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The Gates (Samuel Johnson Series #1)
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The Gates (Samuel Johnson Series #1)

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


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. . . .

Bursting with imagination and impossible to put down, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly’s "wholly original" (People) and "refreshing" (San Francisco Chronicle) novel is about the pull between good and evil, physics and fantasy. It is about a quirky and eccentric boy, who is impossible not to love, and the unlikely cast of characters who give him the strength to stand up to a demonic power.

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.
Children's Literature - Maggie L. Schrock
Samuel Johnson and his dachshund, Boswell, embark on a journey to save the world. It all starts when they try trick-or-treating on October 28th, and end up accidentally witnessing their neighbors performing a strange ritual in their basement. The Abernathy's unwittingly contact the Underworld, opening a portal for demons to enter our world, and giving up their bodies to these demons. The new Mrs. Abernathy sees Samuel in the window and begins a lengthy attempt at ridding the world of him. Since no one will believe what Samuel witnessed, he is left to figure things out on his own. Finally, after telling his two best friends, Maria and Tom, what happened, they decide to try and stop the demons from taking over our world. In the process, Samuel meets and befriends a demon, Nurd, who haphazardly ends up on Earth. Nurd becomes Samuel's confidant, informing him of the "who's who" in the Underworld. As the gates open wider, more and more terrifying demons are flooding Samuel's small town. Believing that "The Great Malevolence" taking over the world would be a bad thing, Nurd automatically agrees to help Samuel. With Nurd's help, Samuel, Boswell, Maria, and Tom manage to close the Gates of Hell before The Great Malevolence can pass through, and in the process, send all the demons back to the Underworld. A cute story about the power of friendship, readers will enjoy experiencing Samuel's journey. Scientific vocabulary makes it perfect for Sci-Fi fans, but difficult for struggling readers. The inclusion of footnotes offers interesting, often comical, additions to the plot. Reviewer: Maggie L. Schrock

Product Details

Washington Square Press
Publication date:
Samuel Johnson Series , #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)

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Read an Excerpt

The Gates

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 . . .

Meet the Author

John Connolly is the author of the Charlie Parker series of mystery novels, the supernatural collection Nocturnes, the Samuel Johnson Trilogy for younger readers, and (with Jennifer Ridyard) the Chronicles of the Invaders series. He lives in Dublin, Ireland. For more information, see his website at JohnConnollyBooks.com, or follow him on Twitter @JConnollyBooks.

Brief Biography

Dublin, Ireland
Date of Birth:
May 31, 1968
Place of Birth:
Dublin, Ireland
B.A. in English, Trinity College Dublin, 1992; M.A. in Journalism, Dublin City University, 1993

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The Gates 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 100 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a really fun book. I had read Connoly's "The Book of Lost Things" (another great book) and was excited to read "The Gates". However, where TBoLT was dark and introspective "The Gates" was surprisingly upbeat and funny (given that it is about a boy trying to prevent the gates of Hell from opening and leading to Hell on earth). This is the kind of book I could envision Monty Python making into a great movie in their heyday. It is a quirky, quick read that has surprisingly engaging characters and a funny plot. I highly recommend it.
Coalregion More than 1 year ago
This book had me laughing so much. It was one of the best reads I've had in a long time. Connoly's acerbic sense of humor reminds one of old Monty Python. I will now proceed to read everything the man has penned!
sharno22 More than 1 year ago
Clever, creative, and highly entertaining. This book will put a smile on your face, and have you laughing out loud!
sirenLP More than 1 year ago
As an adult, I found this reading to be quite entertaining, The story was good and the writer's imagination was really great. Very entertaining reading.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Three days before Halloween in Biddlecombe, England, eleven year old Samuel Johnson of 501 Crowley Rd. accompanied by Boswell the Dachshund goes trick or treating to get a head start against the competition. At 666 Crowley Rd. Samuel debates Mr. Abernathy as to who or what or why they are trick or treating three days early than the official date. Inside 666, using subatomic physics kicked, punted or booted (not being a scientist not sure which is the vernacular) inside a particle accelerator, Abernathy and three's company create two giant gates that prove to be a portal between earth and Hades. All hell has broken out on the planet as the first time since the original dot 13.7 billion years or so ago exploded into the Big Bang, demons cross over in what seems to be the beginning of the small crunch. Samuel the warrior kid fights the horde but fails to persuade adults including his parents that a demonic invasion has begun. This lighthearted fantasy is an amusing tale of good vs. evil in a world of cynical disbelievers. Samuel and Boswell battle the adversary almost alone as ironically their only ally is a low life Nurd the incompetent sub-demon. Targeting young adults with puns, hyperbole, and Abbot-Costello slapstick starting with John Connolly's version of who's on first, older readers who enjoy jocularity in their quantum physics will appreciate the tweener and the canine save the world; although some might wonder why bother. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this story! It will be added to my annual Halloween reading. It is such good fun, it would be perfect for reading aloud to the whole family. I have had the privilege of seeing Connolly at a number of author events and of all his books, this comes closest to the personality he displays - charming, witty, imaginative and highly entertaining. I love the Charlie Parker books but I hope he also writes more novels like this one and The Book of Lost Things. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the funniest and most entertaining boks i have ever read! The only book better than this one is the sequel! If you like witty and sarcasric humor, this is your dream book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun, quirky, entertaining, felt like an off the wall bed time story.... I truly enjoy Connoly's humor in his work! A good and easy read!
heatherlg More than 1 year ago
This book was entertaining to say the least....hard to explain, but passed the time anyway.
melmyers More than 1 year ago
I was sitting in a waiting room, with strangers. And I was silently giggling so hard that someone asked what was the matter. I ended by reading some of the passages aloud, and causing giggling among the other people. It ended with us discussing the likelihood of angels doing the foxtrot on the head of a pin....
Chancie More than 1 year ago
The narration didn't fit with the story, and it was written like it was being told to a small child which I didn't care for. There isn't much for character development, and everyone is so strangely polite. The story was pretty slow, and even when it picked up, not as much happened as the story built it to be. Not a great book, but not a terrible book either. It had some cute parts, but was overall forgettable.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Super funny interesting and for all ages
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Jeff-in-Orem-Utah More than 1 year ago
This is one of the funniest books I have ever read. It reminded me of Douglas Adams, Eion Colfer, and so many other great authors' books. Read this and then read the follow-up--"The Infernals". You will not be disappointed!
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