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Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Infernals by John Connolly (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Order “The InfernalsHERE 
Read an Excerpt HERE 
Read FBC Review of “The Gates 
Read FBC Interview with John Connolly 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: John Connolly earned a B.A. in English from Trinity College and a M.A. in Journalism from Dublin City University. His bibliography includes the long-running Charlie Parker thriller series which began with the Shamus Award-winning Every Dead Thing, The Book of Lost Things, various short stories, and YA fiction—The Gates and The Infernals. He is also a regular contributor to The Irish Times and currently lives in Dublin, Ireland. 

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Young Samuel Johnson is in trouble. Not only is his eyesight so poor that he mistakenly asks out a letter box on a date, but an angry demon is seeking revenge for Samuel’s part in foiling the invasion of Earth by the forces of evil. It wants to get its claws on Samuel, and when Samuel and his faithful dachshund, Boswell, are pulled through a portal into the dark realm, the home of the Infernals, it gets its chance. 

But catching Samuel is not going to be easy, for the Infernals have not reckoned on the bravery and cleverness of a boy and his dog, or the loyalty of Samuel’s friend, the hapless demon Nurd, or the presence of two clueless policemen and the unlucky, if cheerfully optimistic, driver of an ice-cream van. 

Most of all, no one has planned on the intervention of an unexpected band of little men, for Samuel and Boswell are not the only inhabitants of Earth who have found themselves in the underworld. If you thought demons were frightening, just wait until you meet Mr. Merryweather’s Elves. . . . 

FORMAT/INFO: The Infernals is 309 pages long divided over thirty-eight numbered ad titled chapters. Narration is in the third-person omniscient view via Samuel Johnson, Nurd, Mrs. Abernathy, Mr. Merryweather’s elves, Ozymuth and many others. The Infernals is self-contained and can be read as a standalone novel, although it is the sequel to The Gates and ideally should be read after it. It was released in the UK earlier this year under the title Hell’s Bells: Samuel Johnson Vs the Devil. 

October 18, 2011 marked the North American Hardcover publication of The Infernals via Atria Books. Hell’s Bells: Samuel Johnson Vs the Devil [UK edition] was published by Hodder & Stoughton on May 12, 2011.

ANALYSIS: The Infernals is the sequel to 2009’s The Gates. Whilst The Gates was an experimental book of sorts for John, The Infernals isn’t of any such sort. It’s a clear sequel to its hilarious predecessor and one which takes the themes and situations developed from the original and pushes them even further into the land of the comically absurd. The book opens up in Hell wherein the Great Malevolence has gone into a crisis of sorts by the mishap which occurred nearly fifteen months ago when the Great Malevolence and his hellish cronies decided to leave their world and join ours. This plan however didn’t account for the presence and active thinking mind of Samuel Johnson, his daschund Boswell and an entity known as Nurd. Events happened which now have caused Mrs. Abernathy to be a recluse of sorts and all hell is in an uproar. Mrs. Abernathy hasn’t however given up hope on her plan and a newer variation includes getting revenge on Samuel for derailing her grand plan. Events are set into motion by the unwitting scientists of the Hadron collider and soon Mrs. Abernathy has her plans come to fruition when Samuel gets pulled along with Boswell in to the realm that is Hell. Unfortunately so do a few other people including Sergeant Rowan, Constable Peel, an ice cream truck driver with an unhealthy optimistic outlook and lastly the four creatures that are known as Mr. Merryweather’s elves. Hell just doesn’t stand a chance when it comes to these elves. 

The Infernals is in many ways a strong sequel to its predecessor as well as a book which stands on its own. The book follows up with the presence of foot notes which made up such a huge part in the hilarious nature of the original tale and in this one are as striking as the first book and will often have the reader chuckling along. well. Basically this story is the mirror reverse of the original tale wherein a few demons went to Earth and now a few humans have come to Hell. The story’s strength lies in is its whimsical nature which is very much reminiscent of Terry Pratchet’s Discworld books. The characterization is good as with other John Connolly books however is kept at a level which this book is aimed for. The story though is a bit less comical than its predecessor due to the darker turn of the story however the Elves make up for much of the mishaps caused in Hell. 

The biggest strong point of the book is humor which particularly fills almost every paragraph of the book. The book lays quite a scenario and then goes about its comical way filling in the reader with nuggets about time travel, physics, the nature of evil, etc. The ending comes as a nice surprise and the author again leaves a thread open for the third and possibly final book in the series. Even though this book is aimed for kids, adults will have a fun time reading it taking in mind that the author has purposefully kept certain things the way they are. Deficiencies to the story are the same which can be labeled against any children’s books. Therefore they can be easily discounted by asking people who do not like to read such stories, to not read them. However I feel one should read such stories from time to time to let the child in all of us escape from adult life. 

CONCLUSION: A heartfelt comedic tale about friendship, demons and what it means to be a hero, John Connolly again excels in this sequel to his previous YA book and leaves a small thread open again for a potential climatic third book which will be fun to read as ever with John’s writing, the reader can easily lose themselves in his world knowing that they are in for a treat.


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