The Gates by John Connolly

I found The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly interesting enough that when trying to figure out my next read I stumbled upon The Gates I made the impulse buy. I was looking for something different to shake up the routine and this seemed a good fit.

Here is the plot summary from the publisher’s blurb:

Cover of "The Gates: A Novel"
Cover of The Gates: A Novel

Young Samuel Johnson and his dachshund, Boswell, are trying to show initiative by trick-or-treating a full three days before Halloween, which is how they come to witness strange goings-on at 666 Crowley Road. The Abernathys don’t mean any harm by their flirtation with the underworld, but when they unknowingly call forth Satan himself, they create a gap in the universe, a gap through which a pair of enormous gates is visible. The gates to Hell. And there are some pretty terrifying beings just itching to get out. . . .

Like so many of the books I read lately, I am of two minds about The Gates. On the one hand Connolly in many ways creates an imaginative and humorous story. The two main characters, Samuel and Nurd, are well done and once it gets going the story moves at a good pace.  The humor brought a number of smiles and even a few out loud chuckles. So win, right?

Well, I guess it depends.

If you enjoy what PW calls “frothy” then yes. Here is the PW conclusion:

Connolly plays this potentially spooky scenario strictly for laughs, larding the narrative with droll jokes, humorous asides and the slapstick pratfalls of Nurd, an amusingly incompetent subdemon whom Samuel ultimately befriends. Though billed as “an adult book for children,” this light fantasy will strike even adult readers as divertingly whimsical.

Yes, it was “divertingly whimsical” but it also felt a little too clever. As I said in my initial reaction on Goodreads, it “lacked suspense and there was a sense that he was trying a bit too hard to be clever and ironic.”

And as another reviewer pointed out at Goodreads, it is hard to get a sense of who Connolly’s audience is: young adults, adults, both? I would guess he is aiming for YA but in a way that appeals to crossover adults. Whatever the author’s intentions, the voice isn’t always clear or consistent.

I guess once again it depends on your standards. Entertaining and creative but a little uneven is my verdict.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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