The Infernals

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Infernals Book Poster Image
Devilish comic adventure in hell mixes physics, philosophy.

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Kids say

age 11+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Humorous footnotes contain interesting facts about the history of cosmology and quantum physics. Really.

Positive Messages

Samuel and many of the supporting cast learn that being brave, loyal, and true to your values goes a long way toward defeating the bad things in the world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite their flaws, the main character and his allies demonstrate great bravery and loyalty, daring to stand up to the most horrific denizens of the underworld.


Characters are threatened with all kinds of dire fates, but few come to pass, except to assorted demons. When violence does occur, it is usually cartoonish and its aftermath is not dwelled upon.


Samuel has a crush on one of his female classmates but embarrasses himself by not wearing his thick glasses and then asking out the mailbox he mistakes for her.


For a book set in hell, the language is remarkably clean.


The contents of an ice cream truck are consumed by two hungry police officers and a group of dwarves.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The dwarves and some of the demons in this novel are enamored with a beer-like liquid known as Spiggit's Old Peculiar. The description of its taste and its effects are in no way enticing.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this sequel to The Gates, the first in the Samuel Johnson series by John Connolly, while full of goofy and very mildly rude humor and cartoony mayhem, has its heart completely in the right place and fosters an interest in the latest theories of quantum physics. Connolly employs a sly, digressive style that delivers more irony and satire than some readers might be used to, but which will delight those teens whose senses of humor are tuned to the same wavelength.

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Teen, 13 years old Written bypoe-ette January 18, 2012

What's the story?

Having saved the planet once from being overrun by the forces of Evil in The Gates, 13-year old Samuel Johnson and his trusty dog, Boswell, are kidnapped by the demon whose terrible plot they foiled. Along with two police officers, an ice cream van driver and a band of disreputable performing dwarves, Samuel and Boswell find themselves in Hell, where various factions of monsters want to be the first to present the boy to the Great Malevolence. Although aided by a Nurd, a demon he befriended in the earlier volume, Samuel must draw on his inner reserves to save himself and prevent another invasion of Earth by the minions of Hell.

Is it any good?

THE INFERNALS is a spirited follow-up to The Gates by John Connolly, author of the down-and-dirty Charlie Parker thrillers for adults. Although the author is Irish, Connolly's sense of humor is straight out of Monty Python's Flying Circus and should enthrall teen boys, especially. Cataclysmic events are presented with a delightful sense of the absurd, the supporting characters tend toward the dim but well-meaning, and authority -- even in the form of the Great Malevolence itself -- is tweaked for its presumptuousness. Connolly is well served by the skills he has developed in his detective novels, and he makes The Infernals a fast-paced and thoughtful entertainment, perfect for an adventurous younger audience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how various religions portray the afterlife and whether heaven or hell is part of their cosmology.

  • In the novel, the portal to the underworld is created unwittingly by physicists at the Large Hadron Supercollider. Can scientific inquiry ever have unintended negative consequences?

  • Samuel meets a wide variety of personalities and creatures in his tour through hell. What are the kinds of characteristics that allow people to move forward in the face of great danger, disappointment, or suffering?

  • Samuel saved the world in the first volume of this series, but now his schoolmates and neighbors seem uneasy around him. Why are people uncomfortable with what they don't understand?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

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