Book Review: The Gates by John Connolly

Posted February 10, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Gates by John Connolly

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Gates by John Connolly
Genres: YA, Urban Fantasy
on 2009
Pages: 296
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library


Young Samuel Johnson and his dachshund, Boswell, are trying to show initiative by trick-or-treating a full three days before Halloween which is how they come to witness strange goings-on at 666 Crowley Road. The Abernathys don't mean any harm by their flirtation with the underworld, but when they unknowingly call forth Satan himself, they create a gap in the universe. A gap in which a pair of enormous gates is visible. The gates to Hell. And there are some pretty terrifying beings just itching to get out...

Can one small boy defeat evil? Can he harness the power of science, faith, and love to save the world as we know it?

Also by this author: The Infernals, The Creeps

First in the Samuel Johnson vs the Devil urban fantasy series for Young Adults and revolving around the very precocious Samuel who lives in Biddlecombe, England.

My Take
It’s an intriguing trio of names in this: Samuel Johnson, Boswell, and the Devil, and I’m curious as to why Connolly chose them. Does Connolly love words and dictionaries? Perhaps, he’ll go back in time? I guess we’ll see as the series unfurls.

What am I yammering on about? Well, the original Samuel Johnson wrote the first definitive dictionary, and James Boswell was his biographer. Hmmm, I wonder if that original Boswell was a “dog with a bone”? And the Devil? Well, the first Samuel Johnson wrote a parody making fun of a speech Edmund Burke, a politician of the day, wrote pleading for the English to reconcile with those testy Americans in which the Devil makes predictions. In this case, it’s a Devil with great expectations, LOL, while our Samuel has that inquisitive bent.

Truly, this is excellent, excellent, excellent. Connolly has a great sense of humor in this combination of religion and science! Evil + Big Bang, hey why not? Kids will love it for how well Connolly pokes fun at the myopic adults who haven’t the imagination to listen as he channels his inner child. Adults who remember their childhoods will also appreciate the humor of it…at least this one did *giggle*

It’s very much from a child’s perspective with all these silly adults who never pay attention, simply humoring a child. A little boy who asks too many disturbing questions, questions no 11-year-old should be thinking. And isn’t that truly scary? How often do children try to tell their parents or another supposedly responsible adult that something is wrong, and we simply ignore them, disbelieve them. Because, surely, nothing like that could be true. We may not have actual demons popping up in the garden, but there are other demons out there. Adults who touch where they shouldn’t. Bullies. A parent, relative, teacher, priest, counselor who is supposed to have the child’s trust and best interests at heart, and they don’t. Do the adults around this child listen? Too often, it’s much as Samuel discovers.

Annnd, enough with my gloom-and-doom! It truly is a fun, lighthearted book that pokes fun at so many shibboleths of childhood a nd finally pins the blame where it belongs on those naughty demons—and on the Large Hadron Collider. I did love how well Samuel bargains with the monster under the bed!

Of course, I suspect that some of the reason this story felt so lively was its retention of the Britishisms—thank you, god!! I really, really hate it when an author feels they must Americanize a story. How dull! This story is definitely NOT dull, I zipped through, unable to turn the pages fast enough!

Kids, if you’ve been wanting a dog, get your parents to read The Gates. How could they possibly deny you then??

Seriously, moms and dads, this isn’t a scary or disgusting book. It’s too funny to be truly scary, and I guarantee you’ll hear laughter from your child. However old they may be *grin*.

And absolutely, positively, you MUST read the footnotes!

The Story
Samuel wants a head start on Halloween, and it places him at just the right time for the demon-raising going on at the Abernathys.

Now if only someone would believe him…

The Characters
Samuel Johnson is eleven years old and goes everywhere with his dachshund, Boswell. Stephanie is the obnoxious babysitter; Garth is her boyfriend with threats. Mrs. Johnson is his worried, upset mother. Can’t blame her really, as Mr. Johnson has taken off with someone named Emily. But he’s left his 1961 Aston Martin DB4 Coupe behind. Ooops.

Tom Hobbes—he plays cricket with Samuel—and Maria Mayer, who’s a brainiac, are friends. Barry and Mrs. Mayer are Maria’s parents while Christopher is her brother.

Mr. and Evelyn Abernathy are new to the neighborhood, and he doesn’t like her. Reginald and Doris Renfield are their very fat, not-quite-friends.

Mr. Hume is Samuel’s teacher who doesn’t really like children who show initiative. Reverend Ussher is the vicar, and Mr. Berkeley is the verger at the Church of St. Timidus. Yep, the same church where Bishop Bernard the Bad is buried! Meg and Billy own the Fig and Parrot pub with its Spiggit’s Old Peculiar. Mangy Old Bob is one of the regulars. Melody Prossett is one of its not-too-bright barmaids.

Sarge and Constable Peel pick Nurd up, before they wash their hands of him. PC Wayne and WPC Hay are holding down the fort at the police station.

Victor and Ed are the scientists keeping an eye on what the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is doing while they play Battleship. Professor Hilbert loves to figure out how things are put together and then improve them. He was hoping to discover new dimensions as well. Well, the lucky lad. Professor Stefan is CERN’s head of particle physics. Dr. Planck is a scientist based in England.

The Demons
Nurd, the Scourge of Five Deities, has been banished to the back of beyond in Hell, the Wasteland. Wormwood is his fawning servant. The Great Malevolence, a.k.a., Satan, has been waiting, waiting, waiting, ever since the Big Bang for his opportunity to infiltrate our world. Shan and Gath are demons who get seduced into a pub. Ba’al is the Great Malevolence’s trusted lieutenant. And a little boy named Robert Oppenheimer learned a lesson administered by the monster at Miggin’s Pond.

The Cover
The cover is fun in its deep reds, navy, orange, black, and white in this woodcut style. Tiny little, chimney’d houses form the bottom border and rise up the sides into a dark starry sky. Hmmm, I suppose you could think it was a sunset behind those houses with the yellow floor on which Samuel and Baxter are wondering about the Gates. The toothy looking, scrolly black gates with the author’s name and the title forming part of the barrier in white—do look for the climbing demon.

The title is The Gates of Hell and how a Large Hadron Collider opened them…bwah-ha-haaa.

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2 responses to “Book Review: The Gates by John Connolly

  1. Suzanne Nelson

    Loved your review, and I love these three hilarious books – made all the better by listening to the Audible books as well. Would like to see you review “The Book of Lost Things” , which is not only my favourite John Connolly book, but my favourite book of all those I have read in my 64 years.

    And, finally – oh how much I agree with your opinion about how dreadful is practice of American publishers who deem it necessary to change British spelling and lingo! And, perhaps to your surprise, I am (through no fault of my own, I promise) an American.

    Thanks again for your review!


    • Shockingly enough, Suzanne, I’m a Yank too. And I do so prefer stretching my horizons and soaking in the culture of other countries…including the frickin’ language, oy!

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