Connolly set the story between October 28 and November 1. This tale includes demons and the Gates of Hell, trick or treating, and general Halloween hi-jinks . It’s not terribly spooky but very fun.
Recently, I requested of the Blogverse some recommendations of good Halloween books. ‘The Gates’ was recommended, and I am indebted to Ashley at readfantasybooks for doing so. This is a delightful tale of a precocious eleven year old boy, Samuel Johnson, who takes initiative to start trick-or-treating with his dachshund Boswell on October 28 to get a head start. Initiative, in this case, being something everyone says they want but don’t actually like when being used. Connolly is humorous. He sprinkles in footnotes that explain words like initiative, the Hadron Collider at CERN, and nefarious in delightfully amusing ways rather than using strict boring definitions. It is young adult, but I believe I would be hard pressed to find adults that don’t like this. Samuel Johnson’s reward for early trick or treating is not candy but witnessing, albeit looking through his neighbors basement window, the Gates of Hell being summoned. Samuel tries to tell his mother, his father, and his babysitter but no one believes him. They all believe he is making it up and is spending too much time playing video games to get such weird ideas stuck in his head.
Samuel must figure out how to stop the Gates of Hell from being opened and allowing The Great Maleficence to enter Earth and destroy it. Along the way we meet scientists, Samuel’s classmates, and a bevy of demons. A beautiful aspect of this book is that when Samuel is visited by demons, who are supposed to either eat him or drag him to the pits of Hell, he befriends them. You must understand Hell isn’t a terribly fun place and they don’t want to return to it either. Just like adult humans the demons must have a job, like scaring small children, or being that terribly annoying bit of toothpaste you can’t get out of the end of the tube. Some demons have exciting jobs, but others have to take jobs that are more frustrating or annoying. Those more boring jobs are good for gentler demons. We meet Nurd, a less successful demon, who was banished by The Great Maleficence. He randomly is traveling between Hell and Earth without his say so, once being hit by a car, and once visiting Samuel’s room. Here they share jelly beans, Nurd learns to smile, and Nurd gains the only friend he’s ever had.
Connolly is brilliant. I read/listened to this book a second time immediately after finishing it. If you enjoy audible books there is a great narration done by Jonathan Cake. He made me love this book even more. It is one of those rare combinations where the narrator is perfectly matched to the book and enhances it. Either way I believe you will enjoy it
This is the first installment of the Samuel Johnson vs. the Devil series. I’m excited to pick up the next book, ‘The Infernals.’ This is a series you want to be able to pay attention to. Some audible books I can listen to and not give them my full attention. You can do that here, and probably glean most of the story without too much trouble. I fear you would miss some of Connolly’s humorous gems, however, and I just don’t know that it would be worth it. I recommend you listen to it while driving or doing something mindless so you can enjoy the whole of it. If the kids are asking to many questions for a group listen turn it off and listen/read it on your own time. You can make them take a second turn if they can’t behave. We all must learn patients after all. You’re building their character…that’s the reason…isn’t it? – You should now look up Connolly’s definition for nefarious.