Modern Lit: The Gates, by John Connolly

The Gates

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the mood for a tongue in cheek monster story full of hapless humans and dastardly demons? Open the cover of The Gates and watch as our unlikely hero, ten year old Samuel Johnson, fights to close the gates of hell, before the Great Malevolence can bring and end to the world with fire, mayhem, and as much suffering possible. Initially, no one believes what Samuel has discovered, until a demonic horde descends upon Biddlecoombe on Halloween.

Mrs. Abernathy, the GM’s point demon, is a truly formidable adversary, and she targets Samuel in particular. She hijacks a Hadron Collider and applies black hole and dark matter theory with the aplomb of an Einstein. Fortunately, the members of the vanguard assisting her could be called the Keystone Cops of hell. It’s hard not to cheer when the intrepid British citizenry take them on with whatever comes to hand, no easy task as they are confronting talking eyeballs, beautiful women with bat wings and lizard bodies, snakes with elephant ears, and countless others, all of which the author describes in ghoulishly slimy detail.

There are serious issues underlying all this delicious parody. Connolly presents a practical, easy to follow (easy is a relative term!) version of quantum physics. In addition to demons, Samuel must cope with adults who ignore and/or disbelieve what he says, as well as the emotional fallout resulting from the impending divorce of his parents. He is also precociously intelligent, a trait that affects him socially. But he does have a heroic dog, Boswell, two friends who understand him, and an unlikely alliance with Nurd, who is unhappy with his demonic status.

The Gates is not rocket science. Although marketed to young adults, however, the writing is literate, sharp and funny, and anyone who enjoys a rollicking adventure is sure to enjoy this novel. It would make a crackingly good movie.


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