Author: John Connolly
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Publisher: Atria Books
Pub Date: October 22, 2013
Hardcover: 321 pages
Is There a Pooka In This Book?: No. Boswell’s just a good dog.
Pooka Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Nibbles
The Creeps is the third and most recent installment of John Connolly’s Samuel Johnson series. The books are about a boy, Samuel Johnson, and Boswell, his trusty dachshund. By the time the third book begins, this unlikely duo has saved the world from the tentacled clutches of Hell on multiple occasions, with nothing but goodness, hope, and pluck.
It all started with some bumbling, too-smart-for-their-own-good-(and-the-good-of-everyone-else)-scientists and the Large Hadron Collider. They managed to create a tear between Universes, and that’s when all manner of nasty slipped into the quaint, English town of Biddlecombe. Samuel & Boswell were the only ones with their eyes open, who had enough bravery & audacity to trust what it was they were seeing. So they became heroes.
The third book introduces a new supernatural presence into the young protagonists’ lives: Shadows. The Shadows come from an in-between place – a place scarier than Hell, because where the Great Malevolence (The Devil) wants to take over Earth, turning it into a smoldering ruin, the Shadows are simply emptiness and nothingness. They don’t want Earth for their own. They don’t want anything. They don’t care if the Earth still exists when they’re done sweeping over it. They don’t even care if they exist. I’m not even sure they do exist, as far as the true essence of “existence” goes. They’re absence – a gaping void. They’re impossible to talk about. And anyone who encounters them will be impossible to talk about, too, because it will be as if they never were. So, obviously a bad thing. Something that shouldn’t come through the dimensional tears.
The third book also introduces ghosts! And architecture! And jammie dodgers!
All three books are written in a very simple, straight-forward, silly style, complete with lengthy, humorous footnotes. The footnotes contain a wealth of information, from boiled-down explanations of string theory; to a succinct explanation of the human condition: “I am happy. I just wish I was… happier” (105); to regrets about seeing naked old people; to expressions of utter confusion about why men ever think that growing a mustache is a good idea, complete with photos of Stahlin, Hitler, and Vlad the Impaler; to a re-hashing of plot points from the first two books, thus rendering it possible to read the third book without ever having picked up the first two. It should be noted, however, that the author will endlessly harass you in these same footnotes for being the type of person who reads the third book in a series first, if that happens to be you. As he should. I mean, really. Who does that???
Some minor gripes should be noted, however.
1) Some of the scientists who were working on the Large Hadron Collider relocated to Biddlecombe, noting that it seemed to be a hub for strange events and wanting to study it further. In an attempt to remain anonymous, they take over a sweets factory and take turns working in the shop, all wearing fake beards when in the public eye — even Dorothy. Dorothy, a woman, becomes very attached to her fake beard, wearing it at all times – even when her true identity’s not in danger of being revealed. After a bit, she announces that she’d like to be called “Reginald” for the foreseeable future. She explains, “Inside, I feel like a Reginald” (211). The whole thing’s treated as a joke, and Maria even scoots over in the car, not wanting to sit next to her anymore. The tone made me pretty uncomfortable. Transgender people are real — people whose gender identity doesn’t seem to match their assigned sex. They’re not a joke and they shouldn’t be treated with contempt and scorn. And they definitely shouldn’t be demonized… which is something that comes up later. I don’t think that’s what John Connolly was attempting to do, but it is, in effect, what he did. We have to be careful with our words… especially when we’re trying to be funny (which is something he usually succeeds at! There’s also a good dose of feminism in the novel, which helps to get him back on my good side).
2) Brian, the lab assistant responsible for providing tea & jammie dodgers, has a ridiculous official title. Which is hilarious! My official job title is “Children’s Senior Library Assistant.” It’s a mouthful and I kind of hate it. I wish I had my MLIS and I could just say I was a “Librarian” and be done with it. But no… we of meager fortunes, or those of us just starting out, must suffer silly titles until we jump through enough hoops and cough up enough dough to give us proper dignity. Brian’s title is decidedly more silly than mine. He’s the “Assistant Deputy Assistant to the Assistant Assistant to the Assistant Head of Particle Physics.” It’s not his title that I have a problem with, though. It’s Connolly’s shortening of it. The acronym is wrong. He says that Brian is the “ADAAAAHPT.” But shouldn’t he be the “ADAAAAHPP”? I wonder if it’s an error that was caught in later printings…
3) I have no idea how to categorize The Creeps. It’s not Children’s Literature, despite having a child protagonist. There’s some difficult science in there, which would fly right over a child’s head, and some cultural references that are explained as if Connolly’s talking to a child, but which also anticipate the reader thinking that the references and the manner in which they’re explained is funny. There’s also quite a lot about beer in there – and how awful it can taste and how drinking it can cause some pretty painful side effects. It doesn’t really feel like YA, either. I guess it’s for silly adults? The young at heart? (And, as has been noted by many a reviewer, Terry Pratchett fans).
If I were you, I would read The Creeps – which should already be apparent, since I did! But first I would read The Gates and The Infernals (which I also did!). They’re for weird people (or Pookas) who like to chortle. Does that describe you? I hope so! It probably does, since you’re reading my blog…
It takes a certain type of reader to have gotten this far.
Pooka Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Nibbles.