Monday morning’s gym book was a Series of Unfortunate Events 10: the Slippery Slope (Young Adult 337 pages) by Lemony Snicket.
“Dear Reader, Like handshakes, house pets, or raw carrots, many things are preferable when not slippery. Unfortunately, in this miserable volume, I am afraid that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire run into more than their fair share of slipperiness during their harrowing journey up – and down – a range of strange and distressing mountains. In order to spare you any further repulsion, it would be best not to mention any of the unpleasant details of this story, particularly a secret message, a toboggan, a deceitful trap, a swarm of snow gnats, a scheming villain, a troupe of organized youngsters, a covered casserole dish, and a surprising survivor of a terrible fire. Unfortunately, I have dedicated my life to researching and recording the sad tale of the Baudelaire Orphans. There is no reason for you to dedicate yourself to such things, and you might instead dedicate yourself to letting this slippery book slip from your hands into a nearby trash receptacle, or deep pit. With all due respect, Lemony Snicket.”
I have to admit that with the tone shift of the last two books, I was a little hesitant to read this book. The last two books set Violet, Klaus, and Sunny up as just beginning a villain arch, where they were doing more and more things that may have had a good intent, but weren’t exactly morally, ethically, or legally sound. In the last several books, the Baudelaire orphans participated in more and more deceitful activities towards people who were generally good people. They lied to Hal and stole his keys to the library of records at the end of the Hostile Hospital and helped set fire to Madame Lulu’s tent at the end of the Carnivorous Carnival.
On a note fairly unrelated to my review of this book, there was a section on page 35 that reminded me of one of my favorite old computer games, King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder. I remember that section of the game where you start hiking in the mountains and it’s the part of the trail that is just starting to have snow all over everything. It’s at this point in the game where you have to put on the cloak you found earlier, and it’s around this part of the Slippery Slope where Violet and Klaus layer up on strange things they managed to save from the caravan that almost killed them between the end of the Carnivorous Carnival and this part of the book. They’re wearing an inside-out sweatshirt over a coat and a poncho outside the other coat. The way the scene was described in the book definitely made me think of that part of King’s Quest V, especially when combined with the front cover of this book.
One of the fun things this series is doing a lot more is to find creative ways of making phrases that all use V.F.D. On page 80, Violet and Klaus meet with a mixed group of strangers and familiar folks. In order to communicate their intent and identity, they use some pretty fun verbage, such as Very Fascinating Drama, Very Fun Day, Vinegar-Flavored Doughnuts, and Violent Frozen Dragonflies. This whole exchange was very amusing to me.
Even though this book was written more than a decade ago, there are some very crucial truths to be found in this young adult book. For instance, on page 95 when Violet and Klaus continue their exchange with the helpful stranger, the stranger says: “I know that having a good vocabulary doesn’t guarantee that I’m a good person … But it does mean I’ve read a great deal. And in my experience, well-read people are less likely to be evil.” And this is so, so very true. There are multiple articles I’ve read lately that indicate those who read a great deal tend to be more empathic and more willing to listen to other people. Throughout this entire series so far, all of the villains are greedy and not extremely well educated. Now, Madame Lulu/Olivia was very clever in using a great deal of knowledge and books in order to tell people’s fortunes or answer their questions, but she only used that information for selfish gain. It doesn’t strike me as though she read for entertainment or the sake of acquiring more knowledge. I even marked another passage on page 135 where the author mentions a novel called Corridors of Power, which is a real novel by C.P. Snow, “which told the story of various people discussing how the world has become a corrupt and dangerous place and whether or not there are enough people with the integrity and decency necessary to keep the entire planet from descending into despair.” Again, this is yet another example of these books providing insight into our modern world today, even though they are young adult books written more than a decade ago.
Klaus and Violet finally get the information from a trusted friend that V.F.D. stands for Volunteer Fire Department, which didn’t make much sense to them until it was explained the firefighters such as this don’t necessarily have to deal with actual fire in order to help make the world a better place.
The three youths are faced with a very difficult decision starting around page 247, where they decide to set a trap for Esme in order to trade her to Count Olaf for Sunny. “Taking someone prisoner, of course, is a villainous thing – even if you have a very good reason for thinking of doing it – it can make you feel like a villain, too.” And this is exactly the point of the entire series so far, I think. Everyone can at some point in their lives remember doing something or saying something that they were later ashamed of or that wound up causing harm to others. Most of those decisions, you knew they weren’t the best idea and they made you feel very uncomfortable before accomplishing them and once everything was done, but you still did it anyway. So the three youths still dig the pit and set the trap, but the key part of this particular novel comes when Esme is about to actually fall into the trap and they realize what a horrible thing they’re about to do to another person. They choose the path of honesty and, even though things don’t go exactly well for them, Violet and Klaus are reunited with Sunny and the four children manage to escape from Count Olaf and the other villains. It was a much harder path for them, but they did the right thing and they still met their intent of reuniting with Sunny and escaping Count Olaf.
Near the end of the novel, the two powder-faced women realize that maybe this life isn’t what they thought it should be or what they wanted. So they actually leave Count Olaf and walk by themselves, unhindered, down the mountain.
Of course, the rest of the evil villains have now captured a group of children and intend on using them for slave labor and the Baudelaire orphans are together and free of Count Olaf’s grasp, but they are separated from their trusted friend and in a potentially unhealthy situation.
This book was a very good and quick read and I’m really enjoying how the books are picking up the pace and how the Baudelaire orphans are starting to get to the point where they are making the hard, but morally right, decisions again. I’m continuously impressed with their resourcefulness and the skills which they use to get themselves out of the terrible predicaments they are faced with because of the greed of others.
There’s a lot going on in this book and the books get more complicated the deeper into the series I get. I’m enjoying it greatly and overall, I’d probably rate this book as a high three on my rating scale because I really like the writing style, the characters are unique, and the message is mostly a positive one (for all that the book is not a happy story). I’m glad that I own this book and will continue with the rest of the books in the series.
Works cited: Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events: the Slippery Slope. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2003.