The Gates (Samuel Johnson Series #1) (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

The Gates (Samuel Johnson Series #1) (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition)

4.2 100
by John Connolly

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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… See more details below

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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.... Can one small boy defeat evil? Can he harness the power of science, faith, and love to save the world as we know it?

Bursting with imagination and impossible to put down, The Gates is about the pull between good and evil, physics and fantasy and the courage of a boy who is barely old enough to trick or treat on his own. This novel makes anything seem possible.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this frothy fantasy thriller from bestseller Connolly (The Book of Lost Things), 11-year-old Samuel Johnson witnesses an inadvertent intersection of science and the supernatural while trick-or-treating at the Abernathy household in Biddlecombe, England. Something nasty reaches through an atomically engineered portal to Hades and possesses four suburban sorcerers. From that point on, Samuel finds himself battling hordes of invading demons and desperately trying to convince disbelieving adults that the impending end of the world is not a fancy of his overactive imagination. 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. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
An 11-year-old boy, his dachshund and an outcast demon must stop hell on Earth. At their most primal levels, science and fantasy are both about that which might be. In his second novel aimed at both younger readers and open-minded older ones, Connolly (The Book of Lost Things, 2006, etc.) pushes both disciplines to their limits with a hilarious story about a battle between good and evil. Our hero is Samuel Johnson of Biddlecombe, who comes across evil incarnate simply because it happens to live next door. The Abernathys of 666 Crowley Avenue use a mysterious black book to open a tentative portal between this mortal coil and the gates of hell, behind which lurks The Great Malevolence ("The Beast, Satan, etc," as he signs his correspondence), eager to launch an invasion. His chance comes when some escaped energy from the infamous Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland pokes a hole in the proverbial time-space continuum. Sound wild? It is, even before Samuel is attacked by the malevolent Darkness, finds a genuine monster under his bed, and the dead return to life. The book's best invention is Nurd, the obnoxious, self-appointed "Scourge of the Five Deities," who was banished to a remote corner of hell. Falling through a rift, the reluctant demon soon discovers the joys of hanging out with humanity. "Ooooh, that's good," Nurd says, scarfing down a jelly bean. "That's very good. Fluffy. Jelly beans. Big metal things that move fast. What a world you live in!" Wielding a healthy dose of real-life physics and historical facts, Connolly has huge fun playing with the conventions of science and magic, and his enthusiasm is infectious. Learning to walk the fine line between fantasy and reality, heemploys a lighter touch than in previous work, and a new infusion of humor is also welcome. Any reader who appreciates the imaginative fantasy of Neil Gaiman or the gentle wit of Christopher Moore will find a kindred spirit here.

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Product Details

Demco Media
Publication date:
Samuel Johnson Series, #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

I In Which the Universe Forms, Which Seems Like a Very Good Place to Start

IN THE BEGINNING, ABOUT 13.7 billion years ago, to be reasonably precise, there was a very, very small dot.1 The dot, which was hot and incredibly heavy, contained everything that was, and everything that ever would be, all crammed into the tiniest area possible, a point so small that it had no dimensions at all. Suddenly, the dot, which was under enormous pressure due to all that it contained, exploded, and it duly scattered everything that was, or ever would be, across what was now about to become the Universe. Scientists call this the “Big Bang,” although it wasn’t really a big bang because it happened everywhere, and all at once.

Just one thing about that “age of the universe” stuff. There are people who will try to tell you that the Earth is only about 10,000 years old; that humans and dinosaurs were around at more or less the same time, a bit like in the movies Jurassic Park and One Million Years B.C.; and that evolution, the change in the inherited traits of organisms passed from one generation to the next, does not, and never did, happen. Given the evidence, it’s hard not to feel that they’re probably wrong. Many of them also believe that the universe was created in seven days by an old chap with a beard, perhaps with breaks for tea and sandwiches. This may be true but, if it was created in this way, they were very long days: about two billion years long for each, give or take a few million years, which is a lot of sandwiches.

Anyway, to return to the dot, let’s be clear on something, because it’s very important. The building blocks of everything that you can see around you, and a great deal more that you can’t see at all, were blasted from that little dot at a speed so fast that, within a minute, the universe was a million billion miles in size and still expanding, so the dot was responsible for bringing into being planets and asteroids; whales and budgerigars; you, and Julius Caesar, and Elvis Presley.

And Evil.

Because somewhere in there was all the bad stuff as well, the stuff that makes otherwise sensible people hurt one another. There’s a little of it in all of us, and the best that we can do is to try not to let it govern our actions too often.

But just as the planets began to take on a certain shape, and the asteroids, and the whales, and the budgerigars, and you, so too, in the darkest of dark places, Evil took on a form. It did so while the residue of the Big Bang spread across the Universe,2 while the earth was cooling, while tectonic plates shifted, until, at last, life appeared, and Evil found a target for its rage.

Yet it could not reach us, for the Universe was not ordered in its favor, or so it seemed. But the thing in the darkness was very patient. It stoked the fires of its fury, and it waited for a chance to strike …

1. Scientists call it the “singularity.” People who are religious might call it the mote in God’s eye. Some scientists will say you can’t believe in the singularity and the idea of a god, or gods. Some religious people will try to tell you the same thing. Still, you can believe in the singularity and a god, if you like. It’s entirely up to you. One requires evidence, the other faith. They’re not the same thing, but as long as you don’t get the two mixed up, then everything should be fine.

2. In fact, about 1 percent of the static that sometimes appears on your television set is a relic of the Big Bang and, if your eyes were sensitive to microwave light instead of just visible light, then the sky at night would appear white instead of black, because it continues to glow from the heat of the Big Bang. Oh, and because atoms are so small, and are constantly recycled, every breath you take contains atoms that were once breathed by Julius Caesar and Elvis Presley. So a little bit of you formerly ruled Rome, and sang “Blue Suede Shoes.”

© 2009 John Connolly

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