Thursday, November 24, 2005

Recently Read: The Penultimate Peril by "Lemony Snicket"

I actually read this at World Fantasy, a few weeks ago, but forgot to mention it until now.

The series has been very arch, and ironically dark, but this one is remarkably melancholy. Without spoiling the plot for those who haven't kept up, the narrator (as always, at least as important as the Baudelaire orphans themselves) spends a lot of this book talking about the possibility of good works in an evil world. And, though "Snicket" does still seem to believe that trying to do good is necessary, he doesn't seem to believe that actually doing good is possible. It's not quite nihilism for pre-teens, but it's getting close.

There were no major revelations about Lemony Snicket or Beatrice this time (though I think Lemony actually made an appearance in the Baudelaire's plot this time), but the plot does move inexorably towards the conclusion in the next book.

I hadn't been thinking about the series ending until this book, but I guess I expected that it would end more-or-less happily. (Which was an unthinking assumption, of course; the whole series has been working against such ideas.) Now I believe "Snicket" will do something more appropriate to the series, though I don't really know what.

This series is published for readers ten and up, but it's not a "kids' book." Anyone who has ever chuckled at the cartoons of Charles Addams or Edward Gorey (or, for that matter, John Callahan or Gahan Wilson) would appreciate these books. The first few seem somewhat slight, with only their witty prose and humorously dark outlook on life to pull the adult reader along, but this is a series that rewards careful reading and thought. I wish I had time to re-read them all. (Yes, they're short, but there are twelve of them now!)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I'm a long-time fan of the SFBC and I was reading your comments about A. Bertram Chandler's John Grimes series and became very intrigued.

I was wondering if there are any chances of the SFBC re-publishing the old Thieves World series by Robert Lyn Aspirin and Lynn Abbey. The SFBC published all 12 books of the old series in a four-volume set back in the day and I've always kicked myself for not getting them.

Recently, Lynn Abbey has written three hard bound books in a new Thieves World series and, just last summer, published a manual for the Thieves World role playing game ( I thought with this renewed interest, other SFBC fans might be interested in this series. Any chance that they could be republished in the near future?

Brian Mercer
Author: Mastering Astral Projection
Seattle, WA

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