THE INFERNALS establishes that John Connolly is writing another series besides his wonderful and addictive Charlie Parker novels.
THE GATES, Connolly’s previous work, was about Samuel Johnson, a young gentleman on the cusp of adolescence who thwarted a plot hatched in Hell to invade Earth. It was variously labeled a fairy tale for adults, a horror story for young adults, and all sorts of other classifications, but the bottom line is that it was a magnificent story about simple good versus pure evil. Reading the final page was like drinking the last drop of a fine beverage, only to discover that there was no more to be had.
"You should not miss reading [THE INFERNALS] under any circumstances."
It is a pleasure to see that the distillery is up and running again, and that Connolly has written a sequel to THE GATES, bringing most of the principals of the first volume back and adding some new ones as well. It is everything you want in a story: humorous, heartwarming, informative and wonderfully told. And because it deals with Hell and demons and the like, it is, in spots, terrifying.
Those familiar with Connolly know that he creates wonderful heroes, anti- and otherwise, and frightful antagonists. He has introduced people in his Parker mythos whom most of us would hope to live our entire lives without ever encountering. THE INFERNALS introduces the nominal role models for those folks. In THE GATES, the demons attempted to invade Earth; the new book takes place in Hell.
Ba’al, the demon who was thwarted by Samuel, is now trapped in the life of Mrs. Abernath, and is seething over its loss of stature and in pursuit of revenge. When the opportunity arises for Ba’al to bring Samuel to Hell, and thus regain its lost stature, it jumps at the chance. Bosworth, the lovable and faithful dachshund, is along for the ride, as might be expected. What is unanticipated, however, is that Sergeant Rowan and Constable Peel are brought along as well, with a quartet of mischievous dwarves --- Dozy, Jolly, Angry and Mumbles --- to balance the odds. Hell doesn’t have a chance, particularly since it is divided against itself. There are, you see, forces at play that each want Samuel to the exclusion of the other, and the result is unforgettable.
Connolly’s dark forces make H.P. Lovecraft’s look like they were inspired by Disney cartoons (which, at times, were pretty scary themselves, but you get the idea). If you have forgotten how bad Hell is supposed to be, the second half of the book will send you off in search of confession and communion in due course, not to mention putting that daughter of yours who runs with the fast crowd back onto the straight and narrow. At least for a while.
One of the wonderful things about THE INFERNALS is that it’s not designed strictly to scare you or make you laugh. It is a story of sacrifice, redemption, loyalty and nobility. And the good news doesn’t end there. It appears that there will be at least one more volume concerning Samuel Johnson, and if that doesn’t give you reason to want to keep living, then I don’t know what would. For now, however, there is THE INFERNALS, which you should not miss reading under any circumstances. I mean it.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 20, 2011