An 11-year-old boy, his dachshund and an outcast demon must stop hell on Earth.
At their most primal levels, science and fantasy are both about that which might be. In his second novel aimed at both younger readers and open-minded older ones, Connolly (The Book of Lost Things, 2006, etc.) pushes both disciplines to their limits with a hilarious story about a battle between good and evil. Our hero is Samuel Johnson of Biddlecombe, who comes across evil incarnate simply because it happens to live next door. The Abernathys of 666 Crowley Avenue use a mysterious black book to open a tentative portal between this mortal coil and the gates of hell, behind which lurks The Great Malevolence (“The Beast, Satan, etc,” as he signs his correspondence), eager to launch an invasion. His chance comes when some escaped energy from the infamous Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland pokes a hole in the proverbial time-space continuum. Sound wild? It is, even before Samuel is attacked by the malevolent Darkness, finds a genuine monster under his bed, and the dead return to life. The book’s best invention is Nurd, the obnoxious, self-appointed “Scourge of the Five Deities,” who was banished to a remote corner of hell. Falling through a rift, the reluctant demon soon discovers the joys of hanging out with humanity. “Ooooh, that’s good,” Nurd says, scarfing down a jelly bean. “That’s very good. Fluffy. Jelly beans. Big metal things that move fast. What a world you live in!” Wielding a healthy dose of real-life physics and historical facts, Connolly has huge fun playing with the conventions of science and magic, and his enthusiasm is infectious. Learning to walk the fine line between fantasy and reality, he employs a lighter touch than in previous work, and a new infusion of humor is also welcome.
Any reader who appreciates the imaginative fantasy of Neil Gaiman or the gentle wit of Christopher Moore will find a kindred spirit here.