May 9, 2018

[Books] The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events Book 6) Review

While the Netflix series based on A Series of Unfortunate Events has changed things up by presenting the sort of secret society aspect of the story pretty much front and center since the first season, in the books it was only at the end of Book 5 that we first get a mention of "VFD" and yet have no idea what these words are supposed to mean.

But as a book experience, that almost non-revelation was quite the turning point and it shifted the narrative a bit. Not only were the Baudelaires constantly assaulted with poor decisions in terms of who should become their guardians but there's something else driving things along?

The question "What is VFD?" does not get answered for many books yet. Or perhaps more accurately it gets answered far too many times in so many different ways such that it no longer makes sense at times. But that's all part of the cleverness of these books and how they were written.

Synopsis: The Ersatz Elevator is the sixth book in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events books. Snicket is but a pen name for the author Daniel Handler.

This time around the Baudelaires are endorsed to 667 Dark Avenue where their latest guardian calls home. But it seems that a lot of the people in the area are obsessed with what's "in" versus what's "out". thus favoring trends over practicality. The first example of this how at the time of their arrival dark is in, and thus all the lights are off. And the odd discovery that elevators are out and thus the only way to get to the penthouse apartment is by climbing the stairs.

Their new guardians are the Squalors. Jerome seems nice enough but is eager to please and often avoids conflict rather than argue even the most logical of points. His wife is Esmé, the city's sixth most important financial adviser. And she is absolutely obsessed with what is in and what is out, including how their adoption was because orphans are somehow in. And as the Baudelaires do their best to keep up with Esmé's crazy notions for what is trendy, naturally Count Olaf manages to find his way into their lives once more.

What I Liked: The character of Esmé Squalor is brilliantly ridiculous. She's a walking personification of those odd birds in society who are all about the latest trends in fashion, gadgets or whatever. You want to dismiss her for being silly and frivolous but by the end of the book you discover that she is somehow both shallow and quite clever and scheming as well. And it takes the Baudelaires working closely together to keep pace with everything going on.

The big finale of this book with the auction and the way that they had worked in "VFD" into things was quite clever and not what I had expected. The giant fish probably should have been more of a clue for me but when you're in the thick of things it's easy to skip past those details and focus on other more curious aspects like waving the letters VFD around.

What Could Have Been Better: It's not entirely wrong to wish that there had been more about VFD that had been covered in this book. The last revelation of the Quagmires before Count Olaf had taken then away was such a tantalizing plot element that naturally you as a reader would want to pursue. But Lemony Snicket toys with us to some degree and focuses on his efforts to cover the full story of the Baudelaires even if this does not fully involve VFD so early in the narrative. But hey, I'm only human.

The big plan here, as far as Olaf is concerned, didn't seem all that clever this time around and normally he has a lot of moving pieces around to get things going. I guess it was more because he was more focused on staying away from the authorities who were still looking for him given his past misadventures. But yeah, I kind of wanted more out of him as well as our heroes only get to be better based on the nature of their adversaries.

TL;DR: The Ersatz Elevator continues the adventures of the Baudelaires in a weird way and helps deepen the mysteries around them even more. This is more of an establishing piece than a strong adventure on its own but it certainly helps set the pattern for future "VFD" revelations to come. Thus the book gets a good 3.5 unusual things that are "in" at the moment out of a possible 5.

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