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The Somnambulist: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, January 6, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Strange, outrageous, and wonderful … There is much that is strange, magical, and darkly hilarious about this book … An original and monumentally inventive piece of work by a writer still in his 20s. Barnes seems to leave himself room for a sequela consummation devoutly to be wished.” (Washington Post )
“Old school entertainment in the penny-dreadful tradition that almost succeeds in being as sublime as it is ridiculous.” (Entertainment Weekly )
“Magical, dark, beautifully oddand utterly compellingthis is an astonishing debut.” (Michael Marshall, author of The Intruders )
“Sneaky, cheeky, and dark in the best possible way, Jonathan Barnes’ massively entertaining THE SOMNAMBULIST manages to make the familiar daringly unfamiliar. I enjoyed the heck out of this novel.” (Jeff Vandermeer )
“Macabre wit and stylistic panache. Parliament should immediately pass a law requiring Barnes to write a sequel.” (James Morrow, author of The Last Witchfinder and The Philosopher’s Apprentice )
“A comic extravaganza, deftly plotted, fiendishly clever, and wonderfully funny. . . . One of the classiest entertainments I’ve read.” (Christopher Bram, author of Exiles in America )
“[B]rilliant...Barnes crafts one of the finest first novels of the young century...Truly surprising plot twists and red herrings abound.” (Austin Chronicle )
“A cheeky tale...salvaged from the sensationalist novels of the past three centuries....it doesn’t take an English-lit wonk to appreciate the antic mind that would name two of the grotesquely deformed prostitutes in Mrs. Puggsley’s brothel after virginal victims of Count Dracula.” (New York Times )
“A first novel that shows all the polish and poise of a master storyteller….By turns disquieting, funny, and taunting.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch )
“Anyone who loves a good, kind of creepy thriller most likely will find something to love in [these] pages…. Thoroughly enjoyable.” (Kansas City Star )
“The Somnambulist is not your great-grandfather’s mystery yarn.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch )
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Top Customer Reviews
The positives of the book are many. It has an inventive plot and main character-- Edward Moon, a Victorian London magician who solves mysteries with his stage accompanist--the eight-foot tall, mute, and seemingly inhuman title character The Somnambulist (the only name he is known by throughout the book). Moon hasn't had a case for some time and the last one, it's hinted at many times, did not end well. He's bored and aching for something to relieve the ennui as well as wash the taste of the previous case out of his mouth. That case arrives in the form of a wonderfully staged murder that opens the novel.Read more ›
I wouldn't say the book has no literary merit whatsoever. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the first 60% or so. And the first paragraph, as intended, intrigued me.
But then... my goodness, did it become convoluted. I don't really know what to make of this book. I was thoroughly engaged for the first half- to be fair, I was really into the second half, too. I wanted to know how the book would end, how the mystery would resolve. But with about sixty pages or so to go, I just lost respect for the story. It seemed as though situations occurred just for the convenience of the author having to get certain characters in or out of the story. The "climax," as it were, was such an utter letdown that I feel slightly offended. When you allow yourself to get so involved in a story, you do so with the expectation that it won't be a dead investment.
In my opinion, the story went swimmingly until the climax- when the narrator reveals his/her identity to the reader. After that, it descended into utter chaos. And that's the thing- after leading us on this wild goose chase of a novel for so long, entertaining as it was, I expected to be thoroughly wowed by the conclusion. And I wasn't. I didn't find it appealing at all. I thought it was a cop-out.
Ultimately, I was disappointed by the novel. I think the author started strong, and then lost his way. In trying to write some sort of Susanna Clarke meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Gothic mystery, he got caught up in the details and nuances and lost sight of the plot.
I have to admit, I'm a bonafide sucker for the milieu. I grew up hanging onto Sherlock's coattails while the game was afoot, and I never quite recovered from that first blush of fog-crowded streets and Hansom cabs clattering across cobblestones. Oklahoma author Will Thomas has set up a fine Sherlock riff in his own series about Baker and Llewelyn, Victorian detectives.
But Jonathan Barnes's new novel, The Somnambulist, takes pre-conceived notions of Victorian mystery novels and adventures and turns them on their ears. And this is only his first novel!
I was captured at once by Barnes's writing. He favors a blend of modern, easy to read, language mixed with a shading of the long-winded Victorian trappings and a touch of purple prose. It's a fine brew and I found myself sailing along within just a few pages. His writing is so smooth, and his imagery so evocative, that the world of Edward Moon and the Somnambulist grew larger and deeper and more textured with every word.
I have to admit, Edward Moon isn't one of the most likeable people you're going to find in this novel, but he is our chief detective. Like Holmes, Moon is a quirky individual filled with his own ego and intelligence. He's a stage magician by trade, but his intellect is keen and he's knowledgeable about a great many things.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I found most of The Somnambulist immensely intriguing. It certainly held my attention and had me reading as fast as I could to find out what happened next. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Theresa Lawrence
Reading this book reminded me of the series, "Lost" - I watched the entire series attempting all along the way to find a rational explanation for how the different elements... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Mr. Mike
Interesting book. Definitely worth reading. Plot is fantastic and the characters are intriguing. Highly recommend it!Published 4 months ago by Sheila Sherman
This is one of the weirdest novels I have ever read. It falls into the 'new weird' classification, with a sense that underneath a normal-seeming skin, the world is a distorted and... Read morePublished 6 months ago by J. Allis
This book started out well, and devolved into poorly constructed storytelling full of cliches and mash ups of other works. Yawn.Published 15 months ago by SecretSanta
This book is exciting and enjoyable, though the reviews do not do it justice. For one, the setting is NOT Victorian, it is Edwardian. Read morePublished on January 22, 2014 by gio5
While the author clearly has exceptional writing skills, I found his brilliantly worded sentences to carry a light load, as the plot and premise were utterly dismal. Read morePublished on November 7, 2013 by Lori Alden Holuta
I picked this book up at a library sale mainly because the back read "A comic extravaganza." I was looking for a fun read. Boy, was this not it. Read morePublished on June 9, 2013 by Heather A. Rhoades