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Monday, December 14, 2009

Book Review: The Gates



The Gates by John Connolly was the first of my holiday reading and I suppose you have to ask the question whether a church leader should read a book about the gates of hell being opened? In this case I think it's OK. Tongues should be placed firmly in cheek for the duration.

Here's the basic premise - the devil (or The Great Malevolence) is trapped in hell and is waiting for a chance to escape and destroy the earth, luckily for him the Large Hadron Collider provides him with his opportunity. Unfortunately for the devil the portal opens into a town called Biddlecombe, England whereupon his plans are thwarted by an 11 year old boy called Samuel Johnson and his dog Boswell aided by a petrol-head and not particularly evil demon called Nurd. It's all quite funny. Not very funny but quite funny.

Children of around 11 or so should quite enjoy it, the adults are largely idiots and children (as they often do in the best stories) save the world. It's a monsters under the bed sort of story and not really more sinister than that.

However, as a Christian I found a lot of it quite interesting. The devil is convincing in his evilness, the demons are bent on destruction and opposed to happiness (apart from the demon of shyness who hasn't been found yet) and so as far as evil personified goes - it's all quite biblical.

Connolly's take on evil is less so. He rejects the notion of an initially good creation and explains that amongst all the good as the universe was formed there was also evil. But he recognises that evil is present in all of us,
"Because somewhere in there was all the bad stuff as well, the stuff that makes otherwise sensible people hurt one another. There's a little of it in all of us, and the best that we can do is to try not to let it govern our actions too often."
Not exactly total depravity is it. Interesting as well that young earth creationists are turned into a joke on page 1, which is mostly how people see that now - a joke. The other interesting thing is that nowhere does God make an appearance. While evil is personified goodness is that ordinary, every day stuff we see in most people. There is a vicar in the story but he doesn't pay much attention to Samuel either, although he does fight off a resurrected evil bishop, some stone gargoyle's come to life and some the evil dead, which is good.

This is an entertaining and easy read - the footnote jokes get a bit annoying, but that's a quibble in this story of English pluck defeats devil with a bit of luck and a cricket bat.

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