Wednesday, January 6, 2010

John Connolly's "The Gates" Makes for a Hell of a Read

I just finished an excellent book called "The Gates" by John Connolly. I'd never heard of Mr. Connolly before picking up this book, but apparently he's quite a respected and well regarded author, and with good reason. The book is amazing.

The closest work I can equate it to is Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's "Good Omens," which is, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece of apocalyptic humor and is one of the greatest books I've ever read. Connolly's book isn't quite as good as Omens, but that's like saying Megadeth isn't as good as Iron Maiden. There're both amazing artists and should be consumed post haste, but let's be honest, they can't all be Iron Maidens.

Connolly's work is a funny and engaging vision of a satanic apocalypse. It's rife with British humor and centers on a young boy, Samuel, who inadvertently witnesses some bored neighbors accidentally open a portal to hell and get possessed by demons. It is then up to Samuel, his dog, his friends, and a kind-hearted demon to prevent big red (referred to in "The Gates" as "the Great Malevolence") from entering our world and tearing it asunder.

What I really like about the book is, unlike so many authors today, Connolly uses science, not magic, to make his story work. Sure, we are still talking about hell and demons and whatnot, but he attempts to ground the fantastic elements of his tale in factual reality. Magic is such an easy out, but Connelly uses alternate dimensions, wormholes, black holes, dark matter and the Large Hadron Collider to make it work. I'm incredibly fascinated by all this stuff to begin with, so I truly appreciated the extra effort he took to make the story work. At the end of the day it's still about the devil trying to escape hell and destroy the earth, but the added science really helps the story not feel clich├ęd or recycled. He even uses comical footnotes to inform the reader of relevant real-world historical events and to make scientifically complex story elements comprehendible.

So, anyway, if you're looking for a funny, good read, pick up "The Gates" by John Connolly. It was released in October, but it's available in hardback at both Borders and Barnes and Noble for $12, or from Amazon for the same price.

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