The Reptile Room (#2) by Lemony Snicket

Published: February 25th 2000
Goodreads badgePublisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 214
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Dear Reader,

If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I’m afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. the story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don’t be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery. In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible smell, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the re-appearance of a person they’d hoped never to see again. I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket.

This was a good follow up to the first book, you can tell how the rest of the series will go, one unfortunate event after the other until it ends. I liked the story but there were a few more downsides than the first I’ll admit. The stopping to explain words that was a nice element in the first is now unfortunately a little annoying. After the first few chapters it didn’t seem to flow as well and it stood out to much and interrupted the sentence flow among other things. Perhaps the problem is (as it seems to be a reoccurring theme of late) I keep reading these books, aimed at primary school kids, as an adult. I know these words and I know these meanings so I don’t need them explained. But seeing as it worked in the first book, and Snicket managed to weave them comically and easily into the tale, somehow the second time they do not hold up as well so maybe it is not just me.

What was sad was the way Snicket foretells things. Sometimes it works, sometimes in books and stories you can foretell things and then you just have to read and wait for the why, how and when to bring it all together beautifully. For me Snicket’s announcement from the very first pages about the future events, no matter how vague, were a tad depressing. I do see though how his writing style of constantly reminding us about these unfortunate events and telling us we mustn’t think that these children were ever going to get a happy ending does kind of support his constant effort to quash any enjoyment you get from a character, especially when he keeps reminding you how doomed they are. And of course, when the book itself is called “The Reptile Room or, Murder!” (well the copy I have does), you kind of know where the story is heading sooner or later.

There is a greater presence of violence in the second book, and again everyone acts as this is all very acceptable even if it is a bit frightful. This is why you need to take notes sometimes while you read, especially if you are going to review it. If you don’t you forget the little gems and one liners that stand out and when you try to find them again it is a lost cause. This was one of my favourite lines regarding the take on violence and threats – “He would slit the throats of the Baudelaire orphans as easily as you or I might eat a small butter cookie.” Now that is a line that you would not be allowed to probably print now to protect the poor innocent minds of the dear kiddy winks. What no one realises though is this is the stuff they thrive on. They want to be fearful of the man with the knife and they want to be the children who try and outsmart the evil grownups in their world. This is why old kids books are great. I say old, the first one was released in 1999, it wasn’t that long ago.

Anyway. I did like Snicket’s two page long discussion, including one page consisting of just “ever” repeated, about playing with electrical sockets. This was just one of the little moral and handy lessons he included in his books, others being quick one liners about swearing, stealing (or as Snicket describes “casing the joint’) and lying.

The ending was sadder in this book mainly for the events and the children’s reactions. It also makes you think that every adult is stupid in this world and those poor children have no hope, but that is how Snicket likes it. No happy endings and he does it pretty well I must say.

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