Back in 2010 I read John Connolly’s YA novel The Gates. Alas, in spite of it being about Satan trying to create a portal from Hell to Earth in order to take over the world, I didn’t read it for RIP. But now I have the sequel, The Infernals, that I have been meaning to read since it came out in 2011 and finally managed to get to it this year for RIP.
This time our intrepid boy, Samuel Johnson and his beloved dog Boswell, are being stalked by Mrs. Abernathy, the demon who had used the power of the Large Hadron Collider to open a portal between Hell and Earth and whom Samuel and the hapless demon Nurd foiled. Mrs. Abernathy is not quite the same after the experience. Once the right hand demon of the Great Malevolence, she has fallen out of favor due to her failure. But, she has discovered that she can now open a portal on her own, she just can’t open a very big one. She does, however, manage to open one big enough to pull Samuel, Boswell, a police car with two police officers in it, an ice cream truck with Dan Dan the Ice Cream Man in it, and four rather rude and cantankerous dwarfs into Hell. Unfortunately her accuracy is off and she must find Samuel before her enemies can.
And so we have Samuel and Boswell wandering through Hell in a not very Dante-like way. Still they manage to get into some close calls and even facilitate the redemption of one inhabitant. Of course Mrs. Abernathy eventually catches Samuel and Hell is on the verge of a great world-rending battle as demon squares off against demon.
The Gates was a wonderful book, clever, laugh-out-loud funny, full of literary references and jokes that adults would get but yet still a good entertaining YA story. It is one of those YA books that could really have been written for adults but somehow got shuffled into the young adult section because the protagonist is only 13. I had high expectations for The Infernals and it started off with a bang and a good laugh. Sadly it was just downhill from there. There was too much wandering around in Hell with nothing happening, too much time jumping around between points of view — Samuel, the dwarfs, Nurd, Mrs. Abernathy, Duke Abigor, and random other inhabitants of Hell. Plus, there was the escape from Hell which left me boggled, that’s it? All the lead up and it was that easy?
Whereas The Gates read like it was for adults, The Infernals really does read like it is for young adults, and pretty young ones at that. Sure there are a few jokes that the kiddies are likely to wonder about, but for the most part it lacked complexity and comes off overly simple and bland. The vital spark that The Gates had was missing from The Infernals. While I was greatly disappointed, it wasn’t all that bad. I did finish it after all. There will soon be a third book, The Creeps. Not sure whether I will read it or not. Maybe I will let Bookman read it first and then depending on his reaction decide if it will make its way onto my RIP list for next year.