All good things come to an end. And apparently, that is the case with John Connolly’s Samuel Johnson trilogy, a fantasy/horror series for young adults of all ages. This is unfortunate. In a perfect world, folks would be lining up at midnight (or bringing the Internet down with a volume-induced crash) to be among the first to purchase THE CREEPS, the final(?) volume of the Johnson canon.
Samuel Johnson is a somewhat unassuming young man on the cusp of adolescence who resides in the small English town of Biddlecombe with his mum and Boswell, his loyal if (largely) silent dachshund. Samuel has no particular talents or abilities, other than a quiet strength and courage that far exceed his tender years. To wit, while you and I have been going about our business, sleeping peacefully in our beds, young Samuel has saved the Multiverse, which includes this one, twice from the forces of darkness. And let me tell you, the forces of darkness as presented by Connolly and set loose upon Samuel are some scary forces, ones that make Lovecraft’s Cthulhu about as scary as the heavyset guy on “The Big Bang Theory.” If you are familiar with Connolly’s adult horror/mystery/thrillers and wonder where the antagonists in those books come from, the Johnson trilogy answers that question.
"In a perfect world, folks would be lining up at midnight (or bringing the Internet down with a volume-induced crash) to be among the first to purchase THE CREEPS, the final(?) volume of the Johnson canon."
Which brings us to THE CREEPS, where one of the dark creatures that Samuel has handily vanquished isn’t about to go creeping into that good night gently by any means. Samuel has his hands full with the lovely if undeserving Lucy Highmore, who is interested in him but for all the wrong reasons. There is also the matter of Nerd and Wormwood, a couple of demon buddies of Samuel who are living in his closet, which is a sore point with Samuel’s mom, though not so major that she doesn’t tolerate them. Nerd is having a demon identity crisis that might bring his friendship with Samuel to a crossroads.
Meanwhile, a group of scientists in Biddlecombe have set up what they think is a secret laboratory that they have disguised as a sweetshop. However, everybody in town knows the truth. What no one, including the somewhat hapless scientists, realizes is that they are about to provide the dark creatures with the means to invade and destroy the Multiverse and all within it. If that isn’t bad enough, an abandoned factory in Biddlecombe is being renovated into a multi-story toy store of horrors. Samuel needs all of his friends and acquaintances to battle the horrors on multiple fronts. Connolly takes the first half or so of the book to set things up, and then spends (most of) the second half hilariously scaring the reader in ways so ingenious that people should be lining up to buy and read it. Period.
THE CREEPS ends as all good tales of fantasy traditionally do...well, almost. My favorite character of the trilogy doesn’t quite make it to the end of the book. And who might that be? Let’s just say that God’s cruelest joke upon humanity is that we all outlive our best friends. Read and you will understand. Still, what a great and wondrous read this is. Oh, lest I forget: don’t skip the footnotes. I HATE footnotes, particularly in treatises where you have to read them because they contain important information. The footnotes in THE CREEPS (as well as in the two previous installments, THE GATES and THE INFERNALS) don’t really contain any information of import, but they are extremely entertaining nonetheless. Please go queue up and read THE CREEPS.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 1, 2013