(Sequel to The Gates: Samuel Jonhnson vs The Devil)
Witty, educational, thrilling and damn good fun!
This is the second exciting instalment of Samuel Johnson’s encounters with the Devil and his right-hand woman/ giant squid – Mrs Abernathy.
The novel begins in the small English town of Biddlescome, where life has returned to relative normality, following the breath-taking adventures in the previous book. But the evil Mrs Abernathy is hell-bent (did you like the pun?) on exacting her revenge upon Samuel.
The theme of Hell’s Bells is good vs evil (I’m always a little dubious when someone says that good vs evil is the theme of a book or film, as the majority of adventures touch upon this battle, but in the case of Hell’s Bells, it is actually the theme). Samuel and his dog Boswell represent the good, the Devil and Mrs Abernathy represent evil, but most of the other characters lie somewhere in between. Nurd (the loveable demon from the previous book), is now a reformed demon, having spent some time on earth. The four dwarves are individuals who appear mostly bad, yet prove that they are capable of good acts. Sergeant Rowan, a stickler for the rules admits some wrongdoing in his life. Old Ram appears good, but turns out to be bad and we even see through the Blacksmith that even souls in hell are capable of redemption for past wrongs and can achieve peace.
There is also a secondary theme running through this novel concerned with the finding of ones place in the world. This is explored through Duke Abigor’s ambitions of promotion, the demon Ba’al’s adoption of the Mrs Abernathy’s characteristics (and flowery dress), Nurd’s altered character and his struggle with being back in Hell, Dan Dan the ice-cream man’s vocational choices, Shan and Gath’s desire to run a brewery and the professor’s desire to receive a Nobel Prize.
This novel is chock-a-block with humour and sarcasm. It made me laugh out loud on numerous occasion. I particularly enjoyed the footnotes, many of which describe ludicrous events from history (including corpses being put on trial and using urine to freshen breath) whilst others describe very interesting, complicated scientific theories in plain and simple English.
I also enjoyed Samuel’s character arc, which was nicely portrayed through the adolescent act of asking a girl out.
This was a brilliant book in its own right and a great sequel to The Gates. Definitely worth a read.