Thursday, 17 July 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Reptile Room, Chapter 13

And so we're coming to the end of this book, the second in the Series of Unfortunate Events. I have to admit, we've reached this point a lot quicker than I expected. If I'd stuck to my original plan of just posting once a week we wouldn't even be reaching this point for another month! I definitely think I did the right thing by upping my posts per week. It's a little bit more demanding, but it's keeping me motivated.

What Happens?
Stephano is revealed to be Olaf and comes clean about his plot, including the actual fate of Monty's assistant Gustav. As Dr. Lucafont prepares to take Olaf to the police, Sunny bites one of his 'oddly solid hands' revealing that the doctor is none other than the hook-handed man. The Baudelaires are then forced to watch Olaf and his henchman run away. Later some people from the Herpetological Society come to take away the snakes from the Reptile Room and the children sadly watch them go.

Thoughts as I read:
Ah, last chapter picture of the book. This one is of a box with 'This Side Up' printed on the side (the box is upside down) and a snake's tail sticking out the top, or bottom, depending on how you're looking at things. I love the big bold cross-hatching on the shady side of the box. Ahh, Brett Helquist, I love your illustrations!

We're reminded in the opening of this chapter that the Series of Unfortunate Events books are not quite the same as other books. This book isn't going to have a happy ending so there's no point moping around for pizza and ice cream.

Basically Olaf is back and Mr Poe is going to have to deal with things pretty sharpish. He does so, placing Olaf under arrest, because that worked out so well for him last time. We're also reminded here that Dr Lucafont has 'oddly solid hands', who could he possibly be?

Mr Poe actually apologises to the Baudelaires for not believing them sooner, claiming that the scheme seemed too far-fetched to be real. I'm guessing that's exactly what Olaf and his cronies were counting on.

Klaus wonders what happened to Monty's real assistant. As if we even have to ask. Olaf reveals that Gustav is dead, drowned in the Swarthy Swamp. The places in this area all have such pleasant names. Anyway, Olaf, in true Olaf style, takes his opportunity to monologue for a bit about his scheme and how it all came together. I guess he wants to be recognised for his achievements, even if they're not entirely successful. In true bad guy style he's even promising to come back to get his hands on the fortune in the future.

Mr Poe reacts somewhat badly to Olaf's suggestion that this is all a game for him:

"This is not a game, you horrible man," Mr. Poe said. "Dominos is a game. Water polo is a game. Murder is a crime, and you will go to jail for it..."

But it's not going to be possible to call the police because the telephone line is down and Mr Poe can't drive him to the police because his car has been wrecked. Dr Lucafont makes the suggestion that he should take Stephano in his car, Mr Poe reverts back to the debate about letting the children see the inside of a doctor's car, not realising that this was just a ruse cooked up to avoid them having to travel alone with Olaf.

Olaf criticises the children for telling lies, but it is pointed out by Mr Poe that he isn't 'in a position to give moral lectures to children' hehe. He then hands Olaf over to Dr. Lucafont to take to the police.

The children say their goodbyes, that is, Violet and Klaus say goodbye; Sunny doesn't even say 'Yeet!' or 'Libo!'. She's working something out. Remember how we've been constantly reminded of Dr. Lucafont's weird hands. Well, Sunny's the only one to see him for what he really is. So she bites one of them. And lo and behold, they're not hands, they're models concealing hooks!

But the revelation comes too late for them. Olaf and the hook-handed man have taken off. Despite his haste in making a citizens arrest on Olaf, Mr Poe isn't about to start chasing down the bad guys and he doesn't let Violet or Klaus attempt it either. He justifies this by telling them he is responsible for them and doesn't want them to get hurt, which is all well and good except HAS HE NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION FOR THE LAST TWO BOOKS?!


The telephone is apparently working after all and Mr Poe uses it to phone the police. I'm sure Olaf said it wasn't working so I guess it was just a ruse. Perhaps Violet could've used it to call the police herself while everyone else was distracted in the Reptile Room. Bit late for that now anyway.

The children fall asleep and are woken by some people pillaging the Reptile Room. One of these men, Bruce, is wearing a plaid suit which puzzles Sunny who asks 'Dixnik?' Basically the Herpetological Society are taking away all the snakes. It's a bit of an Unfortunate Event for the inhabitants of the Reptile Room as well because they'll be going to 'other scientists, zoos, and retirement homes' but the ones that they can't find homes for will be put to sleep. Lovely.

At this Sunny shouts 'Viper!' obviously concerned about her best friend. The children then have to explain to yet another person that the name Incredibly Deadly Viper is a misnomer and he's actually just a gentle giant. We've not really had much of the classic repetition in this latter part of the book so getting little bits like this come up again kind of take the place of the descriptions of what each of the three children are up to.

Bruce puts down Monty, first for naming a non-deadly snake a name with 'Deadly' in it, and then for being named Montgomery Montgomery. I kind of thought Bruce would be a nice guy when he appeared on the scene, despite his loud voice and dress sense. Now I've decided he's a bit of a jerk. Surely he's aware of the situation and could be a little bit more sensitive to the children.

The children all assert that Monty was a brilliant man. Even Sunny manages to say 'Brilliant!' which either shows how emphatic this statement is, or that Sunny's vocabulary is expanding.

Mr Poe isn't keen on the children going out to see the snakes, but they go anyway because they represent the last bit of happiness the children experienced before the mad Count Olaf arrived back in their lives. There's a sweet little bit when the children kind of realise that even though their time with Monty was short, they would always remember Uncle Monty and the happiness he gave them. Aww. Actually, this just kind of makes the whole thing more depressing because I just know everything is going to keep on going downhill from here.

So the children wave goodbye to the Incredibly Deadly Viper, which cries right along with them. I don't think snakes actually can cry, can they? Maybe it's a touch of artistic license. Then we get a moment of mutual backpatting as the children tell each other they were brilliant for their help in solving the mystery of what happened to Monty. Even Sunny chimes in with another 'Brilliant!'

And then they watch the van drive away and the chapter ends. This time it's with a full page picture of Bruce, who I've decided is thoroughly unpleasant. He's a very large man with a very loud jacket, looking at a very expensive pocket watch. He reminds me of a used car salesman, you know, the smarmy ones you see in TV programmes.

Behind Bruce the IDV is being loaded, in its cage, into the back of the van. The man carrying the cage is wearing a baseball top with Lachrymose Leeches on the back. Wonder where the Baudelaires will be going next...

And that wraps up this book, apart from the last page where we get Snicket's latest letter to his editor. Apparently he is writing from Lake Lachrymose where the remains of the Baudelaires' Aunt Josephine's house can be found. Clearly the next book is not going to end any more happily than this one.

Check back tomorrow for a brief overview of what I remember about the next book, The Wide Window.

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