I hadn’t realized when I decided to read John Connolly’s The Gates in the middle of October that it was set at Halloween. Mind you, I’d have enjoyed it any time of the year.
In a small English town, a boy named Samuel Johnson and his dashchund Boswell see a portal to hell open up. Demons come out, just in time for Halloween, and hijinks and comedy ensue.
Okay, it was impossible for me not to compare The Gates to Good Omens. They both have that cheeky, self-aware tone that resonates with the works of Wodehouse or Jerome K. Jerome. And they both are about biblical-style end of the world.
That said, the differences are significant enough that the Gates stands as its own book. Good Omens has an ensemble cast and a fairly complicated plot. The Gates is clearly centered around Samuel and has a simpler plot. A ton of footnotes about physics but a simpler plot. Samuel is very different than Good Omens’ Adam. Quirky and a bit nebbish and coping with his parents’ divorce, he’s more developed (but he is the main character so he should be)
And, yes, Good Omens is the better book but it’s a modern classic. That leaves plenty of room for The Gates to still be very good.
I have to note, while a dedicated cat lover, I adored Boswell the dashchund. Neurotic but brave, he demonstrates endless love for Samuel and more common sense than any other character. I cheated and checked to make sure he doesn’t die at the end of the book (spoiler)
The real strength of The Gates is tone and characterization. Plot wise, it doesn’t break any new ground on the idea of kids saving the world. But that doesn’t matter. The voice that the book has and the characters easily carry the work.
Years ago, I read John Connolly’s Book of Lost Things, which is one of the best fairy tale deconstructions I’ve read. After The Gates, I won’t wait so long to read more John Connolly. For instance, the Gates is the first book in a trilogy :D