four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
44-Jan-Feb-2010
user_rating: 
0

A-The GatesJohn Connolly writes books for both children and adults. His previous work includes The Book of Lost Things (2006) and the Charlie Parker series.

The Story: When the Large Hadron Collider in Europe begins to tear a whole in the universe and a suburban séance accidentally summons the forces of the underworld, only one young boy can see the connection. Yet Samuel Johnson (and his trusty canine sidekick, Boswell) are determined to stop the demon hordes from taking over Earth before Halloween. While the Gates of Hell might seem like a pretty scary subject for a children's book, the demons are more goofy than ghoulish, and the forces of science, magic, and wit just may save the day.
Atria. 304 pages. $24. ISBN: 9781439172636

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The premise is nothing to sell your soul for but the execution is brilliant, and Connolly has a deft touch with character, slapstick humor, particle physics, footnotes and droll asides. ... With its endearing protagonist, rollicking plot, and dollops of weird but mostly true science, The Gates has a shot at becoming a middle-school Halloween classic." Denise Hamilton

Minneapolis Star Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"As I was reading John Connolly's whimsical and wicked ‘adult book for children,' oh my, did I miss having a child around. Connolly's tale screams to be shared." Carole E. Barrowman

Chicago Sun-Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Connolly never writes down to his young readers and trusts they will appreciate the scientific theories and literary references he uses as building blocks. The sole disappointment is that Connolly just misses the chance to tell a story as thrilling as it is amusing." Jeffrey Westhoff

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Connolly is working in the tradition of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, providing plenty of broad comedy with a side of absurdist commentary. He does a pretty good job of orchestrating the rousing action sequences and tosses off a number of asides that will be better appreciated by the adult readers who pick up the book." Michael Berry

Critical Summary

Critics compared John Connolly to two first-rate children's authors (Eoin Colfer and Madeline L'Engle) and two great satirists (Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams--whom many of us started reading in middle school anyway). The Gates, they said, displays the wonder and wit of the works of each of this impressive quartet while also having a personality of its own. Reviewers were especially impressed with the explanations of quantum mechanics, wormholes, black holes, and the Hadron Collider--which lent more scientific substance to the story. While noting a few spots that made the plot drag, critics generally recommended the book to both children and adults.