The Gates - John Connolly
Eleven-year-old Samuel Johnson decides to get a head start on trick-or-treating a few days early when, along with faithful dachshund Boswell, he gets a glimpse of a true horror. A neighborhood couple, The Abernathys, decide to have some Halloween fun performing a ritual from a mysterious old volume in an unknown language. Naturally this goes awry, and Samuel witnesses the inadvertent opening of a portal to Hell in the Abernathy’s basement, fittingly located at 666 Crowley Road.

A high ranking demon, now disguised as Mrs. Abernathy, intends to use the energy of the large hadron collider at CERN to widen the portal so that her master, the Great Malevolence, may come through to Earth. First, however, the demon focuses on eliminating Samuel, the only human with knowledge of her intentions. Meanwhile, the small portal transports the hapless demon Nurd, self proclaimed “scourge of five deities,” back and forth between the wastelands of Hell and Samuel’s hometown. Whereas other demons would see an opportunity for causing chaos, Nurd would much rather drive a nice sportscar.

Despite unleashing a plethora of demons into the world, The Gates abstains from violence and horror and focuses instead on humor. Most of the demons are amazing unprepared to deal with the modern world, and succumb easily to trucks, cricket bats and beer. The mix of physics and the supernatural works surprisingly well, and the novel is quite informative; Connolly makes concepts such as particle physics and relativity very easy to understand.

The only issue with The Gates is that the story jumps around frequently. The focus will often shift away from Samuel to “Mrs. Abernathy,” Nurd, CERN scientists, some police officers, or the local vicar. While these stories are all interconnected, the characters are often separate and parts of the novel feel a bit disjointed. Connolly also includes copious footnotes which, while providing a great deal of humor, also take the reader away from the story at times.

Overall, The Gates makes is a fun, funny story that makes for a great Halloween read.