Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Slippery Slope

The Slippery Slope
© 2003 Lemony Snicket
337 pages

The last book ended with the Baudelaire orphans not in a quiet place where they could reflect on their fate, but in a perilous place that threatened death within the span of the first chapter if their courage and wit did not show up quickly enough. Happily, they do --but this of little help to poor Sunny, who has been spirited away by Count Olaf. Sunny and Klaus must beat Count Olaf to the headquarters of the mystery organization VFD, set near the top of a mountain -- making their way up the mountain through bitter cold and bitter insects who like to sting people for no reason. (Count Olaf is "quite fond of them".) En route they run into an old enemy, Carmelita Spats -- an obnoxious schoolmate of theirs from the Austere Academy. They also make a new friend -- one who knows who Count Olaf is, and knows that the Baudelaire orphans are innocent of the crimes they've been accused of. He leads them to the VFD headquarters -- but they arrive there too late to find any answers.

The book may get its title from a slope the orphans must climb to rescue Sunny from Count Olaf, as he is forcing the poor infant to do all of his chores, including the cooking. (Fortunately, Sunny makes a very good smoked herring.) It may also apply to the growing moral difficulty that faces the orphans: simply to survive, they find themselves acting very much like villains, and at some point in the novel they have to make stands to protect their character. For their trials, they gain new allies and come closer to solving the great mystery in which they are involved. The series continues to entertain.

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