Like handshakes, house pets, or raw carrots, many things are preferably not slippery. Unfortunately, in this miserable volume, I am afraid that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire run into more than their fair share of slipperiness during their journey up-and down a range of strange and distressing mountains.
In order to spare you any further repulsion, it would be best not to mention any of the unpleasant details of this story, particularly a secret message, a toboggan, a deceitful trap, a swarm of snow gnats, a scheming villain, a troupe of organized youngsters, a covered casserole dish, and a surprising survivor of a terrible fire.
Unfortunately, I have dedicated my life to researching and recording the sad tale of the Baudelaire Orphans. There is no reason for you to dedicate yourself to such things, and you might instead dedicate yourself to letting this slippery book slip from your hands into a nearby trash receptacle or deep pit.
With all due respect,
- For Beatrice–
- When we met, you were pretty, and I was lonely.
- Now, I am pretty lonely.
This book begins in medias res, where The Carnivorous Carnival left off. Klaus and Violet are rolling down a steep mountainside in an out-of-control caravan while Sunny is in the clutches of Count Olaf and his henchmen.
Violet manages to devise a method to slow and eventually stop the caravan by using hammocks as a drag chute, spreading sticky stuff on the wheels and using the table as a brake. They pull out miscellaneous items from the careening caravan for supplies and immediately after they escape the caravan it tips over the mountainside.
The two siblings travel up the mountain and are attacked by snow gnats. They find shelter from the vicious snow gnats in a cave which is also being occupied by a group of children called Snow Scouts. Carmelita Spats, a spoiled girl who made her initial appearance in The Austere Academy, is one of the Snow Scouts along with her uncle Bruce and a boy wearing a sweater. The boy in the sweater seems to know about V.F.D. and gives hints to them in the form of V.F.D. phrases, such as "very foul day." He then takes them up the Vertical Flame Diversion in the back of the cave to the V.F.D. headquarters.
Meanwhile back on the ranch, Sunny is being ordered around under threat of violence by Count Olaf on the peak of Mount Fraught, the tallest mountain in the region. He makes her sleep out in the cold. The next morning he forces her to cook breakfast. She makes a great effort to produce a delicious meal but Olaf thinks it is disgusting and he tells the Hook-Handed Man to fetch salmon from the waterfall.
Two ominous figures within an "an aura of menace" arrive and announce that they have successfully burnt down the V.F.D. headquarters. One is a Woman With Hair But No Beard and the other is a Man With a Beard But No Hair. They give Count Olaf the rest of the Snicket file. The man gives Esmé a green cigarette which is actually a Verdant Flammable Device. Sunny sees the Verdant Flammable Device and has the idea to use one to signal her siblings under the pretense of needing its heat to cook lox for Olaf and his henchman.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, the siblings and the boy come to the V.F.D. headquarters and find it burnt. The boy reveals himself to be Quigley Quagmire, who the Baudelaires believed to be dead. Violet, Klaus, and Quigley see the plume of green smoke rising from the cliff so Violet invents a device to help herself and Quigley climb up the steep cliff to find out who signaled them.
During a rest on a ledge of the cliff, Quigley appears to express romantic interest in Violet. At this point, Lemony Snicket explains to the reader that the Baudelaires have had little privacy in their life and that he will allow Violet to keep some things to herself. Some speculation says it might imply the two share a kiss, admit their love and talk. This might mean Violet had a crush on both Quigley and Duncan. Quigley, at least, is confirmed because, before Lemony Snicket breaks off from this scene, he lets us hear two sentences. He tells us Violet tells Quigley it's a lovely view, but Snicket tells us that Quigley is looking at her.
He resumes the book when Quigley and Violet finish their climb and meet Sunny at the top. Violet wants Sunny to return with them but she refuses, telling her sister that she can spy on Olaf and learn useful information. Violet reluctantly agrees, realizing that Sunny is no longer a baby.
Upon meeting again, Violet, Quigley, and Klaus hatch a plan to lure Esmé to them, trap her, and use her to bait Olaf into giving Sunny back. They dig a pit and light a Verdant Flammable Device next to it. Esmé sees some green smoke at the bottom of the slope. She goes down it, thinking the smoke is coming from the "in" cigarettes that she has now run out of. When she reaches the bottom, she runs into three masked strangers and they help her climb back up the slope hoping to get Sunny as their reward.
As they reach the top, the Snow Scouts reach the same peak of the same slope. However, Olaf has sprung a trap to capture all of the scouts in a huge net. Klaus, Violet, and Quigley take off their masks to convince the scouts to run. Olaf orders the two White-Faced Women to grab them and throw Sunny off the mountain but they refuse and formally quit Olaf's troupe. The Baudelaires and Quigley are too late, as the Freaks, the scouts (except for Carmelita), and the Hook-Handed Man are taken up into the net and carried off by eagles. Carmelita is convinced to join Olaf and Esmé in their evil schemes while the Baudelaires and Quigley grab a sled and slide down the slope. When they reach the bottom the entire side of the slope breaks open, causing a waterfall. The Baudelaires and Quigley are separated. Quigley tries to tell them to meet him somewhere but he cannot be heard over the rush of water.
- The Man With a Beard But No Hair
- The Woman With Hair But No Beard
- Quigley Quagmire
- C.M. Kornbluth
- Violet Baudelaire
- Klaus Baudelaire
- Sunny Baudelaire
- Count Olaf
- Esmé Squalor
- Carmelita Spats
- White-Faced Women
- Josephine Anwhistle
- Ike Anwhistle
- Beatrice Baudelaire
- Duncan Quagmire
- Montgomery Montgomery
- Isadora Quagmire
- Arthur Poe
- Jacques Snicket
- A rural life: living in the country
- A daring life of impulsive passion: people who follow what is in their hearts, and like people who prefer to follow their head, or follow the advice of other people, or follow a mysterious man in a dark blue raincoat, people who lead a daring life of impulsive passion end up doing all sorts of things
- A dark day: a sad time in the history of the Baudelaire children, V.F.D., and all kind, brave, and well-read people in the world
- Accoutrements: bagels, cream cheese, sliced cucumber, black pepper, and capers, which can be eaten along with the lox for an enjoyable meal
- Al fresco: outside
- Avail themselves: to make use of
- Brace yourself: get ready for something that will probably be difficult
- Carry the day: enable Violet Baudelaire and Quigley Quagmire to climb up a frozen waterfall after bracing themselves for the difficult journey
- Centerpiece: a decoration placed in the middle of a table, often used to distract people from the food
- Complied: followed Violet's suggestion and read a very complicated paragraph out loud, explaining it as he went along
- Concealed accordingly: hidden in a logical way
- Defected: joined Count Olaf's band of revolting comrades
- Diluted: soaked with salt water from the ocean and from the author's own tears
- Dressed for the occasion: wearing such strange clothing that the youngest Baudelaire was too surprised to say the final 'ga' she had been planning
- Endure: meet in secret, communicate in code, and gather crucial evidence to foil the schemes of their enemies
- Esoteric: things that aren't used very much, the things that stay in the refrigerator for a long time
- Exonerate me: prove to the authorities that it is Count Olaf, and not me, who has started so many fires
- Extreme state of disrepair: an underside of an automobile in such bad shape that it was dripping oil on her and her companion
- Gingerly: without falling into a very deep hole
- Hazard a guess: continue to expend their energy by discussing the matter
- Hazard their climb: continue their difficult journey in silence, until they arrived at last at the source of the Stricken Stream
- Inadvertently: where the youngest Baudelaire could hear it
- Individual practitioner: someone who works alone, instead of with a group, and it has nothing to do with a life of crime
- Inferno: an enormous fire that destroyed a secret headquarters high in the mountains
- Inseparable: close friends
- Lox: smoked salmon, a delicious way to enjoy freshly caught fish, particularly if one has the appropriate accouterments
- Nonchalantly: in a tone of voice that indicated he didn't care one bit about his deceased employees
- Not in the realm of possibility: could not be made from a few small objects and some articles of clothing previously belonging to carnival employees
- Oh: I heard you, and I'm not particularly interested, or I am sad to hear that Uncle Monty's house burned down
- Performing Herculean tasks: managing to do incredibly difficult things
- Plume: mysterious cloud of green smoke
- Privacy: time by oneself, without anyone watching or interfering
- Pyromania: a love of fire, usually the product of a deranged mind
- Sanctuary: a safe place
- Set: the songs that a group of jazz musicians are planning to play at a club that evening, assuming it doesn't burn down, or a group of matching wine glasses, or a bunch of waitresses who look exactly alike, or a collection of books that are all by the same author or about the same subject, or the ancient god of evil, a black, immoral aardvark who is the sworn enemy of the god Osiris, although he does not come up very often in conversation, or I knew you would find me!
- Schism: "It means a division of a previously united group of people into two or more oppositional parties. It's like a big argument, with everybody choosing sides."
- Seen through their ruse: realized who they really were, and cut the knot attaching the caravan to the car, leaving Sunny in Olaf's clutches and her siblings tumbling toward their doom
- She rolled up her sleeves: focused very hard on the task at hand, but did not actually roll up her sleeves, because it was very cold on the highest peak of the Mortmain Mountains
- Simultaneously: in a disgusted voice, and at the exact same time
- Something that lightened her spirits: an identical plume of green smoke, coming from the very bottom of the slope
- Speaking in perfect unison: reciting a list of very odd words at the very same time
- Speak their minds: confront Count Olaf and his companions as if they weren't one bit frightened
- Take a page from someone's book: adopt an idea used by somebody else
- The bank robbers and the prisoners lived together in close proximity: while the police gathered outside and eventually managed to arrest the robbers and take them to jail
- The preferable personal narrative: the way to live your life
- Tiara: small crown given to a nasty little girl for no good reason
- Toboggan: a sled big enough to hold several people
- Tribulations: opportunities to eavesdrop while cooking for a theater troupe
- Tributaries: divisions of a river or stream, each twisting off in a different direction past the ruins of the headquarters, and curving around the Mortmain Mountains until they disappeared from view
- Verdant: green
- With a spring in her step: in a surprisingly cheerful manner considering she was in the clutches of a ruthless villain on top of a mountain so cold that even the nearby waterfall was frozen solid
- Xenial: the giving of gifts to a stranger
- The children travel to The Valley of Four Drafts.
- They use the Vertical Flame Diversion to get to The Valley of Four Drafts.
- Esmé smokes a Verdant Flammable Device thinking it is a cigarette.
- Klaus researches a code known as Verbal Fridge Dialogue.
References to the Real World
- Main article: References and allusions in Lemony Snicket's works
- V.F.D.'s mechanical instructor C. M. Kornbluth is named after science fiction writer Cyril M. Kornbluth.
- The Mortmain Mountains may be a reference to The Statutes of Mortmain.
- Violet uses a knot she invented called the "Sumac Knot," and states that she named the knot after a singer she likes. This is likely a reference to Peruvian singer Yma Sumac.
- As Violet, Klaus, and Quigley are climbing up the Vertical Flame Diversion, Snicket mentions that the pipes once found there were removed by a man he knew in order to build a submarine. This may be a reference to the next book in the series The Grim Grotto, in which the children reside in a submarine described as being made of different pipes.
- When Violet, Klaus and Quigley search the refrigerator at the V.F.D. Headquarters for anything important, Snicket says that a fridge would holding a bunch of strawberries would be important if a man approached someone and said, "If you don't give me a bunch of strawberries right now, I'm going to attack you with this large pointed stick." This is a reference to the "Self Defence Against Fresh Fruit" sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus, in which John Cleese tells his class how to defend themselves from someone armed with a "piece of fresh fruit." Throughout the sketch, a student requests to learn how to defend himself from someone armed with a "pointed stick."
- As Esmé Squalor is travelling down the mountain, Klaus questions the morality of trapping her in a pit after the orphans decide to "fight fire with fire." He mentions a quote from a philosopher he once read, who said "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." The quote is an allusion to Friedrich Nietzsche, a german philosopher of the 19th to 20th century.
- When the Baudelaires and Quigley Quagmire are trying to find a way to escape from the top of Mount Fraught, Sunny offers "Rosebud," prompting them to use the toboggan. This is a reference to the movie Citizen Kane. "Rosebud" is the first and last word in the movie, as well as the name of a sled that Kane owned when he was a child.
- On several occasions, Sunny uses the term "Matahari" to refer to her spying on Count Olaf and his troupe. Mata Hari was a Dutch spy during World War I.
- At one point, Sunny uses the word "Babganoush," which literally means, "I concocted an escape plan with the eggplant that turned out to be even handier than I thought." This is a reference to the Arabic dish Baba Ghanoush, in which eggplant is one of the ingredients.
- When commanded by Count Olaf to make a warm breakfast for him and his troupe, Sunny says, "Plakna," which translates to "How am I supposed to cook breakfast on the top of a freezing mountain?" This is possibly a reference to Max Planck, a German physicist who discovered quantum physics.
- While insulting Count Olaf, she says, "Brummel," which means "In my opinion, you desperately need a bath, and your clothing is a shambles." This is a reference to Beau Brummell, an Englishman that felt that fashion was of high importance.
- Continuing with her insults, she says "Busheney," which means "You're an evil man with no concern whatsoever for other people." This utterance is combination of "Bush" and "Cheney;" a political comment by Snicket, perhaps?
- When Sunny presents her breakfast, she says "Caffefredde, sorbet, toast tartar," which means "Cold coffee, frozen orange juice shavings, raw toast." "Caffefredde" is a derivation of "cafe freddo," meaning "iced coffee;" "sorbet" is a "frozen dessert made of water sweetened with fruit," and the frozen orange juice shavings could be described as a sorbet; "tartar" is a derivation of "tartare" meaning "raw" and generally used in reference to fish or meat.
- When Violet and Quigley find Sunny on the mountain, she says "Arigatou", which means "Thank You", in Japanese.
- Towards the end of the book when the Baudelaires are trying to figure out how to get to the last safe place, Sunny says, "Godot," which means "We don't know where to go, and we don't know how to get there." This is a reference Waiting for Godot, an absurdist play in which the two main characters are waiting endlessly and in vain for an unknown person to arrive.
The last picture of The Slippery Slope shows Violet, wearing a Poncho, and Sunny on a wooden raft, floating down the Stricken Stream. Violet is holding onto Klaus, who is in the water, and Quigley is seen upstream, holding on to another wooden raft, and holding his commonplace notebook up in the air. In a reference to the Medusoid mycelium, the fungus featured in The Grim Grotto, one can see mushrooms growing on the cliffs of the Mortmain Mountains.
Letter to the Editor
To My Kind Editor –
I apologize for the watery quality of this letter, but I'm afraid the ink I am using has become diluted, a word which here means "soaked with salt water from the ocean and from the author's own tears." It is difficult to conduct my investigation on the damaged submarine where the Baudelaires lived during this episode of their lives, and I can only hope that the rest of this letter will not wash away.
The Grim Gr [the rest of the word is smudged]
To be written.
Several editions of The Slippery Slope have been published. Some of these include foreign editions or re-prints such as: The Slippery Slope (UK), The Slippery Slope (UK Paperback) and La Pente Glissante.
The Slippery Slope (UK)
This edition has the same content as in the original one. The main difference here is the cover, which is black, has different fonts and a light-blue spine. Brett Helquist's illustration is also different.The book is published by Egmont. On each of the UK versions, between the coloured spine and the black cover there are narrow images depicting a reference to each books content. The Slippery Slope features a row of insects that represent the snow gnats within the story. This is repeated on the back cover.
The Slippery Slope (UK Paperback)
This is a paperback version of The Slippery Slope released in the UK by Egmont Books in 2010. It has Lemony Snicket written on the top with A Series of Unfortunate Events written below it in an eye shape.
La Pente Glissante
La Pente Glissante is the French edition of The Slippery Slope, published by Nathan Poche. It has a very different cover, Brett Helquist's illustration is not seen here, apart for a portrait of the Baudelaires. It is almost entirely black, with a white illustration of a sleigh.