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The Domino Men: A Novel Paperback – April 6, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Barnes's second novel, a compelling supernatural thriller, shows his impressive debut, The Somnambulist (2008), was no fluke. Shadowy figures working for a covert government agency called the Directorate inform Henry Lamb, a clerk with London's civil service archive unit, that his grandfather, recently felled by a stroke, was once a major player in their secret war against the House of Windsor. In 1857, Queen Victoria promised the souls of the people of London to a monstrous Lovecraftian entity known as the Leviathan. Now the bill is due. Since Lamb's grandfather held the secret to the whereabouts of a woman named Estella, who's critical to containing the Leviathan, the members of the Directorate regard Lamb as their best hope for locating Estella. Thanks to Barnes's evocative prose, readers will easily suspend disbelief. Those who enjoy the grafting of fantasy elements onto contemporary urban landscapes will be more than satisfied. (Feb.)
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.
“If you only read one black comedy with the brains and labyrinthine twists of Vedantic hair-splitting, make it this one....a gripping yarn.” (Chicago Sun-Times)
“Unmatched life and verve.” (Washington Post Book World)
“A fantastic novel.” (Denver Rocky Mountain News)
“Marvelously imaginative.” (The Onion)
“Another remarkable outing, an infectious blend of wit, wonder, and the bizarre presented with remarkable style. This is literary fiction for the genre fiction set, or possibly the other way around...genuinely shocking and inventive.” (San Antonio Express-News)
“Kudos Barnes for another winner that is as funny as it is creepy, as thought provoking as it is entertaining.” (Colorado Springs Independent)
“Barnes’s second novel, a compelling supernatural thriller, shows that his impressive debut, The Somnambulist, was no fluke. …Thanks to Barnes’s evocative prose, readers will easily suspend disbelief. Those who enjoy the grafting of fantasy elements onto contemporary urban landscapes will be more than satisfied.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Nothing about Barnes’s follow-up to The Somnabulist is predictable....The grotesque fantasy world is a riot.” (mX Brisbane (Australia))
“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 sequel—a 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)
“A comic extravaganza, deftly plotted, fiendishly clever, and wonderfully funny. Jonathan Barnes combines a love of Victorian absurdity worthy of Edward Gorey with the surrealistic invention of a London-obsessed Garcia Marquez. This parody penny-dreadful is one of the classiest entertainments I’ve read in a long, long time.” (Christopher Bram, author of Exiles in America)
“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)
“Magical, dark, beautifully odd–and utterly compelling–this 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)
“The best fantasy novel of the year.” (Rocky Mountain News)
“A wonderfully original concoction of grotesque humour and sparkling prose.” (The Guardian)
“This promising debut subverts its 19th-century predecessors amusingly. Inventive and often witty. A cabinet crammed with curiosities.” (The Observer)
“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)
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Top customer reviews
In _The Domino Men_, the protagonist Henry Lamb discovers there has been a secret war between the Direcotrate and the House of Windsor, one attempting to save London from destruction, the other intent on its doom. As the story unfolds, Henry finds himself drawn into increasingly bizarre situations acting on behalf of the Directorate, even as the Prince of Wales gradually is shown the role of the Winsors in the conflict. Barnes expressed my feelings towards the story succicently when he writes, (I try) to turn away, but fail to do so, morbidly riveted by the spectacle of it." (p 233.) The story wasn't awful, but had it not been such a spectacle I would have put the book down and quit reading it. As it turns out, the immoderate and inhumane treatment of Lamb and the frustrating bovine way in which he accepts his fate (and the odd situations he finds himself in) kept me reading it to the end.
With this said, I can't recommend the book. I had hoped there would be greater references to the Somnambulist and his bizzare behaviour, given the open-ended finish to his previous book. Instead, center stage was given to the characters who seemed a forced plot-device (a "Macguffin" if you will) from his earlier work, with predictably mediorce results. To be fair, perhaps Barnes' writing isn't to my taste; objectively, though, I give it two stars.
This was classified as a horror/fantasy novel. I really got no sense of horror at all. To me this novel is fantasy through and through. Darn good fantasy too. There is definitely darkness to it but nothing that at all that verges into the horror genre.
Henry Lamb is a civil servant. He is also a child star with an annoying catch phrase that follows him through life. His father died when he was young, his mother is a little daft with a series of boyfriends in tow. His grandfather, Henry’s mentor, is in a coma in the hospital.
Out of the blue, Henry is promoted to a top secret assignment in the civil service. An area known only as “The Directorate” and which is housed in a mirage inside one the cars of the London Eye. A top secret prison/holding facility is located deep within the bowels of 10 Downing Street and in this facility are The Domino Men. They are a creepy set of twins, dressed as schoolboys and they have a very sadistic side to them.
The Directorate is made up of all manner of interesting and eccentric characters who have been carefully recruited. Henry’s grandfather is one of these. And now, so is Henry. Their mission? To control and/or destroy a deal that Queen Victoria made during her reign signing away all of the souls of London to an inhuman entity.
The House of Windsor is now in a position to carry out their end of the bargain and at the same time that The Directorate is trying to foil the plot, the House of Windsor is being infiltrated by the baddies to move the plot forward.
This is a very English book with very English humor. I noted the disparity in opinions about the book and I know that English humor is not for everyone. The ending is a very dry, very black and extremely witty ending and I loved it. But that’s not say it will hit all readers the same way.
While I am not constrained by genre, I am the first to admit that fantasy is probably one of my weaker categories in that I have not read as widely in this area. But I loved this book and I am going back to find the first novel. It took me a bit to get into the story but once I locked in, I found it hard to put down.
I had to hurry up and get this review done! The book is already being snatched out of my pile to be read by someone else. And that speaks volumes about how good it is!