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REVIEW: A Series of Unfortunate Events: A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

REVIEW SUMMARY: An intriguing idea implemented marginally well.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: When their parents die, three children live with their closest relative, Count Olaf, who’s sole purpose in life is to cheat the children out of their inheritance.

PROS: Very neat idea; great illustrations, somewhat reminiscent of Edward Gorey; story is educational, as it teaches vocabulary to younger readers.
CONS: Rather weak ending.
BOTTOM LINE: Overall a fun read. The ending was a little weak, but I hadn’t much time invested in the book, so it didn’t bother me much

A Bad Beginning is the first of a long series of books by Lemony Snicket (whose name rocks, by the way) called A Series of Unfortunate Events.

On the very first page of the book the author warns the reader that if it’s a happy story he’s looking for, he should look elsewhere. For this story does not have a happy beginning or ending, and nothing much happy happens in the middle.

This opening, and the fact that the book is a soon-to-be-released film starring Jim Carrey were enough reasons for me to steal it from Austen’s bookshelf and read it on the plane this weekend.

How, I wondered, could a whole series of books with unhappy endings be so successful? I won’t give away how, but after finishing the book the formula became quite clear to me, and I congratulate the author (or publisher) on his/its cleverness.

The story uses some big words for a childrens’ book, but follows each of these words up with its definition in easy-to-understand terms, and in this way teaches vocabulary to younger readers.

I give the story itself an average 2.5 stars, but as mentioned, the illustrations are quite good, and so I added a star for that. They are somewhat reminiscent of the incomparable, late Edward Gorey (Mystery!) of whom I am a fan. (BTW – while trolling for Gorey just now, I found this awesome Gorey TTF font.) If you’re a fontaholic, you’ll want to get this one.

13 Comments on REVIEW: A Series of Unfortunate Events: A Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

  1. I’ve got several (and there’s a movie coming out…given the length of the book, it’s gotta be either very padded or very short!). They’re fun, but not Great Literature. Definately “snack food” books, taste good while being consumed, don’t leave much for you to remember later.

    In the kid lit area, I’m enjoying Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy.

  2. “His Dark Materials” also has a set of movies in the works. For what it’s worth, I cite Pullman’s “The Golden Compass” as the book that renewed my faith in the fantasy genre. I thought the trilogy was excellent.

  3. I read a review of a play based on the trilogy that was put on in London. The reviewer was pretty astounded by the production. Maybe we’ll see it in the US, or at least a BBC televised version.

  4. 😀 That book is really nice! Like it! 😉

  5. I loved that movie and book it wuz beast(6) i loves jim carry and his role of mean angry man (H):-P

  6. I luv the book and the movie!:):D(6):-@:-P:-S:^)(H);-):-$|-):O:(8o|

  7. You ever notice how the quality of comments seems to go down as the number of smile icons increases?


  8. Good point Fred – I imagine if we had a few more options in the smilie category, that our comment count will continue to increase. I will get John working on that immedicately.


    Smile Icon Director :-@

  9. Nice one, Tim. Throw in a spelling error so you can suck-up to Fred.


  10. Yasmin’s MySpace background makes it all worth the smileys.

  11. The book was okay, a bit too childish for me though, but what happens to the kids is a great plot though

  12. I love the book especialy when the kids siad HI and when they jusmp o fthe building

  13. Anonymous // October 29, 2008 at 8:54 pm //

    cool book!

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