30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2007
If you are interested in book reviews that have happy endings, you would be better off reading some other review. Because this review, like so many others, is more likely to make you hide in your cellar than prompt you to give your credit card number to complete strangers to order a copy of "The End."
Unfortunately, like other series of books that start out splendidly, a word which here means "with interesting characters and fascinating plots," the last book in the chronicle of the Baudelaire's lives ends not with a bang but a whimper. The phrase "not with a bang but a whimper" was penned by a man named Thomas, who was a close associate of mine until he left one day for New Guinea in a generically-fueled speed boat, all because of a note left in a cookie jar by a hotel concierge. The exact meaning of the phrase is ambiguous to some and downright confusing to others, but to my way of thinking, the best manner in which to use "not with a bang but a whimper" is in reference to an entertaining series of books that end not with plot resolution but with more unanswered questions. Unfortunately, that is how "The End" ends - with more unfortunate happenings that leave the unfortunate reader with the unfortunate sensation of having unfortunately wasted his or her time reading an unfortunate ending, unfortunately.
That brings me to a problem that plagues the whole series of unfortunate events, and that is the repetitive nature of the books, a word which here means "Lemony Snicket deems it necessary to repeat the same sentence structure and subtle jokes ad infinitum throughout the series." This literary technique, a word which here means "way of writing a book," is novel the first few times it is tried, but after reading through 170 chapters filled with repetitive phrases, a word which here means "the same phrases over and over again," one tends to become disinterested, a word which here means "bored," or downright angry, a word which here means "why am I reading this book?" Mr. Snicket's stories also tend to fall into abject pessimism, a which here means "a depressing view of the world," which might make good reading for hermits and old maids but not high-spirited little children.
If you have read this much of my review - which I certainly hope you have not - then you must be wondering what redeeming qualities Lemony Snicket's unfortunate series of unfortunate books may have. While it is true that "The End" leaves one whimpering, it is equally untrue that the series should not be read. Books one through 11 are quite entertaining, a word which here means "worthy of being read." Unfortunately, Mr. Snicket begins to wax philosophical in the two closing books of the series. By "wax philosophical" I do not mean that Mr. Snicket uses a putrid smelling and oily substance to buff and shine his automobile, which he has nicknamed "philosophical." Rather, "wax philosophical" means that Mr. Snicket attempts to examine the nature of good and evil, often with rather embarrassing results. Mr. Snicket's liberal views on politics, morality, religion, and "pelosi" (a word which, when translated, means "his choice to live in San Francisco rather than Vermillion, South Dakota") may be interesting in a debate, but they serve as a mere annoyance in a children's yarn. That being said, the first eleven books are entertaining and enjoyable, words which here mean "worthy of being read, even if the last two books are horrid."
There are some books, of course, that are better left unread, and I am sorry to say that "The End" is one of those. While it is wise to avoid "The End," it is definitely unwise to avoid many of the other books in the series. So, if you can look past the repetitive prose and odd humor, pick up the first few books in the series, but expecting a decent resolution to the storyline would be an unfortunate event indeed.
27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2007
I realize it's easy to be a critic, not being a "literary" person myself, but I feel this book can legitimately be called a disappointment nonetheless--even by me. I'll keep it as short as I can.
First, I feel the quality of the series began to decline at about the halfway point; not sure if the author set 13 as an appealing goal and just ran out of material before getting there, or what. The fact is, the narrative style, so original and funny to begin with, wore itself out, and what had previously been a refreshing voice (with which the reader was only too happy to chuckle and shake her head), became dull, predictable, and annoying.
Secondly, I realize that the author seems to have intended a "real" life lesson to come out of these satirical "fake morality tales," but the buildup into that conclusion is shaky, poorly planned, and feels contrived. What I mean is, the books begin as fairly transparent sketches of a villainous (and funny) Count Olaf, and the three clever orphans who escape him only to fall into difficulty again very soon. That's a clear outline, and, while old as the hills and somewhat unimaginative, still useful. But then the author seems to devolve into an unplanned and somewhat preachy exploration of existentialism by way of much equivocation in character description/motivation and muddying of the plotline.
Finally, and here is the end of my review of The End (to borrow an obnoxious habit of the author's that pops up in several places in this book ...), the utter lack of resolution of the mysteries posed previously in the series does serve to drive home the point that we (readers, orphans, humans, whatever) do not know everything there is to know, and hence judgment is best practiced warily if at all. But this incredibly exasperating decision not to wrap up some of the major questions also insults the reader for having invested so much time in the story, cheapens the entire series by stripping its details and events of any ultimate meaning, serves to give further evidence of a lack of overall theme and poor planning evident for at least the last 5 or 6 books, AND, I would argue, is unnecessary as the same point could have been made merely by adjusting the narrative voice (or using any of a variety of literary "tools" the author seems to be completely inept at).
I give it 2 stars only because the author at least bothered to finish (if only in name) this little misadventure, rather than abandoning his readers when his muse evidently abandoned him. Although one must speculate as to the nature of the contractual terms that might indeed have wrung the latter half of the series out of his unwilling pen.
At least it's all over.
63 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2006
Bottom Line: Fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events will most likely be disappointed by this book. "The End" does for series what the movie did for the franchise; and that's not good.
Before I get into the negatives, first let me state the positives. While not as good as in earlier books, the writing in "The End" is clever and still has the trademark Snicket whit and wordplay, although the jokes seem forced and repetitive - but I guess it all depends on how you look at it. Also, the final revelation in Chapter 14 (yes, there is an additional chapter at the end of the book) gives careful readers a lot to ponder. As with all the other books in the series, this is a fun and fast read and, even though there are major problems, I must admit that I still had a good time reading this book. That's about it for the positives.
Now for the downside. First off, you will not find resolution to many of the series' mysteries in "The End": No information on the contents or location of the sugar bowl, nothing more about the purpose of VFD or its schism, nothing about the fates of the villains and volunteers from the fire at the Hotel Denouement (or the hidden library), not a word about the "man with a beard but no hair" and the "woman with hair but no beard," not a peep about the possible survival of one of the Baudelaire parents, etc, etc, etc. The problem isn't that "The End" doesn't explicitly resolve these issues for us (did anyone actually expect that it would?), it's that the layers and layers of intrigue that have been building up for years are largely ignored. The true unfortunate event would be if the series were to end like this, with nothing more to bring closure to these outstanding mysteries.
This volume does add an extensive cast of new characters, however they are all as flat as a pancake (read the book, then try telling one of your associates or enemies anything about the characters Marlow, Larsen, or almost any of the other islanders for that matter - bet you can't). This time around even the series' mainstay, Count Olaf, seem utterly lifeless and even out of character.
The plot of this book is rather dull, which is perplexing considering that this is the longest book in the series. What you will find within the pages of this book are 12 chapters of fairly slow paced and repetitive "story," followed by a long Chapter 13 that is so utterly ridiculous that the writers of Scooby-Doo would feel guilty ending their story (let alone a beloved series) in such a way. It is as if the author got to the end of the book and noticed he hadn't moved the ongoing story forward, so decided to have certain characters monologue about the fates of others. For example, we have all been wondering what happened to the Quagmires and expecting some type of glorious reunion, but I'm quite sure that nobody wanted to hear Kit Snicket say "yeah, they captured some birds and then crashed into the ocean, where the 'question mark' shaped vessel swallowed them up. I don't know if they're alive or not. P.S. - Fiona and the Hook-Handed Man got swallowed too." Lol! As terrible as that sounds, the actual text in the book isn't much better than what I just wrote. Not to spoil anything, but the bit about Count Olaf's fate isn't much better either. The pacing is all wrong: why spend chapters going on about the tedium of island life, and then cram the important contents into a few scant sentences?
Judging by the response to this book, it looks like old Lemony has really dug himself a hole. The fans are mad, and justly so. Even if the series continues in spin-off books for years to come, many fans have been turned of by "The End" and just don't care anymore. The prevailing attitude is that readers would be better off stopping with Book 12; in many ways it is better to use your imagination and think of the millions of possible ways that the series could have ended, rather than reading the thoroughly unfulfilling way that it did end. All I can say is that if there are future books coming, they had better be something 'really' special, or "The End" may be the beginning of the end.
130 of 168 people found the following review helpful
Are you kidding me Mr. Snickett? I've followed these kids through 13 books of misery only to NOT get answers to the majority of the questions? I still don't know why there was a tunnel between the kid's house and Dark St.? I still don't know what was in the sugar bowl? I still don't know what happened to the other triplets? I still don't know (really) what the deal is with you and Beatrice?
Dear sir, I have the sneaking suspicion that these books started as a great original idea, but as of about book 8 you realized you had no way to resolve the myriad plot threads that you'd sent spinning off in a million directions. I feel taken advantage of - a phrase which here means "ripped off." I am ashamed of you, and your publisher for purposely stringing the reader along when you must have known you had no true ending to the series. How do you sleep at night?
Let's hope Mrs. Rowling does better than this in June. You Mr. Snickett, are a hack.
29 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on October 16, 2006
There are two things that surprise me. Firstly, I have no idea how he does it, but Snicket/Handler managed to pull off a terriffic feat; that is, writing a 13 installment series of books that never dulls, never lags, and constantly suprises. Not many authors can do that - most series start with a bang and end with a whimper, as the author loses steam and begins to lag in creativity. ASoUE, however, manages not to fall into this trap, and, instead, had a rousing end. I must admit that 'The End' was the only book in the series that actually made me depressed (slightly) and almost tearful (then again, I get teary at some pretty interesting things). However, it really was touching seeing this series come to an end. And yes, I really do believe that this is the last book in the series. Perhaps Snicket will delight us with another book akin to 'UA' or 'BL' to clear up a few things (wouldn't you love an 'Unoffical Guide to V.F.D.'?) but as for the 'canon', I truly believe that it is finished. Having said that, I will also warn readers that this review does contain spoilers - and lots of them, so if you don't want it ruined, don't read this.
My second surprise is the number of negative reviews here. For those wondering, yes, Snicket does answer TONS of questions, including 1. Who is Beatrice? 2. What does VFD stand for? 3. What is the point of 'The Beatrice Letters'? I think he also tells what was inside the sugar bowl, as well as what happens to the Quagmires. Also, (and this is just my opinion) but I'm pretty certain that it was Dewey and Kit, not Olaf and Kit.
Like all good/great series, the 'bad guys' get their just desserts, and although good does not necessarily 'triumph over evil', the moral compass reigns true. One great thing in the series is seeing how the Baudelaires grew, changed, and matured. In the first book, they could barely take care of themselves, by the end of 'The End', they're trying to save the world (or what they can save of it).
Handler did an incredible job inserting himself into the story and creating Jacques, Kit, VFD, etc.
Now, for my theory about the sugar bowl; Snicket has it. In PP, the mysterious man in the taxi is most likely Snicket (who else could it be?) and the text clearly states that he has an object from the sugar bowl. It was a great plot device (Sunny, I believe, even calls it a 'Mcguffin' :) )and for an extremely unusual theory, I believe that the ring was inside the sugar bowl. ('R'? That could stand for Rhaldeen, as in Linda Rhaldeen, who's mentioned in 'UA' and is the Duchess of Winnipeg. 'Linda Rhaldeen' is an anagram for 'Daniel Handler' (!)) So, Lemony got the ring from 'Linda Rhaldeen' and gave it Beatrice who gave it back, etc., etc. Just a theory...
Anwyay, I hope this was helpful...
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2006
A fittingly unsatisfying End to an unsatisfying series. If you think this will tie up all the loose ends, think again. I'm rather sorry I started reading the series at all. What started out as an intriguing idea got old really fast. After the third book I realized it was the same book over and over again with different characters. Like cheap romance novels--same plot, same structure, same everything except the names and settings were changed.
I slogged through the first twelve hoping some closure in book 13 would make it worth it. Well, there is no closure. Even if a very few things get tied up (Count Olaf, Kit Snicket, Beatrice), you still don't know what will happen to the Baudelaires and a lot of other characters that were left dangling in earlier books and you get no answer to the mysteries brought up throughout the series. Thankfully I borrowed them from the library instead of wasting my money.
My gentlest comment is that this is Handler's statement on the uncertainty and interconnectedness of all life's mysteries and that it's futile to try and make sense of it.
Those of us who are disappointed should have taken Handler's advice right from A Bad Beginning when he told us to put the book down and stop reading.
34 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2006
Imagine this: you sit down to read "The Lord of the Rings" and learn about Frodo and his quest to destroy the Ring against overhwelming odds. You think with excitement "wow, I wonder if he will be able to do it?" Then you read about Aragorn and his destiny to become the King and you think "gosh, there's even more to this story than I thought!" Through the betrayal of Saruman, the romance of Arwen, the re-appearance of Gollum, and the seige of Minas Tirith you think "man he keeps weaving more and more threads into this story. I can't wait to see how this turns out!"
Then you get to the last chapter, where Frodo and Gandalf wash up on a tiny island, look around it a little, then make a boat and sail away. The end.
This is the kind of conclusion to a series that basically gives the middle finger to its readers. None of the questions that were posed throughout the first 12 books is answered. Not one. What is VFD? Is one of the orphans' parents still alive, and if so which one? What is the signifigance of the sugar bowl? What ultimately happened to the Quagmires and will they stay friends with the Beaudalaires? Who knows? "Lemony Snicket" doesn't seem to care, and he doesn't seem to care that we care.
Of course I could be wrong, but it seems to me he fell in love with his wacky characterizations and pompous asides and faux melodrama and forgot to actually tell a story. I always thought a story had a beginning, a middle, and an end, but heck, what do I know? This book may be The End but it sure isn't the end. Oh well, "Lemony Snicket" has my money, why should he care?
If you've read the previous 12 books in this series you might as well read this one, I guess. On the other hand, if you have read any of those 12 books, the possible endings you have in mind are probably better than what is actually written.
92 of 120 people found the following review helpful
WHat started as a delightful young adult series has become a near philosophical meditation on the nature of good and evil, which is all well and fine, except what happened to the fun? I almost thought I had missed something at the start, when the orphans find themselves washed up on a beach somewhere with the evil Count Olaf. An island with it's own inhabitants that are leading a life free from the dangers of the outside world. One wonders if the author has been watching 'Lost' because this island holds as many mysteries as the one on the ABC show, and gives you about the same amount of answers. I can appreciate that the ending is mostly ambiguous, however for the kid (or adult)who's reading this hoping for a payoff, they're going to be quite disappointed.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2007
This is the worst ending of a series I have ever read. In fact, I'm so disappointed I wish I could take back reading all the other books leading up to this one. I want all those hours of my life back so I won't lie there at night thinking "what a rip off" after book 13. Yes, the repetitiveness of his vocabulary explanations was tedious and so was the ever insisting "Don't read this terrible book!" Warnings. It turned out to be a self fulfilling prophecy, he said it so often that it came true...it WAS a terrible book. (Some of you may take the following as spoilers...but I'm trying to be vague and save you all time).
a)Don't expect to ever REALLY know about any of the mysteries in the book or what VFD really was.
b) Don't expect to see the Quagmires or ANYONE that really mattered throughout the whole series except for Olaf.
c) Don't expect to solve anything having to do with their parents.
d) Don't expect to even know how things ended for the Baudelaires. I wish I was joking...I really do...but sadly I'm not.
So basically you invested a lot of energy and emotion (I did) into something with no end, no payoff. Mr. "Snicket" probably finds this all amusing and laughs at me over my disappointment, but I for one like plots to have a plot and an end. I think he lost his way around book eight.
It's like he got tired of everything he'd written up to the point, threw away the draft he had for the end, and then sat down to type up anything that took up a lot of pages and just left you hanging. Maybe thats in case he writes book 14.
38 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2007
I enjoyed all the early books in this series through Book 11. After reading Book 12 ("The Penultimate Peril") I had reserved judgment. Though less enjoyable in its own right, it might possibly justify itself if it became apparent, in retrospect, that it was building up to something worth while.
Not so. "The End" fails so badly, that not only does it drag "The Penultimate Peril" into the abyss along with it, but it also detracts from most of the other entries. Many of the late entries in the series varied intriguingly from formula in a manner that seemed to promise that they were part of something more than a somewhat repetitive series of stand-alone adventures. This promise has been exposed as a lie. It is here revealed that there was no real build-up, no over-arching story line, and no real plan. The "clues" thrown out to create an aura of mystery were never really clues -- just a sort of increasingly-unfunny comic schtick. None of those little mysteries he builds up in the early volumes will be resolved here. Some of the early stories perhaps still hold up well enough as stand-alone adventures, but they were never ever more than that.
Perhaps it was only to be expected that, since Book 12 offered us a "denouement" that was not really a denouement (even according to his careful explanations of the meaning of the word), this final book would give us an "End" that was not really an End.
The series just fizzles out in a miasma of despair that no longer seems to be a joke (and which, in any event, has certainly ceased to be funny). This, unfortunately, includes moral despair. Over the course of the last few volumes, the author has torn down the distinction between hero and villain (in a preachy and heavy handed manner) while still clearly expecting us to retain full sympathy for the heroes. The unmistakeable message is that growing up necessarily involves abandonment of one's moral principles, as one prepares to survive in a hostile world. So, essentially, not only does he himself cop out on resolving the plot, but he is also advocating moral cowardice to his child readers.
Do not mistake Snicket's moral despair for moral sophistication. The series never beomes "morally complex" -- it never begins to approach even the moral complexity of the Harry Potter books. Snicket does not advocate a complex moral code; he merely suggests that, since a simple one does not work, we should join him in wringing our hands (presumably as a prelude to washing them of responsibility). Snicket's outlook is so morally unsophisticated that, in his zeal to equate heros and villains, he at one point ignores the distinction between intentional murder and an accident.
The Baudelaire children are left, finally, with only their elitism to console themselves. Even if they, too, have become "villains" like Count Olaf, at least they are still special in the sense that they are still smarter, prettier, and generally superior to the surging masses of stupid ugly humanity.
Meanwhile, as plot and morality slide into the abyss, we begin to detect the ugly stench of Allegory amidst the chaos. My suspicions of allegorical intent were horribly confirmed when Sunny uttered a certain word beginning with "D". I will say no more of this, if you dislike allegory as much as I usually do, such revelations are bound to spoil any enjoyment of even the earlier books.
I did get a couple of chuckles from Snicket's usual word-play. Though few and far between, these moments of amusement have nonetheless inspired me to give this book 2 stars rather than the minimum of 1.