Saturday, April 21, 2012

Book Review: The Gates

Eleven year old Samuel Johnson thought he'd get a head start on Halloween by trick-or-treating three days early. This is the same night that the Abernathys, a somewhat dull, middle aged couple (and also, conveniently enough, the residents of 666 Crowley Road) and their friends the Renfields attempt to bring some excitement in their lives by dabbling in the occult. Unfortunately for them, they manage to open a gateway to hell, some low-level demons come through, take over the bodies of the Abernathys and Renfields, and set a plan in motion to prepare for the coming of "The Great Malevolent One" or Satan.

Samuel and his little dachshund Boswell witness all this and now they must find a way to stop earth from turning, quite literally, into Hell.

I wanted to love this. I had read Connolly's The Book of Lost Things and absolutely adored it so when Jay saw this at Goodwill, I snatched it out of his hands, threw it into the basket, and couldn't wait to get to reading.

But The Gates is no Book of Lost Things. That's not to say that it's bad or that I hated it-it just wasn't what I wanted it to be. Most of what I loved about Lost Things was missing from The Gates. Both books have juvenile main characters but The Book of Lost Things was definitely an adult book. The problems were intense and the drama was suspenseful and, at times, very frightening. The Gates, on the other hand, was missing the suspense and almost felt like a children's book. But yet it wasn't, because it was about demons who want to do horrible things to people and take over the world. Then again, the demons are kinda goofy looking and easily defeated by small children.

Another thing I didn't like about The Gates is that Connolly employed the use of footnotes at the bottom of a lot of the pages. Most of the time I felt as if these footnotes were unnecessary and added nothing to the story. For instance, when Samuel's babysitter threatens to flush him to China, the footnote reads:

"It is not possible to flush someone to China. Or Australia. Well, not unless they're already there. It is not a good idea, though, to point this out to someone who is threatening to flush you to China or Australia, as there is a good chance that they will try it anyway just to prove you wrong."

Eventually I just stopped reading the footnotes altogether, but a little bit of dread would overtake me when I'd turn a page and see the italicized print at the bottom.*

All of that being said, I still love John Connolly's writing. He's cheeky and very clever without being obnoxious. His writing style is probably what kept me reading the book to the end, because the story itself was somewhat predictable. I think this excerpt from the last chapter sums it all up nicely:

"It took a long time for [the town of] Biddlecombe to return to normal. People had died, or like the Abernathys and the Renfields, simply disappeared."   ......."Oh, everyone accepted that something had happened in Biddlecombe, but, officially, nobody seemed entirely sure of what that something might have been...."

Oddly enough, that's exactly how I feel about this book.

* Note to Mr. Connolly: If I want to read footnotes, I'll read a textbook. 

1 comment:

Daphne said...

You are funny. I'd definitely have thrown this one into the Goodwill basket too! But now I know to proceed with caution.

As a side note, you will be very happy to know that I started "Kevin" today. So far, I am totally hooked!!