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Book Review: The Gates by John Connolly

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John Connolly is known for his series about Charlie Parker, an unlicensed private detective who constantly bumps up against the supernatural in dark, emotionally-laden adventures. He’s also written two juvenile fantasy novels. The Gates is the latest.

I struggled through the first part of this book, not because of the writing, but because Connolly shakes out so many plot threads at the beginning. All of them are necessary and entertaining, but a lot has to take place so the story can cut loose toward the end.

Eleven-year-old Samuel Johnson (undoubtedly named for the English writer and lexicographer) is a great character, and I had a lot of fun reading about him and his friends. His dog, Bosworth (probably named for James Boswell, who chronicled Johnson’s life), is intelligent and will appeal to young readers and dog lovers.

Nurd, a subdemon from the Wasteland in Hell, ends up being an endearing character, and I would like to see more of his and Wormwood’s adventures on either side of the Gates. I loved the scenes with Nurd and the police officers.

Connolly mixes a lot of science in with his supernatural tale. The idea that the Hadron Collider provides the power to earth-based demons to open the Gates of Hell is funny, but Connolly also brings up the possibility of alternate universes and worm holes that younger readers interested in science will love.

Although the start of the book requires some dedication, the last half of the book is a fast-paced scamper to the end. The plot lines diverge somewhat again, but by this time I had the characters all firmly in mind, as well as the scope of the action. I liked the scenes with the two demons getting drunk in the bar, as well as the water demon Nurd meets after his inelegant escape through a sewer. Connolly invents scary demons and hilarious demons with wild abandon, and it would be interesting to see more of his demonic side.

Readers of the Charlie Parker series that pick up this book won’t get the same kind of character development as they come to expect from the author. The Gates is a freak show run amuck, and it’s all played for over-the-top adventure.

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