I confess: I’m still not entirely sure who the ‘creeps’ are. Is it Samuel Johnson, his dog Boswell, and his compadres from the adventures of The Infernals? Namely, Dan the ice-cream man, now managing a group of Dwarves With Attitude (so much better than the Stars Of Diminished Stature [S.O.D.S.]); Nurd, ‘The Nurdster,’ and Wormwood, ex-demons of Hell and car-testers extraordinare; as well as agents of order Sergeant Rowan and Constable Peel?Or is it the Shadows from the Multiverse using the very angry Mrs. Abernathy’s (the Demon Formerly Known as Ba’al) desire for revenge as a gateway to devouring Earth? Could it be the optimistic demon Crudford oozing his way through the Multiverses in search of Mrs. Abernathy’s molecules? Or might it possibly be the scientists who have left Switzerland and the Hadron Collider to up residence in Samuel’s village disguised as sweet-shop salesmen? Or, just possibly, could it be the former boy-band and now unemployed, middle-aged BoyStarz (“Love is like a run-on sentence”)?
The last book in the Samuel Johnson trilogy is a perfect capstone for the series (1). The team has returned from Hell and gotten on with their lives. The demons have all found jobs and are more or less fitting into the human world although Nurd still feels the great divide from himself and the humans, and is particularly aware of how he needs to hide his looks. Samuel is trying to put the past behind him and has made been dating Lucy Johnson. Dan is trying his best to find work for the dwarves and BoyStarz. But Evil will be Evil, and something sinister is taking place in the abandoned Wreckit & Sons department store (2), soon to re-open as a toy store. When Samuel & Friends all receive invitations to the Christmas Grand Opening, it seems like time for a celebration.
The plot moved right along, taking turns following the large cast. It serves to build some suspense, but it also nicely captures the different moods of the characters. Melancholy from Nurd, the vague worries of Samuel, and the optimism of Crudford, Esq. (3). Connolly is able to achieve an amazing balance between suspense, humor, the melancholy of growth and the horror that the universe might be destroyed.
The humor almost always amused me. Connolly is particularly good at sliding in running jokes adults will appreciate such as the titles of pop songs and the properties of special brews (“My love is like a Little Man”). I confess, Crudford’s incomprehensible pictorial explanations cracked me up. A couple of times the dwarves’ dialogue made me laugh out loud, particularly during their job interview (4). Once again, the footnotes played an entertaining role, whether it was recalling the prior books, explaining the problems of kings, or the differences between an English biscuit and an American one. They aren’t as much science/history informative this time as much as outright commentary on the author’s part (“I don’t know why I bother“) and further elaboration on running gags about the sweets at the sweet shop and Mr. Spiggit’s alcoholic brews. Thanks to the insight of Melora, this time I noticed the sticking-things-up-the-bum jokes, an excessive four or five times. But probably completely consistent with the kid humor. At the very end is an Epilogue about Samuel and Nurd meeting in Samuel’s old age that provides a nice bit of emotional resolution.
Overall, I unhesitatingly give the series 4 1/2 stars. I re-read the last book twice; it not only held up, but was perhaps even more enjoyable for my ability to savor even the throw-away bits. I think this series will be worth a re-read or two and recommend it if you enjoy clever writing, dark humor, and a willingness to play with YA conventions.
(1) “Once again, if you’d read that book then you’d know all of this already. Look, why don’t we just arrange for me to give you a telephone call and I can read the book to you?”
(2) Although according to the narrator, it was not particularly long in the timeline of a giant barrel sponge.
(3)”Being blown apart on the subatomic level must have hurt an awful, awful lot, thought Crudford. Still, look on the bright side: at least Mrs. Abernathy was seeing new places.“
(4) “He fumbled in another pocket and extracted a tattered, folded sheet of paper. He started trying to unfold it, but he immediately ran into trouble due to a lack of fingers. ‘Need a hand?’ said a dwarf voice.”