Take two parts Douglas Adams, one part Neil Gaiman, and one part H.P. Lovecraft, then toss them in a blender. What would most likely come out would be The Gates, by John Connolly. Connolly began his career in the Detective fiction genre, with the character Charlie Parker, and from there he has begun to expand outward into more supernatural territory, and his newest novel is a perfect example.
The premise of The Gates is quite simple really. What if the Large Hadron Collider accidentally opened a rift in time and space, and what if that rift just so happened to connect our world to another dimension, namely Hell, thus allowing all sorts of demons and nastiness to slip through? And furthermore, what if the only hope to save all of existence, is a young boy and his pet dachshund? Now admittedly, the novel is geared towards a younger audience, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to offer the hardened, veteran horror fan. In fact, The Gates has enough campy monster scenes and dry British humor, to win over even the most stubborn and reluctant lovers of the genre.
The protagonist, a young boy named Samuel Johnson, is perhaps too intelligent for his own good, and naturally, with intelligence comes curiosity, and with curiosity comes trouble. Samuel accidentally discovers that his next-door neighbors have opened a portal to Hell, and he embarks on a mission to warn the people around him, but is met with nothing but skepticism. That is, until his small English town becomes overrun by a demonic horde, and the townspeople must do battle against evil, armed with handbags, bug spray, and fireplace pokers.
It is definitely more Shaun of the Dead, than Dawn of the Dead and reading it reminded me of why I love the successful blend of horror and humor. It has everything that the die-hard horror-hound would love, from bashing demon’s heads in with cricket bats, to running down zombies in a graveyard with a police car. While there is a noticeable lack of strong language and gore, the witty footnotes and tongue-in-cheek sarcasm kept a smile on my face the entire way through. There were even some nods to the inspirations for the novel, with streets being named after Lovecraft, Crowley, and Derleth, the latter being a name, which even many self-proclaimed “horror experts” may not recognize.
The way in which Connolly describes and explains the complex and confusing area of quantum mechanics and the origin of the universe is nothing short of genius, and he not only makes it entertaining, but he even manages to make it humorous. From dark matter and stranglets, to black holes and the Big Bang, Connolly takes cutting edge scientific theory, combines it with magic and faith, and churns out a Hell of a good book. I apologize for the pun, but some things cannot be resisted.
If you want a fun, quick read, and a reminder as to why you started liking ridiculously absurd horror stories in the first place, do yourself a favor and pick up The Gates. It’s a British B-movie between two covers, and if you don’t crack a smile at least once while reading it, then you may be from another dimension.