The Gates (Samuel Johnson Series #1)

The Gates (Samuel Johnson Series #1)

by John Connolly

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Bursting with imagination and impossible to put down, this “wholly original” (People) and “refreshing” (San Francisco Chronicle) novel from New York Times bestselling author John Connolly is about the pull between good and evil, physics and fantasy—and a quirky 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.

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?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439173053
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 10/06/2009
Series: Samuel Johnson Series , #1
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 256,558
File size: 4 MB

About the Author

John Connolly is the author of the Charlie Parker series of thrillers, 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, or follow him on Twitter @JConnollyBooks.


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

Read an Excerpt

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

Customer Reviews

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The Gates 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 116 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....
justabookreader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love me a little humor with my demons and end of world type books and The Gates delivered on that promise. This is my first Connolly book but I¿ve picked them up before thinking that a fantasy thriller might work for me. It did, and now I can say it won¿t be my last either. Samuel Johnson is an enterprising 11 year-old. Instead of waiting for Halloween and having to fight the crowds, he decides to start trick or treating a few days early. Unfortunately for him, his mildly brilliant plan doesn¿t work out the way he intended. Instead of loads of candy, he sees something in the neighbors¿ basement that makes him believe his neighbor, Mrs. Abernathy, is now a demon. He soon finds himself attempting to convince his mother and friends that not only is Mrs. Abernathy an actual demon but that more demons will be arriving very soon through the portal that now exists in the Abernathy¿s basement. No one wants to believe Samuel the end of the world is nearing which makes for an amusing little apocalypse tale. Don¿t pick up this book and think it¿s a dark one; it¿s actually a really funny take on the usual end of the world scenario and I enjoyed it quite a lot. There¿s some slapstick here --- even the dog gets in on it at times --- and random jokes laced throughout reminding you what you¿re reading isn¿t serious. And that¿s good! I wanted a break from my normal reading which was starting to feel heavy and this came along at the right time. One particularly amusing character in the book is a demon named Nurd who was banished to a flat, deserted world with a little annoying fellow as his only company. Somehow he ends getting sucked into Samuel¿s world and befriends him. You see, Nurd is a nice demon looking for a friend to connect with. His little adventures, especially his one driving a Porsche, are a good interlude and I do wish there had been more time featuring Nurd. What can I say, if you¿re looking for a small break in your regular reading pattern, pick this one up. Connolly didn¿t disappoint and thanks to this book, I plan to pick up more of his work.
cmbohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really should have posted this review for this weekend, but I didn't get it done in time. Wow, let's just say if it had played out like the book, we'd (well, most of us) have been in Serious Trouble.So much to love in this book, but I'm afraid that when I try to describe it, you'll think it just plain sounds insane. If you've read The Book of Lost Things, you're familiar enough with Connolly's work to take it on faith (so to speak) that this will be worth reading. If not, this is a weirder but more accessible place to start. See, it starts with a seance, the Large Hadron Collider, and a small boy named Samuel Johnson and his dog Boswell. Then it all goes to Hell from there. Pretty much literally.I don't want to give more away. There are spoiler reviews out there, but I think that's enough right there to decide if this book is for you or not. It's stinking hilarious, if you have the right sense of humor. You can't be easily offended and you much enjoy the absurd, but as far as religion goes - I am a religious person and I still thought it was dang funny. I'm giving it 5 stars and I totally loved it.
silenceiseverything on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved and adored John Connolly's fairy-tale for adults fantasy novel The Book of Lost Things. Due to my sheer love of that book, I expected to love The Gates as well. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I spent the majority of the book in like with it. Meaning, I thought it was okay, but nothing to write home about. The main thing I did actually like about The Gates were the silly demons, especially Nurd. I adored Nurd. While he wasn't exactly cute and cuddly (He is a demon after all), he did have that "kicked puppy" attitude that made you want to hug and cuddle him. I thought his friendship with Samuel was the greatest thing in this book. It was so aww-worthy. It was certainly much better than the half-assed attempt to make Samuel have Harry Potter rip-off friends. I also did the philosophical and religious discussions that came up every once in a while. They were very intriguing and I loved that Samuel asked those kind of questions even if they really aren't the norm for eleven-year-old boys. And that is the extent of my likeness with The Gates. I guess my main problem with The Gates was that it took a while for me to get into it and even when I was into it, I didn't have a strong desire to pick it back up once I had to put it down. Sure, while I was reading The Gates, I was semi-enjoying it. But once I had to put it down, I tried to rationalize my way out of picking it back up. Maybe it was the endless footnotes (even though these were the most interesting parts of the book) or the sort of patronizing way Connolly speaks to the readers when it comes to the meanings of "difficult" words. Or maybe it was the fact that this is clearly a young adult novel, but is categorized as "Adult Fiction" and therefore has the price of an "Adult Fiction" book when it really should have the price of a young-adult book (which are much cheaper especially if you're comparing Hardcover prices). But either way, I just couldn't love this book. So, I thought The Gates was just okay. I did chuckle out loud through some parts, but it wasn't that guffawing, laughing out loud kind of book for me. I thought it was pretty cute and I'm sure the younger set will love it, but (and I am so shocked about what I'm going to write considering my love for Young-Adult books. Seriously, check out my bookshelf...) I thought that The Gates was just a tad bit too juvenile for me. From the description of the book, I expected a dark, creepy, adult tale that was mildly funny. But I didn't get any of that except the mildly funny. Oh well. I'll still read whatever Fantasy book that John Connolly publishes in the hopes that it'll be half as good as The Book of Lost Things.
jlparent on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Young Samuel and his trusty dachschund Boswell witness something they shouldn't - the Gates of Hell are opening. Let the fun begin! This is a quirky & often laugh out loud funny 'ohno stop the apocalypse!' read (reminds me of 'Good Omens' by Gaiman/Pratchett). It's fairly light and fast so a great read for summer.
Violina on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I happened upon this book at a local bookstore in the "these books have pretty covers" section. Not really, but rest assured I had no idea this was a YA book until I read the GoodReads reviews.That being said I honestly don't think I had this much fun reading a book in a while. I'm not a fan of footnotes so the first chapter I was slightly annoyed. I admit, I thought the book was going to be your standard "Satan graces us with his presence/Hell on Earth" problem however it was a pleasant twist from that. Actually it was a comical departure and definitely a unique take on the situation. First the book delves into the "science" of such a comical descent. Who knew that the Large Hadron Collider could be responsible for opening a portal?! I laughed so much because let's face it, you hear about the LHC and the enigmatic Higgs and if you're like me it's incredibly interesting. But having it inadvertently create a portal for the demon scourge of the underworld? Fantastic.The book is comical throughout, lending itself to teaching along the way. With bits about science, philosophy, and psychology, you're in for an amusing ride. Samuel and Boswell along with the friends that they've got and the people they meet along the way to saving all of mankind is a wonderful blunder all the way through. Seriously this books reminded me of a bit of Good Omens but I honestly laughed out loud at certain points. It's worth the venture.
lindasuebrown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Spookily brilliant, sweet and funny with a bite! Connolly has created a delightfully normal young protagonist in Samuel who decides to show initiative by trying to trick-or-treat 3 days before Halloween -- and stumbles upon a very spooky house indeed! The house that opens the Gates to Hell... Can Samuel and his patient pet dachsund save themselves and the world?! Great for all readers, ages 10 to 100!
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rating: 3.25* of fiveThe Book Report: Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell are on an early trick-or-treat run, demonstrating initiative by beating out the competition or so Samuel thinks. Boswell sighs a lot. I think he knows. They go to the Abernathys house, and Mr. Abernathy (a miserably unhappy self-help book writer, married to, seriously!) sends them on their way before rejoining his horrifying wife and two of their revolting bores of friends.They are summoning a demon for fun and, maybe, profit.Trouble is...heard of CERN? The quest for the God Particle? one ever thought that maybe, just maybe, it was the DEVIL particle....My Review: The world is saved from enslavement and destruction by a nebbishy little boy. Does this ring a bell? It's less portentous than the Harry Potter books, more like an extra-long boy-centric episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.It's amusing and it's a charming way to spend a few hours. If it changes your life, you didn't have much of a one before. If the next installment somehow makes it through my door with no effort whatsoever on my part, I'll get around to reading it. About the best I can say is that I chuckled every half-hour or so.
plappen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in present-day rural England, this novel is about young Samuel Johnson and his faithful dachshund, Boswell. Samuel is showing initiative by going trick-or-treating three days early. He sees strange things happening at 666 Crowley Road.Looking in through a basement window, he sees two local married couples, the Renfield¿s and the Abernathy¿s, dressed in long black cloaks, and with a pentagram drawn on the floor. They got hold of a book of spells, and are playing at devil worship. Things work better than they expected, because an actual gate to Hell is opened. All four are taken over by demons from Hell. Mrs. Abernathy becomes the extremely sexual "leader" of the invasion of Earth, while the others have become decaying, humanoid things that catch flies with their tongues.What can Samuel do? His mother doesn¿t believe him, and his father walked out on the family months before, and is now living elsewhere, with another woman. Knowing that Samuel is "the enemy," Mrs. Abernathy sends some demons to take care of him, once and for all, but they are failures. Meantime, the invasion of Earth has begun, with "minor league" demons coming through the gate, but the townspeople start to fight back. Samuel recruits a couple of friends, Maria and Thomas, who is pretty good at whacking demons with a cricket bat. The only way to stop the invasion is to reverse the portal, which has now consumed the house. They get some unexpected help from Nurd, another demon who was planning to rule Earth, but had a change of heart.Here is a wonderful piece of storytelling. It is made to be read aloud to older children (it may be a little too much for younger children). Adults will love it, because it is full of that dry, understated, British-type humor. Either way, this is very much recommended.
craso on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell decide to get a jump on Halloween by going trick or treating three days early. When they get to the Abernathy's house they can sense something is wrong. The Abernathy's and another couple from the neighborhood are having a black mass; just for larks. At the same time in Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider has lost a particle. Samuel and Boswell watch in horror as a flash of blue light opens a portal to Hell in the Abernathy's basement. This is a fun young adult novel from an author who usually writes dark adult mysteries. I enjoyed the references to horror icons such as the portal to Hell being located in a house at 666 Crowley Lane. The demons are hilarious and very easy to subdue. Two demons get drunk in a pub and one gets beaten to death by an irate hortoculturist after trampling his roses. The use of the LHC was a great twist. The only problem with the book is the foot notes. There aren't many, but they do interupt the pace of the narrative. I suggest being picky about which foot notes you read. Some are cute, but overall they do nothing to enhance the novel.
krau0098 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved "The Book of Lost Things" by John Connolly so when I heard that he had written another fantasy I was very excited to read it. This is a very entertaining book and a great read. I didn't think it was quite as good as "The Book of Lost Things" but it was still entertaining.Samuel spies something happening in his neighbors' basement. Basically he thinks his neighbors have opened a gate to hell and demons have taken over his neighbors' bodies. Meanwhile in Europe some physicists see a particle escape their particle accelerator; they have no idea what that means but potentially they may have inadvertently opened a gate to another realm.Think of this book as some weird mix between a humorous treatise on particle physics and a tale of the end of the world. Much of the beginning of the book is taken to explaining, in as layman terms as possible, the theory behind the big bang, particle physics, dark matter, and dark energy. These little explanations are broken up by detailing the story of Samuel's life as he is chased down by the demon he saw open a gate to Hell. Eventually the chapters with the physicists and the chapters with Samuel collide to make an interesting story. There are many footnotes that either further explain the science discussed or further explain the strange actions of adults.This book is targeted at the young adult crowd; there isn't anything bad in here that would make it inappropriate for that crowd. It does a pretty good job of trying to explain quantum mechanics to the masses, but at times the footnotes get a bit length, silly, and plain out boring. Samuel's story is a good one. The end of the book especially is action packed and really grabs the reader in. Although there are certain things, like the scenes at the church with the vicar, that I never really did figure out the point of in regards to the main story.The writing style itself is jaunty and humorous even at the darkest times in the book. The characters are all a bit quirky and odd. This book reminded me a lot of The Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater or Going Bovine by Libba Bray. At times the writing style (and the extreme number of footnotes) also put me in mind of Douglas Adams. In general, although this was an entertaining read, I felt like I had heard this story in this type of jaunty tone before. This is an entertaining read andhumorous but it is not nearly as original as "The Book of Lost Things" was.Overall a great read, but not as excellent as "The Book of Lost Things". I would still recommend this as a good book for all ages to read and I am still eager to read Connolly's future adult fantasy novels.
CornerDemon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I knew I had to write a review when I saw that the book only had 60-odd people collecting it. After the incredible story in "The Book of Lost Things", I was a Connolly-convert, and hopefully, he'll continue to write in this genre. I have yet to try his thrillers or mysteries, but in the realm of fantasy, I'll subscribe. Due to a botched demon summoning, the Gates of Hell are about to open and only young Samuel Johnson is there to stop it. The problem? Samuel is 11. It's a lot to ask of an 11 year old that he stop Satan. The book is fun. And at several points, it's laugh out loud funny, reminiscent of Terry Pratchett at his best. (It's also very British, from this American's POV). It's also very thoughtful. It wonders at the nature of science and scientists, the clear-sightedness of children, and the stupidity of bored human beings. But the best part is how the book believes in the human spirit. It spends a great deal of time building up the horror, the evil, the unspeakable power of the demons crossing over from the hell dimension. And yet, humanity fights back. Brilliantly, might I add, in the most ... human of all ways. My only quibble is the odd-at-times writing style. At times, Connolly speaks as though he's writing to children, going to lengths to explain small details as though the reader was a small child. Other times, he gets so entangled with the theoretical sciences at work that he loses the narrative and (in my case) the reader. I'm going to give half points that this is probably equal parts his fault and mine, mostly because I don't have the soundest base of scientific knowledge and get lost easily in such things, but also because these sections come out of left field at high speed.Connolly is a *good* writer. I highly, highly recommend both this and The Book of Lost Things. For fans of Pratchett, Adams, and Gaiman, I also go a step beyond and recommend it as a Go Out And Buy, and skip the library rental - I think you'll like it that much.
TiffanyHickox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best Halloween books I have read. I learned a lot about physics, as the seemingly impossible events that take place in the book are related to actual quantum physics theories, as well as experiements that are currently being conducted. The characters were charming, even the bad ones, and the humor, though at time cliche, was thoroughly entertaining.
ZoharLaor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Gates introduces us to Samuel Johnson and his beloved dachshund Boswell. Samuel is a strange boy who likes to confuse his teachers and dreams of getting his soon-to-be-divorced parents back together. In order to get a leg up on all the other kids during Halloween Samuel goes trick-o-treating two days before only to witness the gate to Hell opening up at 666 Crowley Road due to the rituals the owners playing at devil worship while at the exact time the Hadron Collider is working on the other side of Europe. No one believes poor Samuel that the end of Earth is near, demons are trying to kill him and that the neighbors are Satan¿s minions. No one except Boswell and his friends Maria and Thomas. The book becomes a keystone- cops type of comedy, with the minions of Hell being roughed up and a lower entity demon - Nurd, The Scourge of Five Deities - becoming a lovable figure which I hope we¿ll meet again.Even though I¿m not the target audience for this book, I found this book hilarious (dry English humor), enchanting, and brilliant and wonderfully told.I even learned a thing or two along the way.
pharrm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
John does a great job with this young adult / adult book. Very funny and endearing. Young Samuel decides to trick or treat a few days earl -- to get a jump on it; only to find out that something strange is going on at a neighbor's home. He sees a strange blue light that shows the opening of the gates of hell. Fun times ensue.
MurderMysteryMayhem on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mayhem has arrived at 666 Crowley Road !..."In Which We Encounter a Small Boy, His Dog, and Some People Who Are Up to No Good"Any author that can combine particle accelerators, quantum theory, and worm holes with the gates of Hell and inept sub demons, stir in a hero in the form of an 11 year old boy while adding humorous and informative footnotes on Dante and Vlad the Impaler, deserves your rapt attention.This is a supernatural thriller that crosses science with fantasy. It will appeal to young adults but more to the point adults will find the young Samuel Johnson and his daschund Boswell impossible to resist. You will find yourself smiling despite yourself. We all need the kind of mayhem that makes us laugh out loud.