by Lemony Snicket
Reviewed by MaT, added on Feb 19 2005
About a year ago, I remember reading about a new Jim Carrey flick going into pre-production entitled "Lemony Snickets A Series of Unfortunate Events" . I remember thinking that it had an interesting title and at the time I wanted to find more info about it, but as usual, i got distracted by other things and completely forgot about it until a couple weeks back when I saw the trailer for the film. I immediately took an interest again, and doing a little digging, found out that it was actually a book series that was quite popular, although somewhat "under the radar". Perhaps it got lost among everyones fascination with Harry Potter (To this day, I still don't understand what is so great about those books). Anyhow, I decided to hit up my local library and check out the first book in the series...
The book is 162 pages, but I got through it in about an hour and a half. And believe me, it's 162 pages of pure fun and enjoyment. The Baudelaire children, Violet (the oldest), Klaus (the only boy), and Sunny (a toddler), have just had their entire world turned upside down at the news that their parent's have died in a fire. Not only have they died in a fire, but the fire was in their house. All of their posessions are destroyed, the house is a pile of charred rubble, and of course the crappiest thing of all, their parent's, their only real family, have died. Their parent's will states that they must live with a relative within the city limits and that relative turns out to be a fourth or fifth generation cousin named Count Olaf, a poor theater actor who has never met the children and as the story goes along, isn't too fond of them either.
The big framing device of the book is that the Baudelaire's were incredibly wealthy and Violet will receive the family's entire fortune as soon as she becomes "of age". Olaf, being an evil and cruel person who subjects the kids to verbal, physical, and mental abuse, wants to get his hands on this fortune any way he can. That's the basic setup of "Book the First" and you'll be hard pressed to find anything that isn't fun or exciting. In other word's, you probably won't want to put this book down.
Daniel Handler, a.k.a Lemony Snicket, writes with unbridled flair and extravagance in telling the "unpleasant" and "unhappy" story of the Baudelaire children, who just so happen to be extremely "unlucky". The words flow and read easily and I never found the book to get boring or slow at any point. Handler gives all the main characters a great amount of detail and description without overdoing it. He leaves just enough to the imagination but gives just enough for you to form a framework model in your head. Dark humor is everywhere in the book. I especially enjoyed his definitions of the "difficult" words that some children might not understand. All of the characters are really interesting, especially Olaf and his theatre troupe, who come across as the most despicable, vile people you could possibly meet. It makes me wonder how much they will "water down" the movie version. I can't see Jim Carrey smacking some little kid in the face, or telling them that he will kill them once he's got their money. The book has some very dark moments that I'll be very interested to see if they include in the movie version.
This book is really good and kept me more entertained than either of the first two Harry Potter books (I haven't read the others). If you have a couple spare hours and want to read a highly entertaining book about three orphaned children living with an evil Count, then look no further that The Bad Beginning.