The Infernals by John Connolly (Samuel Johnson vs. The Devil, Book 2)
Read by Tim Gerard Reynolds
Length: 9 Hrs 18 Min
Genre: Middle Grade Adventure/Dark Fantasy
Quick Thoughts: This sequel to Connolly’s The Gates is another wonderful, clever and laugh out loud hilarious adventure. The style of the book with its humorous asides and clever footnotes is perfect for translation to audiobook, and Tim Gerard Reynold’s narration only makes it better.
One thing I really wanted to do when planning out my books for Murder, Monsters and Mayhem was find a book that was suitable for children, but also enjoyable for adults. Halloween, despite its origins, and its relationship with the horror genre, is really a light hearted Holiday. Yes, there is a place for body shredding monsters, blood sucking vampires, and brain eating zombies, but, well, that doesn’t need to be the focus. Halloween is a chance for our children to make fun of their fears, to stick their tongues out at the monster in their closet, and of course, score some candy. Growing up in a relatively poor family, we couldn’t afford fancy, custom made Halloween costumes, which was cool because we got to make our own. My go to costume as a kid was a hobo, which probably wasn’t the most politically correct choice, but I got to rip up some old flannels, color some patches on some old jeans, and tie a sack to a stick. Of course, there was one time I went as a thief which was the same basic costume, but I drew a dollar sign on my sack. Yet, I always enjoyed it, because I got to use the favorite tool given to children no matter what their economic status, their imagination. In the end, choosing my fun, child oriented Halloween tale was pretty simple. The Infernals is the sequel to John Connolly’s delightfully quirky novel, The Gates, about a young British boy named Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell, who must save the world when the demon Ba’al creates a portal from hell into our world and possesses a local woman named Mrs. Abernathy.
In The Infernals, Mrs. Abernathy, aka Ba’al, looking to get back into the good graces of The Great Malevolence, again creates a portal, this time with the goal of sucking her greatest foes, 13 year old Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell, into hell. Her plan works, but with a bit of a twist, along with Samuel and Boswell, the portal also sucks in two police officers, an ice cream salesman, and four troublesome dwarfs. Thus begins another wonderful, clever and laugh out loud hilarious adventure. Imagine The Wizard of Oz meets Dante’s Inferno, and you get only a brief idea at the feel of this novel. The Infernals should delight everyone from children, to young teenagers and adults, although surly older teenagers may find it a bit too clever to be cool, which would be their loss. While Samuel Johnson and Mrs. Abernathy are great characters, it is the huge cast of peripheral characters that make this novel so delightful. There is of course, Nurd, the former scourge of five Kingdoms, Shan and Gath, the beer brewing Warthog Demons, Dan, Dan the Ice Cream Man, and a multitude of other demons, wraiths, imps, demonic bureaucrats, and careless scientists that it was hard to choose a favorite. One of the things I loved about this novel was that Connolly never speaks down to the children reading it, he talks about complex scientific theories in a way that is both funny and educational, and even taught me the meaning of the word “lant” which is something I think I would have been OK with never learning. For parents looking for a read to share with their older children, I highly recommend the Infernals. Heck, for adults looking for a hilarious, heartfelt and a bit scary tale perfect for those chilly October nights, check out both novels in the Samuel Johnson series.
Connolly’s style of quick funny asides, informative and clever footnotes, and stunningly visual descriptions of the sceneries and residents of hell translates perfectly to the audiobook format. Tim Gerard Reynolds beautiful Irish accented voice brings the magic and wonder of this novel alive, while nailing the humor of the novel as well. I have to say, Reynolds’s reading of this novel was one of my favorite narrator performances of the year. With the huge cast of characters, you think that he would have run out of voices, but every character from a mumbling dwarf to The Great Malevolence itself was voiced with vivid authenticity. Reynolds’s wasn’t afraid to take chances in his reading, adding wild affectations and crazy laughter at just the right moment, never coming off forced or out of place. I loved how he captured the footnotes, taking on the rhythm of a teacher, yet peppered with a wry wit. You could just tell how much fun he was having narrating this tale and that fun bled into every turn of phrase in his reading. The Infernals was a joy to listen to, filled with everything you look for in a Halloween novel, and reminding you what it felt like to have your childlike imagination tickled just right.