The Hostile Hospital (#8) by Lemony Snicket

Published: May 1st 2003
Goodreads badgePublisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 258
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Dear Reader,

Before you throw this awful book to the ground and run as far away from it as possible, you should probably know why. This book is the only one which describes every last detail of the Baudelaire children’s miserable stay at Heimlich Hospital, which makes it one of the most dreadful books in the world.
There are man pleasant things to read about, but this book contains none of them. Within its pages are such burdensome details as a suspicious shopkeeper, unnecessary surgery, an intercom system, anesthesia, heart-shaped balloons, and some very startling news about a fire. Clearly you do not want to read about such things.
I have sworn to research this story, and to write it down as best I can, so I should know that this book is best left on the ground, where you undoubtedly found it.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

And the exciting times continue for those Baudelaire children (after all these reviews I still can’t spell their name without checking). So book number eight is a bit milder than the others in terms of action, this focus more on the suspense side of discovering about VFD and what these mysteries and connections mean.

In The Hostile Hospital the children pick up from their last journey as they left the Vile Village. They hitch a ride with a group of highly cheerful, singing troupe that goes around cheering up sick patients in hospitals. It is all very sweet in theory but Snicket’s take on this is that they ignore what actually needs to be done and just hands over the cheery balloon. Of course the doctors should be doing that anyway so we don’t dislike these singers for abandoning the patients, it isn’t technically their job.

The children do not have a guardian in this book, they fend for themselves and try to hideout away from the ever searching police force, still convinced of their criminal nature. When left to their own devices Violet, Klaus and Sunny are very clever and they are logical and reasoned people, somehow the adults are the oblivious and daft bunch. Olaf makes his usual appearance and there is actually a bit of suspense created in this hospital. There is even a great cliffhanger that essentially insists you dive into the next book.

The final star is withheld for the (granted lessening) explanations of words. I only remember a dozen or so and they did not stick out nearly as much. Also your level of acceptance needs to be terribly high in this series to believe the things that happen, there are understandable things but occasionally, in this book especially, it is just ludicrous, but the characters actually make comment on this this time round, they themselves cannot believe some of the things. I think that helps you accept, if the characters are stunned by what happens then you can accept it better than if no one notices the unrealistic things.

After a slow first few books Snicket is definitely getting the ball rolling towards the final conclusion. By starting the suspense as early as he did (well, by early I mean book five) he ensures that the hints and clues can build over time rather than be rushed through. It is a wise tactic, and compensation I think for the tedious tendency of the beginning books.

The Vile Village (#7) by Lemony Snicket

Published: April 24th 2003
Goodreads badgePublisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 259
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Dear Reader,
You have undoubtedly picked up this book by mistake, so please put it down. Nobody in their right mind would read this particular book about the lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire on purpose, because each dismal moment of their stay in the village of V.F.D. has been faithfully and dreadfully recorded in these pages. I can think of no single reason why anyone would want to open a book containing such unpleasant matters as migrating crows, an angry mob, a newspaper headline, the arrest of innocent people, the Deluxe Cell, and some very strange hats. It is my solemn and sacred occupation to research each detail of the Baudelaire children’s lives and write them all down, but you may prefer to do some other solemn and sacred thing, such as reading another book instead.
With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

Well now we seem to have gotten into a proper swing of things. Yes Snicket keeps up the same narration and writing style in some aspects, but the story gets a lot better. It has widened to focus beyond the Baudelaire’s personally and more characters and environments are introduced are part of the wider mystery. After being moved on from the previous guardians, and under the illusion it takes a village to raise a child, the three siblings are being looked after by a strange village with bizarre characters and a very strange list of laws. Snicket warns us that this books contains many unpleasant matters such as migrating crows, an angry mob, a newspaper headline, the arrest of innocent people, the Deluxe Cell, and some very strange hats. This is pretty much the case. Absurdities follow these children and the village is no exception. The difference here it the fact there are rescue missions and escape plots, hints and clues, as well as more details about the circumstances and life of the man whose job it was to record this unfortunate tale.

The Vile Village is the seventh book in the series and while very odd it wasn’t bad. The villagers are idiotic but in a good way. They are humourously daft and so intent of obeying the rules they end up worse for it. Their ignorance and neglect of the children this time isn’t just for plot. Previously the adults seems annoyingly vague and oblivious to the kids to the point it was a little unbelievable in the scheme of things, however this time you actually believe these adults are so wrapped up in their village that they don’t care for the kids.

Now that Snicket has introduced the intruge factor and the mysterious ‘VFD’, the story turns to focus on discovering this. Through the narrative we follow the siblings as they try and discover more about what ‘VFD’ means, as well the reappearance of the orphan triplets Duncan and Isadora (who where introduced in The Austere Academy). With more inventing and thinking and biting things are somewhat concluded, if not exposed at best. The slight issue with these books (among the other issues) is that it is very hard to discuss the next book without ruining the story of the previous one. Certainly Snicket likes to do that himself, but now that there are actual clues and suspicious circumstances occurring we are finally given much desired structure and cliffhangers that carry on to the next in the series.

What has become really enjoyable is the fact that the story has become more traditional in the sense of structure, and like mystery stories we are able to read along looking for our own clues and trying to decipher meaning alongside the Baudelaire siblings. Snicket seems to have moved on from defining every word and phrase when he write, and he certainly isn’t giving away as much of the oncoming plot as he did in the earlier books which is a real joy. Now that there seems to be a nice continual flow and constructive narrative, the remaining books are looking to be shaping up nicely.

The Ersatz Elevator (#6) by Lemony Snicket

Published: July 29th 2003
Goodreads badgePublisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 259
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

In their most daring misadventure, the Baudelaire orphans are adopted by very, very rich people, whose penthouse apartment is located mysteriously close to the place where all their misfortune began. Even though their new home in the city is fancy, and the children are clever and charming, I′m sorry to say that still, the unlucky orphans will encounter more disaster and woe. In fact, in this sixth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events, the children will experience a darkened staircase, a red herring, an auction, parsley soda, some friends in a dire situation, a secret passageway, and pinstripe suits.

I entered into book six with optimism. After the last few books I was intent on embracing the quirky and jovial manner in which Snicket address his readers and warns them from his nasty and worrisome book. I would take in the repetition and accept whatever happened. And I think I picked the best book to start doing that.

There is a greater continuity from the previous book than before. There is unfinished business outside of the Baudelaire children that flows into the narrative, which in turn adds more to the story. For the first time the new guardians of this book are a married couple, rich neighbourhood, fancy home, expensive things and unimportant priorities. There is a great obsession about obtaining and following what is “in” at the moment. As obscure and ridiculous as these “in” things are, it was a great reflection of the reality of people and their “in” obsessions, even today. The guardians are peculiar as always but not that bad, being a married couple you get two contrasting personalities and they balance out each other in terms of their level of ridiculousness, it is not even strange or surreal, it is just this wacky that is floating somewhere around the absurd region.

One aspect that I do like from Snicket is that throughout these books there are multiple references and chances to highlight a kids special talent which is never a bad thing. Whether it is inventing or reading, or even biting things, Snicket takes these talents and uses them for useful purposes and they help make a difference. It’s also taken this many books but I am finally just closing my eyes and accepting that despite being an infant, Sunny can do what any other person can do, even climbing ropes, so it isn’t a stand out annoyance as much. If we accept her as one of them then it doesn’t make my head hurt as much about she manages to do half the things she does.

There are new developments and twists as well through The Ersatz Elevator, but there are also some things you just have to accept no matter how insane or unrealistic. The underlying mystery and story has taken awhile to kick in, but now that it has you can involve yourself more in the story; they are not just variants of the same storyline like before. Being the sixth book, and having seven to go I hope they stay as engaging as this and not revert to the repetitive nature of the first few. And as much as you try and read them as their own stories, they are undoubtedly connected, and reading them together makes you realise the writing and narration a lot more. But Snicket seems to have changed his approach a little which I welcome and hope he maintains. I look forward to book number seven.

The Austere Academy (#5) by Lemony Snicket

Published: August 8th 2000
Goodreads badgePublisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 221
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Dear Reader,

If you are looking for a story about cheerful youngsters spending a jolly time at boarding school, look elsewhere. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent and resourceful children, and you might expect that they would do very well at school. Don’t. For the Baudelaires, school turns out to be another miserable episode in their unlucky lives. Truth be told, within the chapters that make up this dreadful story, the children will face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E., and the metric system. It is my solemn duty to stay up all night researching and writing the history of these three hapless youngsters, but you may be more comfortable getting a good night’s sleep. In that case, you should probably choose some other book.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket

The Austere Academy is book number five in the Unfortunate series. After the Baudelaire children leave the mill they are shipped off to a boarding school by the horridly annoying sneezer, banker, and default guardian Mr Poe. School has been rather absent in all these adventures but we return now to the very dull and cruel school where just being an orphan is punishable pretty much. The change of scenario is
great after being stuck in this loop Snicket has had us in of repetitiveness and obscurities and abuse. The leap is not as far as you would like but you do get a lot more new story before it reverts back to the same old stuff. Again Snicket ruins the ending fairly early on but by now you are just in it for the story, not for the suspense or mystery. Having said that book five is where he decides to add some proper mystery.

There are good parts to this story, the siblings finally get some friends their age who try and help them solve all their problems. The Quagmire triplets (of which there are only two it seems) use their own skills to help with these problems that arise. By introducing new characters Snicket finally manages to progress in this saga as some questions begin to be answered. Well, no. More questions are asked and revealed and only snippets of information and clues are revealed which is the beginning of the mystery.

With Snicket changing things up a bit it certainly takes these books in a new direction. There is the first sign of a real cliffhanger, not dire, but certainly one that makes you want to read the next in the series. Where before we just hopped from place to place with Olaf and his idiotic schemes, there is a hint of a greater mystery unfolding. With so many books to go whether this is solved in the next one or dragged out we don’t know.

Oh, and for once we can give some kudos to some sensible, albeit dull, adults and Mr Poe tries his best to come through for the children. In a rare moment for him he actually tries. Maybe this is a turning point for the banker.

The Miserable Mill (#4) by Lemony Snicket

Published: April 5th 2000
Goodreads badgePublisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 194
Format: Book
Genre: Junior Fiction
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Dear Reader,

I hope, for your sake, that you have not chosen to read this book because you are in the mood for a pleasant experience. If this is the case, I advise you to put this book down instantaneously, because of all the books describing the unhappy lives of the Baudelaire orphans, THE MISERABLE MILL might be the unhappiest yet. Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are sent to Paltryville to work in a lumbermill, and they find disaster and misfortune lurking behind every log. The pages of this book, I’m sorry to inform you, contain such unpleasantries as a giant pincher machine, a bad casserole, a man with a cloud of smoke where his head should be, a hypnotist, a terrible accident resulting in injury, and coupons.  I have promised to write down the entire history of these three poor children, but you haven’t, so if you prefer stories that are more heartwarming, please feel free to make another selection.

With all due respect, 
Lemony Snicket

Predictable was going to be my first criticism. I was starting to dread the rest because I am trying to enjoy these but they don’t change. The story is interesting enough but every one of these books so far all follow the
same plot and when you know what is going to happen, as Snicket keeps telling us, you don’t really find a need to read the rest after that. If you just read 1 and 13 you probably can get the gist. But we won’t, we started now we must finish and I think four was not that bad compared to the rest, nor as dull as I was expecting.

There are a few differences which was refreshing, the circumstances are different, there are different characters. Ignoring the unchanging and annoying narrating style and looking at the content, book four starts off rather dull and you do as the children do and try and play a game of ‘spot count Olaf’. Though when it isn’t who you expect it gets a little better for awhile as you wait for him to appear. The children aren’t as stupid this time round, they are finally catching on to the trickery and deceit which is a change. The story really picked up about halfway through and I think being in such a peculiar settings adds something to the overall story and reception. I do have to say though that it is rather hard accepting what these kids do, especially around the obvious toddler who only had four teeth. It is a weird reality where whether two or ten you are all treated the same. As I say, ignore all this and focus on the fact that it is a different story and it is pretty good. You have to give Snicket credit for being creative even if he is repetitive and outlandish, which when used in this context means strange and peculiar.

We finally see the children actually react reasonably and realistically to what they are subjected to which was also a nice change, even if only temporary. As a series there is definitely a slow but strong single narrative developing underneath these scenarios; Count Olaf tries to get the Baudelaire fortune and the three siblings are put in strange situations that only get weirder, more unrealistic, and irrational as each book continues through this narrative. There is violence and abuse in this book, like the previous ones, but in the Snicket manner they are brushed aside and not focused on in great detail for them to be gruesome or traumatic (though they seriously should have been). Ignoring the unrealistic nature, and accepting that this is how the world works, it was a nice little adventure to progress the story. Snicket is consistent if nothing else and being a series of unfortunate events there are no bones about it, which is a phrase meaning to say clearly what you think or feel about something, (see how that could be annoying through an entire book? Every book!), he does it very well.

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