Blahblahblah shameless plug, blahblahblah please read my other writing, blahblahblah here’s the link: The Scruffy Rube.
I don’t know where to begin with Lemony Snicket’s (aka Daniel Handler’s) newest foray into the world of the series. “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, whose weird and wild sense of mystery incorporated a plethora of new vocabulary words and a huge helping of literary, scientific and philosophical allusions, offered an exciting alternative to the Boy Scout of Hogwarts. And after the final book (fittingly titled The End) Handler seemed all too happy to walk away from Snicket, satisfying himself with silly one offs like the hilariously Hannukkah-themed Latka Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming.
Yet Snicket is back in a series titled “All the Wrong Questions” which begins with Who Could That Be at This Hour? A prequel of sorts that throws us into the world of Snicket before he was simply the chronicler of the Baudelaire triplets’ exploits, WCTBATH takes us to an odd setting, filled with odd adults and odd children in which only our protagonist can offer a rational perspective.
There’s plenty of mystery and vocabulary to play around with, and even a few well chosen allusions (though, since Snicket is a child at this stage he only alludes to classic children’s literature). But there’s simply no core to the characters. Snicket always remained mysterious, aloof and distant as the narrator of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” so you don’t really know him, and you don’t particularly care about him in this book. Nor do you have any fear about what will happen to him, because, obviously he goes on to a whole other series in a few years.
Having a big walking question mark as your protagonist leaves you hoping that supporting cast members will carry the load, but there’s none of the quirky magic that filled “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. No random lectures on Herpetology or digressions into goofy divinations, instead there’s just a pack of local people who lack an ounce of the depth you find in the other series.
When clever characterization is stripped away, all that is left is a pile of authorial idiosyncrasies and a plot so wrapped up in mystery that you’re not only unsure about what happens, but unsure why you should care. As a fan of Snicket’s/Handler’s, I was truly disappointed to reach that conclusion.
Here’s hoping I missed something, that some commenter will correct me, that someone somewhere out there knows why an authorial encore should be cheered for and applauded every bit as loudly as the first finale. Please, tell me I’m wrong.