Does "A Series of Unfortunate Events" get better?

I just finished the first book (Bad Beginning or some such thing), and I have to say that I was not impressed. The book was quite short, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I got tired of Snicket telling me that this was an unhappy book. I also got tired of him telling me just what various words meant in the context. If you’re writing for younger people, I think you should either use a vocabulary which reflects that, or provide definitions of the various words and terms in the back of the book.

I paid a buck for the book, and I feel rather cheated. However, many series have rather weak beginnings, and I’m willing to go buy the rest of the books if some of you tell me that the series improves.

Personally, I enjoyed them and liked them a lot, but yeah, all of them have moments where the author tells you how bad and unhappy it is. He never really repeats himself in the same way, though, he manages to say it in different ways and styles each time, so there’s that.

My suggestion would be to read the next two (or three) books and, if you haven’t liked them any better by then, forget about it.

The first book establishes the characters and story, also, whereas the rest of the series starts on a regular pattern that is much more enjoyable. Not to mention the first six books (or so) are mostly set up for the second seven books (which grow deeper and deeper in mystery and plots). All round, it’s a very good book series, I think.

The motifs of Snicket telling you that the books are unhappy and defining words for the reader continues, so in that aspect it doesn’t get better. He plays with it later on (circular definitions, the orphans getting annoyed when characters define words for their benefit), but if the style grates on you then it might be worth giving it a miss.

The overarching mystery and learning more about the narrator and the world is the main reason for reading them, really.

Verily–Foolscap, Double!

Of my three only the middle (girl) enjoyed them, the boys thought they were just silly without any redeeming fun or whimsy. I think my girl has gothic tendencies.

Frankly I found them hard to read with any enthusiasm myself, but we got through the full series. To my knowledge they have never opened the books again which I’d mark as a fail, either as books themselves or me as a storyteller.

That’s very much the style he uses throughout the series. They’re intended more as a way of establishing a mood rather than actually trying to impart information, but it continues like that.

That’s a huge part of Snicket’s schtick throughout the series, and I found it amusing. If you didn’t maybe that’s because you have a different sense of humor than I do, or maybe it’s because I listened to the audio versions, where the comic tone perhaps comes through better.

Well played!

I liked them too, but I also listened to the whole series on audiobook along with my kids. It was a shared experience and Tim Curry did such a marvelous job reading, it added a lot to our enjoyment. If you’re not grooving on them now, try listening, or just cut your losses.

I found the first book a little lightweight and it didn’t inspire me to read on, although I rather liked the film.

Note also that Snicket/Handler is very self-consciously adopting the style of the Intrusive Narrator who talks directly to his dear readers, so that over at TvTropes he is the “trope namer” for the “Lemony Narrator”.

I didn’t like them and only felt they got worse and worse. IMO, the first book was the best, and if you didn’t like it, you may as well forget it.

Without any spoilers, I shall also add that I was enormously disappointed with the ending of all of the books. It felt like a huge copout. I’ll spoiler it here if you’re interested:

They never find out 99% of the questions that plaque them throughout the series and the author ends with an Aesop about how “you never really get to know everything”.

Anaamika, I was bummed about that too. The kids and I had spent a lot of time speculating about how things would work out. shrug But we enjoyed the ride. We still have some in-jokes between us related to the books.

I’ve learned that, when recommending them to people, telling them “You’ll either get it or you won’t.” I adore them, but that’s only my humble opinion.

I only read the first and the last (hey, I didn’t have anything else to read, so I skipped ahead). I wouldn’t hold my breath for a happy ending, because it ain’t happening. In fact, the last book is so laden with despair that I–a woman in my forties–ended up crying before I finished it.

The books are full of little life lessons that will seem annoyingly obvious to the adult reader. Snicket talks directly to kids, and treats them like adults, which kids adore. Celtling is not quite ready for dark humour, but I certainly plan to make them available when she is.

He’s going to teach you his version of what is “good,” from proper grammar, to being mannerly even in the face of rudeness, right down to “garlic salt ruins the taste of anything you use it in.” There is an overall tone of the strict grammarian telling a story which would be quite grating if I didn’t appreciate the thought of a new generation growing up with this information.

I agree that the final book was an utter travesty, and Snicket should be forced to take a Mulligan and repeat the effort.

I stopped after the first two because of this. The tone of the narration is just so condescending to readers that it wasn’t bearable. My inner child got very indigent because by the time I would have been old enough to read those books (had they been published by then), I already knew what the all words he defined meant.

…a word which here means…?

They don’t get any better. He’s trying to be Edward Gorey, but has neither the sustained wit nor the willingness to take his cruelty to its logical conclusion.

Anamika captured my thoughts. Fun to read, but a total disappointment in terms of mysteries solved.