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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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Visible Empire
Hannah Pittard
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Robertson Davies
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The Penultimate Peril

The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #12) - Brett Helquist, Lemony Snicket, Michael Kupperman

My feelings about this second-to-last book in A Series of Unfortunate Events are divided. On one hand, it is an impressive tying together of the series, a wonderful penultimate journey through the previous eleven books. On the other, it is unsettling, a fatalistic blow that buries the most redeeming aspects of the series beneath a darkness with implications I shudder to think about.


First, the good. The Penultimate Peril brings together many familiar characters and places them in a situation that is entertaining and appropriate. Those reading the story aloud will have to strain to remember the voices of so many characters throughout the series and keep them straight (not an easy task, but I was up for the challenge). The drama, action, and humor are all turned to full for this chapter in the Baudelaire story. It's a good mix, and certainly a wonderful addition.


But the decisions made by our “heroes,” well, they seem out of character, though there was some indication of it in the previous volume. This sudden change in approach, this resignation to despair and acceptance of fate is very fatalistic. I understand—and have liked—Snicket's growing maturity throughout the series, forcing bigger words and larger questions as the book number increased, but this may be going to far. Not only does it all seem forced, but the reactions themselves are rather insipid. Perhaps this is merely an indication of what is to come in the final book—maybe this change is purely a plot device for the final chapter—but in the meantime, the only heroes a child can have in this series have been dashed against the cliffs of a pessimistic philosophy. As the Baudelaires would say in this chapter of their lives, eventually they'd only have failed you anyway.


Though a series of unfortunate events, A Series of Unfortunate Events has always shown some glimmer of hope, if in no other way than in the hearts of the Baudelaires. Now, looking out at the coming horizon, it looks quite bleak. I guess Snicket said all along it wouldn't be a happy ending, but I didn't expect the darkness to infect everything. Here's to hoping Snicket left a ray of light in The End.

A Series of Unfortunate Events:
The Bad Beginning – 3.1
The Reptile Room – 3.2
The Wide Window – 3.6
The Miserable Mill – 3.3 
The Austere Academy 3.4
The Ersatz Elevator 3.3
The Vile Village 3.1
The Hostile Hospital 3.4
The Carnivorous Carnival 3.9
The Slippery Slope – 3.6
The Grim Grotto – 3.9
The Penultimate Peril3.4