Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Carnivorous Carnival

The Carnivorous Carnival
© 2003 Lemony Snicket
286 pages

Although for the first six books the Baudelaire orphans were bounced from one psychotic or useless guardian to the next, they had a sense of stability in that they knew Mr. Poe would show up eventually (so long as they managed to unmask Count Olaf) and take them someplace else, where they would enjoy a moment of respite before being thrown down an elevator shaft or hypnotized or something like that. When The Vile Village ended with the kids being run out of town by a mob intent to burn them at the stake, this format was broken and the kids are utterly on their own. Count Olaf is increasing in strength now that people think he is dead. On the bright side, ....

...Well, the kids aren't dead. At the end of The Hostile Hospital, they decided to follow Count Olaf and see where he goes. As you might surmise, he goes to a carnival to see "Madame Lulu", a fortune-teller who has been keeping him up-to-date on the location of the Baudelaire orphans. The kids assume disguises and infiltrate the carnival, pretending to be "freaks": Violet and Sunny become a person with two heads, and Sunny dons a fake beard and becomes a wolf-child. Since Count Olaf has no idea that the Baudelaires are right under his hooked nose, you would think the kids would be entitled to a little rest -- but no. Olaf, as a favor to Lulu, introduces lions to the carnival to provide a new form of entertainment: lions eating members of the freak show.
The members of the freak show include an ambidextrous man and a contortionist -- as well as other people whose only real limitation is that they've allowed other people to view them as freaks. They're well-mannered, and the Baudelaire orphans object to their being thrown to the lions. Further dragging them into the plot is the fact that Madame Lulu has some connection to the mysterious group VFD -- and thus, to their parents. As you might imagine, however, circumstances prevent her telling them anything and the book ends with the Baudelaire orphans reenacting part of an INXS song. The book is entertaining as ever: character development continues nicely, and my interest in the overall story is increasing.

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