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by Lemony Snicket
Harpercollins, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on May 6th 2002

The Hostile Hospital

This episode in the Series of Unfortunate Events has two great features.  It provides some of the funniest moments of the whole series with the songs of the Volunteers Fighting Disease.  The VFD sing their silly songs as they march along, and hearing actor Tim Curry’s rendition of them in the unabridged audiobook has been one of the highpoints of 2002 for me. 

We sing to men with measles,

And to women with the flu,

And if you breathe in deadly germs,

We’ll probably sing to you.

You have to hear them to fully appreciate these songs, and it also helps to know more about the modus operandi of the VFD, who subscribe to the idea that no news is good news. 

            The other great feature of this book is its cliff hanging ending, which will leave you wondering how you will be able to bear the suspense before you read the next book in the series.  Indeed, far more questions are raised in this book than are answered, and nearly every mystery that the Baudelaires face at the start remains at the end. 

            Even with its unresolved mysteries, The Hostile Hospital is still a pleasure to read.  Of course, there are many familiar features.  The orphans are still smart and inventive, Sunny still communicates complicated ideas in amazingly short and indecipherable words or phrases, and Count Olaf and his cronies are still pursuing them.  But Olaf has a smaller role than in previous books, and Sunny’s words are less cryptic than they have been in the past.  The hospital may not resemble most modern hospitals, but, with a wonderful wink to the readers, the doctors and nurses all agree that paperwork is the most important thing they do.

            Aside from all the wittiness and intrigue, Lemony Snicket keeps the emotional heart of the series alive.  The children are still mourning the loss of their parents, and are haunted by the terrible fire that left them orphans.  Count Olaf and Esmé Squalor are unmistakably evil, so one still fears for what might happen to the children should they fall into those villains’ hands.  The Baudelaire siblings love each other truly, and provide a model of moral rectitude, even when they are engaged in deception, theft, and taking advantage of the weaknesses of perfectly innocent people. 

            In short, I recommend that you hurry to read The Hostile Hospital, but only if you have read all the previous books in this series.




© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.


Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.