Example shows that people generally enjoy formulaic plots—James Bond, most cop dramas, most medical dramas, mystery novels, et cetera. Nowhere are formulaic plots more apparent than in children’s media: Scooby Doo, nearly every television show written for preschoolers, and the endless series of video games are just a few of the many examples. So I shouldn’t be too surprised to learn that A Series of Unfortunate Events follows a formula. (Okay, I confess I looked up reviews of later books in the series to see if I was going to have to deal with this formula throughout and found that the formula slightly changes from time to time. This, my friends, is a huge relief.)
That being said, The Reptile Room is not all that different from its predecessor. What is the same is the darkly drawn plot, the unclear intentions of one of the principal characters, the same neverending series of unfortunate events. What is different is that the plot is a bit more of a stretch and that Snicket/Handler’s humor begins to hit its stride. I thought this book, especially in its second half, was funnier than The Bad Beginning. I even had a moment, when Poe, Stephano, and Lucafont were discussing who was going to drive, that I busted out laughing (I have a very dry sense of humor and am not easily impressed with attempts at humor).
I am sure at times, especially during the next few books as Snicket/Handler attempts to set up his formula, that my enjoyment of this series will wane; I am confident, however, that it will have its bright moments, as well. I look forward to the time when this series evolves behind the kids pulling off Count Olaf’s mask to the surprise of the authorities and Olaf escaping as he says, “And I would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids.”