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There will never be a third Ghostbusters film featuring the original characters. However, there have been many continuations such as in cartoons, video games, and comics. However, there is one continuation that most people and fans probably never heard of: the 2004 novel Ghostbusters: The Return.
Written by Sholly Fisch, The Return picks up a few years after Ghostbusters II. The team has a more-or-less sustainable business, and the Ghostbusters themselves are fairly popular with the citizens of New York City – mostly due to the implied regularity of major supernatural threats. Due to their status, a political party recruits Peter to run for the mayor of New York City (with Winston as his deputy mayor). Peter sees this as a way to the good life despite not knowing anything about politics and since he becomes focused more and more on the election, his ghostbuster duties slack. Not surprisingly, this puts strain on his friendship with Egon and Ray. And, of course, a new supernatural threat chooses now to come to New York.
There is a lot of good about The Return. Even though the book is at a standard 300 pages, it is an incredibly quick read. The narrative moves and it keeps you invested. It was also nice to read a new Ghostbusters story – something that I am surprised that the market hasn’t really had to any mainstream effect.
There are a couple of competing story lines such as Peter’s election run, Ray and Egon’s investigation into the supernatural threat, and the villain’s rise. Some of these work better than others. Peter running for mayor is a brilliant story arc. I can see this idea play out over the course of a possible Ghostbusters movie. Of all the characters to go this route, Peter is the one that would. It proves enough of a comedic idea and pushes the Ghostbusters story into new areas. It also provides some much needed conflict and drama.
In the films, the Ghostbusters never really have any sort of arcs or character growth. They are pretty much the same characters at the beginning of the movies and at the end. I liked how Fisch tried to humanize the characters by giving them conflict. Peter is looking for a quick buck, essentially, by running for mayor and discovers that he is in over his head. It’s also causing problems with Ray and Egon because he can’t focus on his ghostbusting duties. The Return really fleshes out Peter and gives him a fairly good arc as he matures throughout the novel. It is fairly obvious where everything is going to end up, but you can enjoy the ride.
The villain, on the other hand, is somewhat lackluster and underwritten. Xanthador is a demon who is trying to get more fear out of people by giving life to urban legends. This will give him power to do something. I don’t know. The book doesn’t really go into it. It works as a basic threat, but nothing really makes sense of what his motivations are. The hook with this villain is that he is using urban legends, but I feel Fisch doesn’t really take full advantage of it. As such, it feels wasted. But that is really minor. Ghostbusters are not known for their villainous plots.
Where the book doesn’t work for me is that even though I was reading about what Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston are doing and saying, I could never actually picture the actual characters from the films in this. Something about the dialogue or inner thoughts just seemed to be somewhat…off. Peter is the biggest offender in this case. Peter, in the movies, was always a bit immature and a jerk, but would usually wise up with the situation called for it. Here, however, he just seems much more goofy and borderline cartoony when he interacts with others. It felt more like this was the character as featured in the Ghostbusters cartoon from the late 80s.
In fact, the entire book had much more of a cartoony feel to it when compared to the original films (especially the first one). Overall, I enjoyed The Return, but there was the occasional odd characterization that pulled me out of the book.
If you are a fan of Ghostbusters and you want to read a new Ghostbusters story, then I would recommend Ghostbusters: The Return. It is a fun, fast read – a good diversion for a plane ride. At least check it out for some of the obscurity of it. If you are not a Ghostbusters fan, then this book isn’t for you.
Here is the bad part: the book was released in 2004 in limited copies and is now long out of print. It is nearly impossible to get a hard copy unless you want to pay insane prices on eBay. However, if you do some Google-Fu, you might be able to find a PDF of it on a certain SPOOKy and CENTRALized Ghostbusters website ready for download. Not that I advocate such things. I’m just pointing out that such things exist.