Monday, 9 February 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Slippery Slope, Chapter 5

We’ve reached the fifth chapter of The Slippery Slope, the tenth book in The Series of Unfortunate Effects. In the last chapter we saw Violet and Klaus joining the Snow Scouts before meeting someone who seems to know something about V.F.D. Whether they are a friend or an enemy remains to be seen.

What Happens?

Violet and Klaus are unsure whether or not they should trust their mysterious guide, he tries to reassure them that he is in fact a ‘xenial’ sort of person. We also learn a little more about V.F.D. and their network of tunnels through the mountains as the children begin their climb, as well as stumbling across an ingeniously hidden message from Lemony Snicket to his sister.

Thoughts as I read:

We’ve got a lovely picture to kick off this chapter. It’s one of those long thin ones which runs from the top of the page to the bottom and shows a pair of hands climbing up a rocky slope. I’m going to guess that these hands belong to Klaus, since he was the one who put the Caligari Carnival jumper on over his top and it looks like he might be wearing a jumper with his shirt sleeves hanging out. There are cobwebs on a couple of the rocks which really puts me off because where there are cobwebs, there are going to be spiders. One of the looks a little bit like an eye, which I’m sure is just a coincidence.

Snicket points out:

When you have many questions on your mind, and you suddenly have an opportunity to ask them, the questions tend to crowd together and trip over one another, much like passengers on a crowded train when it reaches a popular station.

This is how the Baudelaires are feeling because there is a lot that they want to ask the sweatered Snow Scout. There are a lot of questions and Snicket gives us a taster of them, I won’t copy them all here because there’s like a page of them and I think you probably have an idea of what most of those questions are likely to be. The boy tells the children that he can’t answer their questions, then he informs them that they’ve got to get to ‘the headquarters’.

We then get to see a little bit more of the sweatered scout. He’s got a backpack with the V.F.D. insignia on it, so he’s obviously in on the who V.F.D. secret. Hopefully he’ll let the rest of us in on it soon. He then points out the gap in the ceiling of the cave which has let out the smoke from the fire and informs the Baudelaires that this is a ‘Vertical Flame Diversion’ and is also a secret passageway through the Valley of Four Drafts which they can climb up to save walking time. This is convenient.

When Violet questions how he knows all of this, the boy tells her that he read it in Remarkable Phenomena of the Mortmain Mountains which he borrowed from Dr. Montgomery’s library. This just gets more and more interesting, doesn’t it? The children start to question how the boy had come to be in their former guardian’s library, but Bruce starts to stir so they have to stop talking and start climbing.

Violet’s still hesitant though, she’s not sure whether or not they should trust this stranger. He decides that the best way to win her over is to define the word ‘xenial’ for them. Hey, does that mean I’m trustworthy, since I defined it when it cropped up in the last chapter. He acknowledges the fact that knowing this word doesn’t really prove anything, except:

“But it does mean that I’ve read a great deal. And my experience, well-read people are less likely to be evil.”

I like to think that I’m not a very evil person. ;-) This doesn’t really convince the children though, but they’ve not got much of a choice so they figure ‘what the hell’ and follow the sweatered scout.

We learn a little more about the Vertical Flame Diversion which gave access to the Volunteer Feline Detectives’ cave and how it was one of the best kept secrets. Except it’s not now since Snicket’s written a book to tell everyone about it.

Anyone who wanted to use it had to correctly answer a series of questions concerning the force of gravity, the habits of carnivorous beasts, and the central themes of Russian novels, so very few people even knew the passageway’s exact whereabouts.

We do also get a mention of the pole being removed to use in a submarine… I have a feeling we may hear more about this in the future.

I love that we get a mention of the ‘spider condominiums’ which are in the footholds. Really not selling this passage to me at all. I’m quite thrilled by the lack of spiders we’ve had in our house recently and having typed this I bet we’re going to have a sudden influx of them. We’re very careful about making sure no spider condominiums start development in our house.

The last few pages of the chapter are basically just Snicket telling us how awful the journey was and how we really don’t want to be reading this. We also learn that the next chapter will switch back to Sunny so we can learn about how she is getting on, and Chapter Seven will see the Baudelaires will actually arrive at the V.F.D. headquarters and learn who their guide is. It’s even suggested that perhaps we should just go read something else, I’ve got plenty I could be reading, but I’m going to stick with this for now.

Then we get a little bit of the familiar, funny, bits in these books. Snicket repeats the same sentence a few times and then hides a message to his ‘dear sister’ at the end of it, explaining he’s taking a risk doing this but he knows that the story is so sad no one will ever read it. He tells his sister that he’s got evidence to prove Olaf started a bunch of fires, instead of himself, and mentions that a tea set is a good place to hide something (along with including a recipe for a salad). It goes on to say that he’s journeying to the Valley of Four Drafts to recover this evidence and will then head to Hotel Denouement (something else I’m sure we’ll see again in the future).

And so the mystery thickens.

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