Monday, 2 February 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Slippery Slope, Chapter 1

I had big plans to get ahead of myself with these posts for The Series of Unfortunate Events book ten, The Slippery Slope. The cover shows that it’s going to be very cold and icy where the Baudelaires are in this book. Quite fitting considering things have been quite cold and icy here recently.

If you remember, the last book ended on an almost literal cliff hanger. Klaus and Violet had been separated from their baby sister and were rolling down a steep hill in an out of control caravan. This book is long enough that we know that their going to survive this, but I’m not sure how.

What Happens?

Violet and Klaus try to slow down the caravan as it flies down the road, completely out of control. Violet manages to invent a drag chute and gets Klaus to find anything he can to make a sticky solution to coat the wheels. This works and they are able to stop the caravan but before long it is sliding off the road into the canyon below.

Thoughts as I read:

As is traditional, this book opens with the dedication to Beatrice:

For Beatrice - 
When we met, you were pretty and I was lonely.
Now, I am pretty lonely.

I think that this one is one of my favourites.

The picture that opens this book shows that things in the caravan are not good. All sorts of knick knacks are floating around, including a ukulele, a snowman, a bowl of fruit and lots of tins. Violet is holding onto a rope, so I’m guessing she’s inventing something to save them, while Klaus is in danger of losing his glasses. Let’s see how this is going to go down. Actually, maybe that’s the wrong choice of words…

One of my favourite poets is Robert Frost and apparently he was good friends with Lemony Snicket because we get a little lecture about ‘The Road Less Traveled’ and how dangerous taking a less travelled road can be. Coincidentally the Baudelaires are on the road less travelled, this one leads through the Mortmain Mountains and it is not a fun experience for them.

We’re given a brief recap of events at the end of the last book. Things happened so quickly you might have missed them. Right now Violet and Klaus are rapidly descending the hill, while Sunny is being driven up the hill with the evil Count Olaf and his crew. And in case you’ve forgotten, Olaf wants the Baudelaire fortune. If you weren’t aware of this last point, where have you been for the last nine books?!

Back to the elder Baudelaires. Klaus is telling Violet that they need to stop the caravan. I’m guessing she’s already aware of this. The contents of the caravan are flying around them, so not only are they whizzing toward almost certain death, they are in danger of being knocked unconscious by low flying kitchen equipment. Actually, in some ways that might be preferable, though they’ve got Violet in the caravan so they shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring out how to save their skins.

Violet quickly takes charge of the situation. Deciding that it’s time that they shed their two-headed person costume, she starts tying her hair up with a ribbon, which we all know means that she’s planning something. She’s going to make a drag chute, since a brake wouldn’t work at a time like this. The plan is to hang the hammocks out the door in order to slow the caravan down, while Klaus looks in the pantry for something sticky.

Klaus can’t look in the food cupboards without thinking of Sunny, the biting Baudelaire with an aptitude for cuisine, but he soon finds a veritable treasure trove of sticky substances:

“I see blackstrap molasses, wild clover honey, corn syrup, aged balsamic vinegar, apple butter, strawberry jam, caramel sauce, maple syrup, butterscotch topping, maraschino liqueur, virgin and extra-virgin olive oil, lemon curd, dried apricots, mango chutney, crema di noci, tamarind paste, hot mustard, marshmallows, creamed corn, peanut butter, grape preserves, salt water taffy, condensed milk, pumpkin pie filling, and glue.”

I wouldn’t say that olive oil is particularly sticky, it’s more slippery than anything else, but whatever. Violet gives Klaus the instruction to find a way to mix them together while she continues to try tackling the hammock drag chutes. It’s not long before she’s giving Klaus the next direction. He’s to pour the mixture out the window onto the wheels to make them sticky to help slow them down.

Violet also adds that as the Devil’s Tongue knot has been pretty unlucky for them so far, she’s using a knot of her own invention which she’s named the ‘Sumac’. Apparently Sumac is a singer she admires, but a bit of quick Googling tells me that it’s also a type of flowering plant which can be used as a spice.

When they’re ready to start trying to stop the caravan, Klaus decides that he has to tell Violet something. Violet won’t let him though, after all if they don’t do it now, they might never be able to tell one another anything again. Luckily the plan works and the caravan starts to slow down. Klaus begins to celebrate but is told that it’s not over yet. Violet hauls a table out the door and uses it as a brake until eventually all movement ceases. They’ve stopped.

Violet’s not about to let Klaus relax any time soon. They need to start gathering up supplies so that they can head back the way they’ve come to rescue Sunny. Klaus reminds her that they need to find the V.F.D. headquarters as well, and it’s probably going to be cold there, so they’ll need a lot of clothes as well.

Outside the caravan we learn just how close to doom the Baudelaires came. Another second and the Baudelaires would’ve gone right off the edge. Now they need to figure out how to steer the caravan and create an engine for it. I know Violet’s an inventor but I think that might be beyond even her capabilities. Before she even gets a chance to do anything with the caravan it starts to roll towards the edge the cliff.

Klaus actually makes and attempt to grab it which shows that even if you read a lot you don’t necessarily have a lot of common sense. That probably explains some of the things that I do. So they just have to watch it fall off the peak. The drag chute continues to work though, so Violet’s new knot obviously works well, slowing the caravan down until it hits the bottom with a quiet crash.

Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.

That’s an interesting way of looking at it.

So basically fate hasn’t been kind to the Baudelaire so far since that day at the beach when they learned that their parents were dead, and fate still isn’t getting any kinder to them. And now they have no transport.

Doesn’t that suck.

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