Hells Bells: Samuel Johnson Vs the Devil – John Connolly
John Connolly has been one of my favourite authors for a long time now. His Charlie Parker crime/supernatural series which forms the main body of his work is excellent. However, John also writes in other genres. His fantasy novel, “the book of lost things” is brilliant and his short story collection of horror tales, “Nocturnes” is far from shabby as well. Recently John ventured into the Young Adult market with, “the Gates,” a humorous novel not dissimilar in comedy to Pratchett. Hells Bells marks his second entry into this series.
Samuel Johnson - with a little help from his dachshund Boswell and a very unlucky demon named Nurd - has sent the demons back to Hell. But the diabolical Mrs Abernathy is not one to take defeat lying down. When she reopens the portal and sucks Samuel and Boswell down into the underworld, she brings an ice-cream van full of dwarfs as well. And two policemen. Can this eccentric gang defeat the forces of Evil? And is there life after Hell for Nurd?
I really liked the first book in the series, the writing was simplistic without being too basic. John continues in exactly the same fashion with this book. The story is accompanied by a collection of footnotes where John light-heartedly talks to the reader sometimes about random observations, science and sometimes about figures in history. In “the Gates” many reviewers found the footnotes hilarious, personally I found them a bit hit and miss. They often distracted from the flow of the story and I found myself skipping over them until the end of a chapter. In “Hell Bells” I thought they were great. Everyone of them was wistful and added to the enjoyment of the book. They introduced enough information about historical figures to make you go and research them more – fantastic for young readers.
The story is much the same as the first, although this time it takes place in hell. Samuel is a little more grown up this time round. He is interested in girls now and starts to question his parent’s actions more. It is a nice development of his character.
Most of the characters are back although the stars of the first book, “Nurd and Wormwood” are not as prominent in, “Hells Bells.” This is a shame as they were my favourite thing about the first novel and where most of the humour came from.
However, John introduces Mr Merryweather’s Dwarves. Anyone that has read “The book of lost things,” will know how enjoyable the dwarves in that novel were. It seems John enjoyed writing about them as well, as “Hells Bells” the dwarves he writes about are fantastic. He seems to have let rip on their personalities and made them as despicable but at the same time, delightful as possible. I genuinely laughed out loud on a couple of occasions when reading about their antics - something I hardly ever do.
There story itself is hardly taxing. But the love and humour poured into the novel is evident. There are several minor characters that you can’t help but love. The battle that rages in hell is well handled and there are some surprisingly graphic moments for a children’s book.
All in all, this is a delightful book. It does feel a little too similar as the first in terms of the plot but the comedy and characters can’t help but win you over.
My rating: 8.4