he not running away when he knows someone caught him? Why isn’t he targeting some other girl instead of scouring the building for Christine? How did he even know where they were? NO ANSWERS, ONLY REALISM.
Erik, who breaks the door down with Powerful Masculinity and finds Donald atop Christine's unconscious body, throws the guy out a second-story window to land mortally injured in the middle of the party. Dramatic. I don’t have any moral problems with throwing a rapist out a window, but you’d think the police would still want to talk to the guy who just very publicly killed someone in the middle of a party where the room is full of his fingerprints and physical traces, all the girls at the party knew he was up there, and there is no possible way he could escape without anyone seeing him. But somehow, no law enforcement ever finds out what happened to Donald and the death is ruled an accident/suicide. Realism!
It is horrible yet entertaining when Christine wakes up all sore, drugged, and lying in a strange bed and then Erik gets all hurt feelings when she thinks he might have had something to do with it. That is but one of the many, many reasons that not taking her to a hospital/the police/her guardian was a bad choice, Erik! And then he gets angry when she wants to know what happened to Donald and gets on his high horse when she dares to judge him for probably killing someone. I mean, sure, defending her is great, but you’re not the boss of how she feels about what just happened to her and here’s a thought, you could have defended her and many other girls you apparently don’t care about by reporting him to the police the last fifty times this apparently happened that you ALREADY KNEW ABOUT.
Apparently Christine doesn't like bagels, or so she keeps insisting. Who the fuck doesn't like bagels? They're BREAD.
After a short interlude in which Binkley fondly hopes that we are on the edges of our seats wondering whether or not Christine was actually raped, it turns out that of course she wasn't; she's got to have a virginal flower vagina for Erik later, and also Binkley hella doesn’t want to actually deal with Christine’s feelings about any of this.
Okay. I have been trying to ignore this, I really have, but seriously, who has a fainting couch in their house? Erik has one and it is apparently the most important piece of furniture he owns, because they fucking use it for everything. They sit on it, they chat on it, they relax on it, they watch TV on it. Has Binkley ever sat on a fainting couch? They are not comfortable. She probably just means that he has a chaise longue, but combined with the earlier kohl I'm starting to believe that the author is not very solid on her time period.
I cannot translate my laughter at page 88 into onomatopeia. Suffice it to say that it was epic at this line:
"[Erik] stretched his arms high over his head, unknowingly raising his shirt and revealing his stomach to Christine for a fleeting moment before he lowered his arms..."
The titillation is epic, am I right? A MAN'S STOMACH? I need that fainting couch now! While I'm lying on it, I'll try to figure out why Erik's surely very expensive tailor or clothing establishment sucks.
Erik and Christine now have a painful conversation about Donald’s death. Erik seems to think he should be funny about the situation:
"Did you throw Donald Milroy out a window?"
"Oh, thank god, I--"
"I threw him through a window. It wasn't open."
And yes, in this setting, I do think a jail could hold you, Erik, thanks for asking! You are a statutory rapist socialite with temper control problems, not a multi-talented super-magician and master criminal. You suck.
The crowning moment is on page 90, when he says with total sincerity, "Well, you know I'm not a violent person, Christine." And she agrees, when mere moments ago she was thinking about how secretly dangerous he must be (and how sexy that is, of course).
Apparently, Erik is not only the in-house composer for the Met. He's also the costume designer. And the set designer. And the lighting designer. And the director! What the hell are the unions doing? That's what I want to know. Realism!
Here is where a very interesting choice rears its head: Binkley includes the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, making the event an important occurrence in her narrative. It's certainly a ballsy choice; some readers may find it poignant and moving, while others, particularly New Yorkers, may find it disrespectful of the disaster and the tragedy it inflicted on the city. It's one of the few things I don't have a strong opinion about in this book; I think Binkley went to a lot of trouble to try to make it important and hit close to home, and I think it worked fairly well for what it was. She was pretty young when this book was written, so it seems likely that it was probably a pretty major event for her.
It would have worked better if she hadn’t shoehorned Erik’s and Christine’s first kiss into the chaos, of course. The dramas of the other characters, such as Raoul's girlfriend who managed to escape the towers in time or Carlotta's twin brother who didn't, were much more interesting, and while I understood the attempt at depicting love and hope rising out of the flames of tragedy, it was done poorly and flatly and just irritated and intruded on the proceedings. Setting Christine's birthday on the same day, however, was a good choice; the representative leap from childhood and innocence to adulthood and misery is nicely resonant.
Every time someone talks about how Erik and Raoul are brothers in all but blood, I get all excited because I think of all the ways that could be explored in an interesting way if this were a book that were actually well-written. Alas.
Erik knows, once Christine has left, that there is "only one solution" to his unwanted arousal. Apparently that solution is a cold shower, which is not what I would have guessed.
Christine hears Erik sing for the first time in this chapter, which involves him "hitting all auditory wavelengths" and exploring "the full spectrum" of the voice. I am imagining Christine as a dolphin or a bat, or a dog reacting to a whistle. This Erik has not been set up as nearly as mysterious, magical, supernatural, or even talented enough to have some kind of bizarrely large range, and even if he did... spectrum? Wavelengths? Realism!
Is there enough pathos yet? Of course not, so Erik turns on his answering machine to discover a message from Elisalette, the woman who broke his heart. She was on the second plane to strike the towers and called to apologize and try to say that she loved him before, with about the amount of drama you'd expect, the message dissolves into incoherent exploding sounds and then goes dead. This area, I feel, does tread uncomfortably close to offending people closely involved in the tragedy, mostly because it's such a cheap way for Erik to start freaking out so Christine can comfort him and a quick fix to remove Elisalette from the picture to make way for Christine.
Apparently, Erik's masks are all porcelain. That’s hugely inconvenient, but I’m sure it’s because they need to be able to shatter dramatically, as at this moment when he throws it off and yells at Christine to look at his face. While I'm glad we got the description, it’s not very impressive when compared to the original. His skin is "puckered and stretched" his "veins were visible at his temples", and his skin is "thin and sallow" and in some places looks "gray". That's... it, aside from the many scars from failed plastic surgery attempts to fix it, which don't make a lot of sense, either, when he’s richer than the rest of the universe and can afford to pay unbelievable specialists. It's just... sigh. It's a decent attempt, but it's not nearly ugly enough to be unfixable or to effect the kind of social ostracization the Phantom's character needs to be subjected to, partly because of the modern setting and partly because Binkley doesn't want to make him so ugly he couldn't still be hot. (Otherwise we'd end up with Leroux's Phantom and that would just be too gross for words, right?)
I do like, however, that she describes the gray flesh as being very corpse-like; while he doesn't have anything approaching Leroux's Phantom's death's-head, the idea is thematically consistent with the original novel.
There is a whole lot of Destiny's Child in this book. Christine likes to listen to them and sometimes tell us their lyrics. Poignant.
Erik is apparently continuing to write new music for every lesson of Christine's. Has this man never heard of “Caro mio ben”? And even if he hasn't, good lord, she can't learn and perfect a new song every other day, you jackass.
Elisalette, we learn from Tomas, was blind. This is an interesting idea; it's mostly intended to amp up our sympathy for Erik since he couldn't even get a blind woman to look past his face, and it's an interesting reverse from the many versions that prefer to set him up with a blind woman to prevent conflict over his face from occurring. It's still more than a little bit odd that she ran for the hills, though; while I'm sure his face didn't feel like a picnic, there's nothing actively wrong with his flesh and the visceral shock of seeing something that looks like death just wouldn't have been there for her. I don't believe in her terror at the revelation of his face, or, at least, I don't believe it for this Phantom.
Apparently, Erik named his dog after "Julius Cesar", about whom he was reading when he adopted him (out of the gutter, thus saving him in a beautiful act of kindness, naturally). Because he's so French and all so he would obviously use a French version of that name, right? Right? Wait.
Erik’s relationship with Elisalette is explored in more detail here, and it doesn't get any more believable. Erik cries hysterically that he had "never loved anyone so deeply!" and then a minute later admits that he had only known her for two weeks. It is interesting that he mentions that "He had begged his mother, but he would beg no other woman," refusing to crawl for Elisalette; it sets up Christine as the mother figure again, since he will be a lot more meek with her. And while I can totally understand the incredible blow to the ego that even a blind woman being repulsed by his face would be, Binkley rides it into the ground and eventually the whining is just exhausting.
A What the Fuck moment: Erik likes to indulge in petty theft, such as stealing a mask from the gift shop of the Opera Garnier (where he met Elisalette, of course, another thing that makes their story seem like more of a parallel to the original than the current one). He's a millionaire and he steals shit? He makes an offhand remark about keeping his stealin' fingers in shape or something, and does a lot of smirking and thinking how savvy and cool he is, most of which just makes him look kind of pathetic. Put some money back into the economy, you bloated parasite.
After some random French interjections into Erik's speech and Tomas playing Inappropriate Matchmaker by convincing him to pursue Christine more actively, they decide to go back to New York. I won't say at last, because at this point I can't think about anything but how long this book still has to go before it ends.
Well, obviously before we embark on this chapter we'd better do a three-page recap of Erik's relationship with Elisalette. It's been like five pages since the last one!
Like all enormous fuckbuckets who abuse women in a fit of rage and then realize they want them back, Erik buys Christine something. "Sorry I abused you - here's a pretty trinket, a crystal rose!" Informal poll: if someone screams at you, pins you to a wall, and tries to force kisses on you while you’re shrieking, do you: A) accept and forgive, B) spit in his eye, or C) make him regret giving you something breakable and sharp as an apology?
(Christine picks A, because this book is not about her. She’s just a pretty reward for Erik so he can be happy with the woman he wants. She’s not a person, so abusing and sexually assaulting her is just fine as long as you feel bad about it later and tell her you love her.)
Things are, if you can imagine it, getting even worse. Erik freaks out because Christine says that April, her friend (who is James' sister), is like a sister to her, which causes him to think she might have married James while he was gone. One of the major problems with Erik's and Christine's relationship is that Erik is every bit as immature and obnoxious as she is, which really shouldn't be the case considering his age, background, and previous relations with others. Sadly, none of Binkley's relationships as written appear to have made it out of the tenth grade. The sexual tension limps around, mostly just embarrassing the reader.
Christine and Erik are off to another society party, whee! There are no subway stops near it. Where is it, Westchester? It's a themed Halloween party at which everyone is supposed to dress as a character from classic literature; I'm learning, as I read it, that apparently only a small percentage of people in Manhattan know what classic literature is. Erik, of course, comes as the Red Death, while Christine rolls in as Arwen (complete with painstaking description so we know her costume is identical to Liv Tyler's in the 2001 film). In what might be the cheesiest scene ever in the history of Phantom books I have read so far, Erik's friend announces him at the party and he gets spotlighted while he descends the stairs, a tympani (nice archaic spelling there; student of Pliny?) beating as he touches each step. I snorted so hard trying not to laugh at work that I made myself dizzy.
By the time they've embarked on a breathless waltz around the party, being all with the sad sexual tension and the failed attempts at conversation while no one figures out that they have the hots for each other, I'm even more tired. This "romance" is giving me gout.
In one of the very few scenes left that recognizably parallel the original story, Christine and James have a fight at the party, wherein James, jealous and confused, accuses Christine of being interested in her music teacher and she denies it poorly. Of course, since this is a Christine who is much stronger and more capable of making her own decisions and we were told so in the introduction, she doesn't walk out but instead gets browbeaten into promising not to talk to him for the rest of the night and starts meekly following James around. Erik, meanwhile, is dancing with every lady at the party, because he's just a social butterfly that way. People are also wearing kohl again.
Of course, the next day there's a bright, shiny new gossip column with pictures of Erik all over Christine the party, and he is so angry that he shouts, "BLOODY FUCKING HELL!!!" with bonus exclamation points, which is how you know this is a quality literary endeavor. Again, I ask: what the fuck did he think would happen? He's a celebrity (for some reason) and pawed at her all over the dance floor. He already panicked about this last time it happened!
Luckily, the composer at the Met somehow has the clout to call up the New York Times and get their gossip columnist fired for reporting, you know, what happened. Realism!
How lovely. Erik does not celebrate holidays, of course, so Christine can take him to a heart-warming first Thanksgiving dinner with the Chagnys. I foresee a first Christmas in our near future, too. Why the Chagnys, apparently Erik's best friends in the world, have never invited him before will remain a mystery.
I'm so glad that Erik felt the need to tell us in his internal monologue that "One did not chug wine, no matter what the setting." Otherwise, I might have thought him secretly uncouth. Thank goodness someone is here to constantly hammer in the salient points of his flat characterization, even though they should be intrinsic and thus not explained!
After a nice, full Thanksgiving dinner, the eighteen-year-old goes to the living room and sings the Jewel Song from Faust with crystalline sublimeness. Realism!
I’m going to go ahead and say no, Erik, the opera you just started writing with songs you wrote in the last two weeks is NOT the Met's next season opener. I don’t even know how to explain all the ways that won’t work. The board has probably already met! There are announcement parties! People buy season tickets a year in advance! This is PEAK realism.
Apparently, Raoul and Erik go Christmas shopping together every year, even though we were just told Erik doesn’t celebrate Christmas. For some reason, Erik thinks it's a good idea to take this opportunity to buy Christine a ridiculously expensive diamond and sapphire necklace at Tiffany's while he's trying to hide their relationship from Raoul. He's a sharp one, this Erik. For bonus nonsense points, he buys the necklace because he's worried about her getting her hair caught in a bracelet.
Erik does some more internal whining over Elisalette, in which we learn that he waited to whip off the mask until mid-coitus. Well, no fucking WONDER she was freaked out. She was in a vulnerable position with you and you intentionally suddenly shocked her with something you knew would probably scare her without being warned first. What is wrong with you? I am tired, so tired, of listening to this man whine about his face and take no responsibility for any of the problems in his life.
Apparently, Christine's magical and neverending supply of money is such that she can also give Erik a diamond and platinum pin for Christmas. Erik muses that "Great minds thought alike, at least when it came to Christmas gifts." Yeah, those are... really inspired, thoughtful gifts. Very meaningful.
Raoul and his parents are apparently world-class bad decision-makers, because not only do they encourage Christine and Erik to kiss under the mistletoe (ha ha! quaint customs!), they send her to "drop Erik off at his penthouse" afterward. He needs an escort to go upstairs now? At least later events tell us they aren’t tacitly approving of this fuckery, but they’re still complete failures as far as guarding their ward.
We've got a little backstory for Erik now; he's Scottish! And was raised in a Scottish orphanage! By nuns! I don't know how it took me almost the entire chapter to register the fact that this is probably because Gerard Butler, hoarse-voiced star of the 2004 film, is very obviously Scottish. He ran away to live free at the age of seventeen, because he'd managed to squirrel away a large amount of money by doing... architecture by mail? Yes, in Scotland, apparently, you can send a blueprint to an architectural company and they'll just send you a check to your anonymous P.O. Box, no muss, no fuss, no ever meeting you, learning your name, checking for copyright and patent, or asking you to sign contracts or edit your designs. Realism!
Erik's constant discussion of how only the mask lets him hide his face and live normally is bewildering to me. It obviously doesn't - everyone in the world can see it and usually stares, and he's always self-conscious about it. Seriously, I don't get it.
Interestingly enough, Erik gets a vasectomy to avoid passing on his condition in case it’s congenitally transmittable; Erik's desire to not pass on his seed is an idea broached in a few previous versions, most notably the Vale Allen novel. This makes sense right up until he starts implying that his disfigurement is possibly the result of an injury rather than something he was born with? BE CONSISTENT.
It's that time of the book... the time when the sex finally arrives. Don't worry, she's now eighteen, so it is legal and not horrible and gross AT ALL. If you thought the prose was boring already, it reaches new plateaus of boring during the boinking, which is depressing since I should want to pay more attention. Binkley uses a very limited range of descriptors and phrases and draws unimportant moments out far too long, creating the literary equivalent of the feeling you might get while watching your sister try to perform a striptease. In particular, the phrase "take her" (gotta love that really forward-looking phrasing) is vastly overused, as if it might be the only euphemism for having sex that the author knows.
Oh, Erik. "He'd never had a virgin before." I wasn't aware that they sold Phrases To Make Anne Hate You in reference dictionary form, or that some malevolent person was selling them to unwary authors under false pretenses. I mean, yes, I know Christine is basically a blank cipher of a female reward for all of Erik's trials and tribulations, but couldn't you at least pretend?
God, if the two of them had ANY RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPMENT AT ALL IN OVER TWO HUNDRED PAGES this would be less painful and creepy, but they don't and it is and it could not possibly end soon enough for me so I could go back to being bored in other ways. To pass the time, I made a checklist of all the terrible romance novel cliches being presented:
Overdescribed yet totally content-less pages of flowing purple prose? Check.
The titillating yet totally toothless threat of violence, intended to make it exciting while not actually presenting any danger to the heroine? Check.
Angels singing choral arrangements of orgasms? Check.
Instant and permanent bonding of souls? Check.
Virgins having an awesome time? Checks galore.
Oh, and I'm glad we established that pregnancy, the ONLY POSSIBLE REASON TO EVER WANT TO WEAR A CONDOM, is off the table due to Erik’s vasectomy so Christine could relax and not worry about it. I mean, Jesus, it's not like Erik is some kind of rich millionaire playboy with an admitted history of sleeping with tons of people. OH, WAIT.
Christine kicks this chapter off by saying that she doesn't want to think about James. I believe it, considering that she's just cheated on him with her music teacher who is twice her age and a man she swore to him she had no interest in. Of course, believing it and having any sympathy for her are two very different things.
Somehow, despite his hypersensitivity and constant sensitivity about it, Erik did not notice Christine removing his mask during sex. I mean, he doesn't have a terribly traumatic experience with removing his mask during sex to remember recently or anything. OH, WAIT.
Christine, amidst talk of how stiff her "feminine muscles" feel (seriously, she uses that phrase like three times), continues being magically and totally accepting of Erik's ugliness no matter what, which makes it kind of hard to take everyone else being so upset over it seriously.
Erik does a bizarre 180 on page 227 and decides that he just doesn't feel comfortable without his mask on, even though it's the symbol of his oppression and he's been trying to get someone to love him without it on for pretty much his entire life. I guess Binkley felt she’d lose the branding.
Now that they're officially having afternoon delights and stuff, Erik and Christine have to approach the idea of telling Raoul what's going on, which they are understandably loath to do since he's, you know, Christine’s guardian and Erik's best friend and also probably going to be pissed about the vast age difference and betrayal of his trust. Their brilliant solution is to go to Raoul's New Year's Eve party and make out at midnight so he'll see them and figure it out for himself. NOTHING COULD GO WRONG. Christine is a child, but Erik, at least, should know better.
Of course, once she's been apprised of the situation, April isn't mad at Christine for cheating on her brother. That would just be mean of her and imply she cared about things other than the protagonists. She'd much rather hear the juicy details of said cheating.
The opera fail continues. Erik's new opera is the season opener... and is opening on Valentine's Day. In what alternate universe does the Met start its season in February instead of September? I don't even know what's happening anymore. Realism.
As Erik works on his opera, which is his most important ever and which he's keeping an utter secret from everyone except the performers, I am beginning to nurse an exhausting suspicion. He's performing in it, or helping understudy... and Carlotta is being given suspiciously familiar lines... Oh, by the way, Erik also has complete control over all casting at the Met, too.
Despite the fact that THERE IS NO OTHER WAY to tell Raoul about their liaison aside from making out in front of him, they still fail to do so when Raoul is a selfish jerk and is busy making out with his own fiancee at midnight instead of looking at them. The solution? Go upstairs and have more sex while still not telling him!
So now we’ve confirmed that apparently Erik knows his condition is not genetic and is still worried about passing it on to children. You might be kind of annoyed by this, but you have to wait and hear what actually caused this disfigurement, because it is HILARIOUS.
It seems that Erik's mother was on a magical drug called LRB (not the same as LSD, everyone makes a point of distinguishing) during her pregnancy! It causes various birth defects, including deformities, golden, glittering eyes, and sonorous voices! I'M NOT MAKING THAT UP, IT IS FOR REAL WHAT THE BOOK SAYS. What does LRB stand for? Who knows! Erik apparently never bothered to find out despite the massive impact it's had on his life, because he just shrugs and says he doesn't have any idea! He's the child of a drug-addicted sex-worker and somehow has never even tried to find other children who might have survived being born to such mothers, EVEN THOUGH THEY WOULD BE LIKE HIM AND HE WOULD NO LONGER BE A SINGLE FREAK ALONE IN THE WORLD JUST LIKE HE'S ALWAYS WANTED. LRB does not actually exist, in case you were wondering, so anyone who wants to take a shot at guessing what it stands for is free. I’m fond of “Leroux's Rolling Body”.
This revelation so inflames Christine's empathy that we head for Sex Round 2, which is, if possible, even more boring and cliched than before. And of course Erik is already plotting to propose to her. Of COURSE he is.
Raoul finally gets a clue the next morning when he wakes up and realizes Christine never came home the night before, and he and his fiancee run up to Erik's penthouse and break in. Well, no - "It's not breaking in if you have the key. I'm a lawyer, so trust me, I know these things." Oh, well. In that case.
Naturally, there is a great deal of screaming and drama when Christine is discovered naked in Erik's apartment, and after a mind-melting amount of high-school level drama, she is dragged off and Erik commences getting drunk and moping forever.
Meg has to contend with lots of catcalling assholes looking to pick up women as she goes to visit Erik. There were not a lot of those rolling around in El Caminos on Park Avenue when I lived in New York. Man, the neighborhood has really gone downhill. Perhaps they are attracted to her "baited breath".
The opera continues to be completely bananas. The set and props for this wondrous opera haven't even been designed yet and it opens in six weeks? Jesus Christ, I want to work in this magical place. Does the show also engrave itself automatically upon the brains of all performers? The realism will not stop.
James finally manages to catch up with Erik in front of the opera house and pastes him one, which is pretty understandable, all things considered. Unfortunately, this opens the door for the moment I dread seeing in each new Phantom story: the moment when the author explains how Christine is really just a trophy to make the Phantom's life better and reward him for his suffering. On page 288, Erik says to James, "Christine is wonderful, but let's not pretend that you'll have a hard time finding another girl just as beautiful and talented... if I lose Christine, there won't be anyone else for me." It's wrong on so many levels - not only does it demote Christine from thinking character to object destined to reward Erik, but it isn't even flattering about it. I mean, it's been obvious the whole novel that Christine's only purpose in existence is to make Erik happy, but that shit is brutal to read every time.
Of course, the book isn't going to make it easy on me and end any time soon. There's a lot more pointless angsting to fit in before last call.
Erik's masks, by the way, fall off when he's sleeping (dude, you sleep in those?), but somehow don't fall off when a guy punches him in the face. Raoul comes by to try to patch up some of their relationship (he and James both decide to make amends and be Erik's friends again in record time) and Erik refuses to explain his face to him, saying that it shouldn't matter to him if he were a true friend. I mean, he doesn’t have to explain his disfigurement to anyone, but I feel like both he and the author missed the point somewhere.
Erik lets us know in his inner monologue that he plans to murder any other dudes Christine might ever show any interest in. Nice. This is no good both because this book is set in a modern context in which Erik is firmly a member of society and not an outcast from humanity that solves problems with elaborate murder traps, and because it only underlines the total lack of the idea of redemption or growth as a person he's undergone over the course of the novel. This is actually a pretty good object lesson; in the original novel, Erik achieves redemption and becomes someone he no longer hates at the end of the story before dying peacefully, while in this book he gets what he wants and is "rewarded" and therefore has no reason to stop being a selfish, violent jerk.
I railed against it earlier, and yet he already has a Tiffany engagement ring squirreled away. Goddammit, people, you have barely had any time to have a relationship and most of that was spent in needless dramatics and running around New York! I do not believe him for even one teeny tiny second when he says that he won't ask her yet because he doesn't want to rush things.
In a less-entertaining-than-it's-supposed-to-be interlude, Christine gets jealous when Erik and Carlotta run into one another at a restaurant and are, you know, nice to each other. She is unimpressed by Erik's protestations that they're only friends and Carlotta is engaged anyway (to a stockbroker named Mitchell... apparently). Christine's NO I'M THE ONLY WOMAN ALLOWED TO LIKE YOU FOR YOU tantrum is another blinding example of how awful this book and its characters are. Also, what is up with Carlotta's last name being Geswan? Is she Asian now, which would be amazing but I wish someone actually mentioned it?
Yeah, it's not creepy at all when you refer to Christine as "my little Lolita", Erik. Fucking thanks for that.
The opera now opens in three weeks and the cast is rehearsing it, and what is Erik doing? He's still revising the "songs" (I assume he means arias and choral pieces). WHAT ARE YOU DOING? What do you think opera composers are, Binkley, superheroes? What do you think opera casts are?
WAIT, SORRY. It's not in three weeks. It's TOMORROW.
This chapter is giving me an ulcer. Christine kneels "the way a Japanese geisha knelt before her master" (yes, she's a geisha, so that sort of implies that she's, you know, Japanese. Also, master? What?). Uninformed, racist, AND nonsensical, a triple-header!
The much-ballyhooed opera has arrived, and it is, of course, Don Juan Triumphant. Or, at least, that's what Erik says it is, but it appears to be an opera about a disfigured dude who wears a mask and kidnaps a beautiful woman who rejects him and wants to run away with her handsome lover. Yes, it's just Lloyd Webber's musical wearing a Spanish dress, right down to the identical (and meticulously described) staging of "The Point of No Return". I'd say it might be a throwback to D'Arcy's book, which also suggested that the Lloyd Webber musical was really written by Erik, but mostly I am exhausted and too bored out of my mind to care. Erik sings the lead role, naturally... in addition to writing, composing, directing, designing, producing, and probably personally giving birth to all the actors.
Christine, of course, doesn't like the ending of the opera, because what kind of heartless jerk runs away with the man she loves instead of the disfigured man who NEEDS her? That assbag!
Erik has "obsidian silk sheets". Sounds painful.
Since Christine wants to make sure nobody reading the book has any seditious thoughts about the original Christine's choice being okay, she explains (through the lens of Maria, the lead in Don Juan Triumphant) that she was a coward who didn't deserve Erik's love and really ran from him not out of fear of him but out of fear of the intense passion he aroused in her. Interestingly, this is a brief, brilliant moment in which Binkley has, completely accidentally, stumbled onto a kernel of the original story's ideas; Christine is afraid of the unbridled passion and sensuality represented by Erik because she lives in a time period when giving in to such is viewed as shameful, and she does leave partly out of a desire to reject it, although her choice is much more complicated and emotional than that. She also leaves out of a desire to flee his scariness, avoid his penchant for domestic violence, stop associating herself with a murderer, and marry her valiant childhood sweetheart, but at least we got one of the major points, right?
What the fuck, how is this book still not over? What do I have to do to make it be over? Because I swear, I will do a lot of things at this point to make this book be over.
Oh, right. Of course. I forgot. How could we go before a proposal followed by wedded bliss? As a bonus, there's some more angry thoughts on Christine's part about what a toolbag Elisalette was, and lots of blah blah about the untrammeled heights of joy they are now ascending to.
Erik is calling Christine his "angel of music" and people are speaking without paragraph breaks and I'd like to go home now, please.
You might think we're almost done, but this is the extended epilogue for the new edition, so it makes you hang on just a little bit longer!
Christine and Erik spend a great deal of time whining about their childlessness, which is ridiculous because Erik is a man and vasectomies are usually pretty easily reversed (in fact, they sometimes even reverse themselves when left alone for long enough). But somehow this isn't an option, so they remain barren forever and mope about it.
The solution? Why, go to Scotland and adopt a kid from the same orphanage in which Erik grew up! Brilliant! This is apparently the only orphanage that deals in kids with exactly the same kind of physical disfigurement as Erik has, because they just so happen to have a beautiful, sweet, insulin-shock-inducing little girl who has a perfect half-face burn disfigurement from being in a fire, and naturally there is an instant flurry to adopt her. Not that adopting her isn't noble, and in fact I’m glad to see a Phantom novel showing adoption as a viable alternative when so many of them are so so determined to emphasize biological children, but again I'm dying as Binkley waterboards my face with a tub of cheese. Ironically (of course), her name is Helena, which finally explains the necklace with the letter H on it that's been on the cover the whole time, making no sense.
I'd have been content to just accept the cheesiness for what it was and end things there, but first Binkley wanted a last shot at my blood pressure, because instead of using their millions of dollars to pay for any kind of therapy or skin grafts or reconstructive surgery for this kid, her new parents instead start commissioning masks for her. So she can hide from the world behind a socially bizarre convention just like her daddy.
NO. NO MORE. I DON'T CARE THAT SHE'S A PERFECT WUNDERKIND WITH WILD MUSICAL TALENTS WHO SOMEHOW LOOKS JUST LIKE BOTH OF HER PARENTS EVEN THOUGH THEY SHARE NO GENETIC RELATION. I DO NOT CARE ANYMORE.
ENJOY THE REALISM.