Between working on school and watching President Obama’s State of the Union Address last night there wasn’t much room for blogging or reading or doing much else (I’ll try to catch up on the great comments from my last post tomorrow). But today, today I need to gush about The Gates by John Connolly.
The story takes place in the small British town of Bibblecombe (is this a real town does anyone know? Google was not helpful) and is about an eleven-year-old boy named Samuel Johnson. Samuel has a daschund name – wait for it – Boswell – who doesn’t have the best eyesight in the world but loves Samuel immensely and is brave when Samuel is threatened. And Samuel is threatened.
Samuel decided to get a jump on Halloween and dressed up as a ghost and went out trick-or-treating two days early. He stops at the Abernathy house on 666 Crowley Road and is turned away. He is loitering outside the garden when something funny happens at the Abernathy’s. He sneaks up to the basement window that is partly open to watch in horror as the Abernathys and their guests, the Renfields, who had just performed a demonic summoning in the basement for kicks, are consumed by demons who then take over their bodies. Turns out The Great Malevolence has been waiting a very long time for the opportunity to open the Gates of Hell and destroy the world. And now there is a very small portal to Hell in the Abernathy basement.
Now Samuel is the kind of boy who no one can figure out if he is really smart or a smart-aleck. He asks adults questions that make them uncomfortable. For show-and-tell he brought a pin to class and suggested there were many angels dancing on the head of it. At which point Samuel and his teacher, Mr. Hume, had a short theological discussion which Mr. Hume lost.
Apparently the real Samuel Johnson and David Hume were not agreeable on such matters either. According to Philosopedia:
Samuel Johnson thought it impossible to believe that Hume was actually dying a non-believer and informed Boswell, “He lies, Sir.” Meanwhile, according to Boswell, Johnson, who never attacked Hume in print, wrote in his journal that “Hume and other infidels…destroyed our principles and put nothing firm in their place.” Knowing he was disliked by Johnson and others for his provocative views, Hume had written that, after all, such English critics were “relapsing into the deepest Stupidity, Christianity, and ignorance.”
Back to the story. So Samuel knows about the portal and the demonic advance guard that will be coming through it to prepare the way in just four days and he has to try and convince the adults so someone can stop it. Of course no one believes him. So he tells his two friends, Tom and Maria who do believe him because it is obvious Samuel is really scared (the demons in the Abernathy basement saw him at the window and keep trying to kill him).
I will stop there so you can be surprised and there are lots of surprises. I will say though that Samuel makes the demons so worried that he might actually foil their plans, they decide to start the demonic invasion early, on Halloween. The book is funny, clever and very tongue-in-cheek. There is also lots of science in the book because the Large Hadron Collider is involved. Connolly explains the science and pokes lots of fun at the scientists in some hilarious footnotes. And what I found very delightful is the character of Maria, Samuel’s friend. She is a very smart little girl and figures things out faster than the CERN scientists.
The book is like sitting on a sled at the top of a big hill. Someone gives you a good shove and whoosh! all you can do is hold on and enjoy the ride. And it is a very enjoyable ride.