The Gates by John Connolly
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Atria; X edition
By Laurel Brodzinsky, Courier Staff Writer
ďIn the beginning, about 13.7 billion years ago, to be reasonably precise, there was a very, very small dot. The dot, which was hot and incredibly heavy, contained everything that was, and everything that ever would be, all crammed into the tiniest area possible, a point so small that it had no dimensions at all.Ē
So begins the whirlwind novel The Gates, by John Connolly. The young adventure story incorporates science, religion, and philosophy into the strange happenings of eleven-year-old Samuel Johnson and his dog Boswellís life.
Samuel lives with his mother, now that his father has moved out in slightly vague circumstances of an affair he had, and his dog. He is a bright child, but like many child protagonists fails follow some of the socially acceptable rules of adults, and so sticks out. However, he does not have a problem with his peers, and is blessed with two loyal best friends- Tom and Maria.
One of the strange things he does is decide to get a jump start on Halloween and trick-or-treat around the neighborhood early. He visits the house of the Abernathys, and while they donít give him any candy, he does discover something interesting happening in their basement. The Abernathys and two friends hold a cult meeting in the basement and try to summon up a demon. Unfortunately for them, they succeed.
Meanwhile, scientists scramble frantically in Geneva over a broken Large Hadron Collider, which some unknown force interfered with, and a bit flew off.
We find that this bit flew into the basement of the Abernathys, directed by evil forces, and a portal to Hell was opened. The demons begin their work paving the way for The Great Malevolence- Satan- to come and destroy the world by terrorizing the town, making the dead rise, inhabiting ponds, and creating chaos.
However, their efforts to kill Samuel and his two friends are constantly thwarted by simple child logic (convincing a monster under the bed that he simply is not going to get out of bed until daylight, therefore isnít it pointless to stay there?), good batting accuracy, and bug repellent.
And if there arenít enough demons around, Samuel gets surprise visits by Nurd, Scourge of Five Deities. Nurdís only demonic trait is a penchant for speed driving, and he really isnít much of a demon. After figuring out how not to get crushed by vacuum cleaners or run over by cars when he unexpectedly switches from his wasteland where he was banished to into the world of humans, Nurd turns out to not be a bad guy. Samuel befriends Nurd. Nurd doesnít care for a bunch of other demons coming to the world either because of his banishment, so teams up with Samuel to get rid of them.
In the end a bewildered scientist, an eleven year old, a not very good demon, and a vintage Aston Martin are the only things holding the world from utter destruction.
This book initially reminded me a lot of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaimanís Good Omens. Both include a dog, a boy, the brink of hell, and interesting demonic personas. However, in Good Omens the boy and his dog are from Hell, not human. Part of what made me think of Good Omens was the amusing footnotes. These footnotes gave everything from definitions of a singularity to Lewis Carroll math problems to the practicality of threatening to flush someone to China. There arenít as many in The Gates as Pratchett and Gaiman used, but they always add to the story and never distract.
The Gates is a fast, amusing read that I would recommend for pre-teens to young adults. Pre-teens will strongly identify with Samuel and his friends, but young adults will pick up on more of the deeper philosophy and thinking hinted at throughout the book. I laughed aloud at times while reading this, and hope you will too.