In an earlier century, Queen Victoria made a Faustian bargain, signing London and all its souls away to a nefarious, inhuman entity. Now, generations later, the bill has finally come due. . . .
Jonathan Barnes caused a considerable splash in the literary pool when he dove in with his head-spinning debut, The Somnambulist, a novel of the truly odd and exceptional that the Washington Post called "strange, magical, and darkly hilarious . . . an original and monumental piece of work" and Denver's Rocky Mountain News dubbed "the best fantasy novel of the year." In his second endeavor, the acclaimed author returns us to a strikingly similar world—albeit at a different time—ushering fortunate readers into his latest breathtaking cabinet of curiosities.
Henry Lamb, an amiable and anonymous file clerk, pushes paper in the Storage and Record Retrieval section of the Civil Service Archive Unit. His life has always been quiet and unremarkable—until the day he learns that he's expected to assume the covert responsibilities of his universally despised grandfather, now lying comatose in the hospital.
Summoned to the gargantuan Ferris wheel known as the London Eye, Henry receives his orders from Dedlock, a gilled and wrinkled old gentleman eternally floating in a pool of amniotic fluid. London, it seems, is at war, resisting an apocalyptic fate foisted upon it by a long-dead queen. A shadowy organisation known (to very few) as the Directorate wishes to recruit Henry to the cause. All he has to do is find "the girl" and save the world from the monster Leviathan, who can already taste the succulent metropolis that will soon be his to devour. Simpleenough.
But there are formidable enemies lining up to oppose Henry, all gathering in and around the royal family. His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Arthur Aelfric Vortigern Windsor—the sniveling, overbored, underappreciated sole heir to the British throne—has been shaken from his resentful malaise by grisly, seductive visions of unrestrained power . . . and by an extremely potent narcotic called ampersand. And an unspeakable evil lurks in the cellar of 10 Downing Street: the twin, serial-slaying schoolboy nightmares, the Domino Men—so-called for their hideous desire and terrifying ability to topple every towering edifice in the city, one after the other . . . just for a giggle.
|Publisher:||Recorded Books, LLC|
About the Author
Jonathan Barnes, author of the critically acclaimed novel The Somnambulist, graduated from Oxford University with a first in English literature. He reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and lives in London.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The setup: Henry Lamb, mild-mannered clerk in an archive company, finds he's been involuntarily conscripted to join a clandestine organization called The Directorate that for over a hundred years has maintained a precarious defense against a hellish, otherworldly invasion. A defense that's about to crumble unless Henry can stop it. The narrative: brilliant in its alternating between Lamb's first person naiveté, and something else that takes over his narrative at times, mocking his prose and his ignorance, and relating a different tale that grows increasingly sinister as it progresses. And along the way we of course run into the Domino Men again - the grotesquely monstrous schoolboy-attired demons (or whatever) of gleeful mayhem from Barnes' first novel, The Somnambulist. And once again, we're soon off to the races in a climax of dizzying violence and epic consequences. The pacing is fast and furious, and Barnes has fun with social and political parody skewering royalty and big business culture alike. The revelation of what the Leviathan is - (no spoiler) - is conceived in Lovecraft but reads like Adams, or Gilliam, British through and through. My only real complaint is the title - why not call this one 'Leviathan'? Sure, the Domino Men were a big part of the plot here, but not the full focus, which I was led to expect and hope for. Why not save 'Domino Men' for a follow-up where we actually learn something about this pair - their origins, their weaknesses (if any), motivations (ditto). Especially since the ending of this one implies that they will still be making their presence known for the next go around. But otherwise a great page-turning read!
It's not often that a sequel surpasses the original work from which it derives, but in the case of "The Domino Men" that's definitely the case.
At the end of "Somnambulist", London was in ruins at the end of Queen Victoria's reign. This book picks up the story in present-day London, as the opposing forces of the epic struggle have used the intervening decades to restore their powers, so badly depleted in the previous battle.
This time, a milquetoast file clerk is the fulcrum of the Directorate's strategy, as well as bringing into play those two anarchic demons - Hawkins and Boon (the Domino Men) - who sowed so much destruction at the end of the last book.
Told in modern dialect (as opposed to the Victorian lingo of the previous work), all the verve, panache, and devilishly clever twists of the original continue in this sequel. Rich characterizations (the Domino Men are an absolute hoot!), tight plotting, and vivid scenery will keep you hooked from first page to last.
In many ways this book reminds me of Swift's "Gulliver's Travels": using dark satire to lampoon the current socio-political climate.
If you liked "The Somnambulist", you'll love "The Domino Men".
The Domino Men
Morrow, Jan 27 2009, $24.99
A century ago Queen Victoria signed a Faustian pack with the devil in which the bill is now due. Back when she made her deal with the Leviathan, opponents who felt strongly the English should resists formed an underground opposition The Directorate secretly fight the monarchy and its evil ally. They managed to incarcerate the malevolence in a temporary ¿prison¿, but the Leviathan is escaping and coming to collect the debt, the souls of all Londoners.
The Directorate needs a champion so they turn to government filing clerk Henry Lamb, a bureaucrat with no heroic qualities except being the grandson of their best undercover operative, who lies in a coma in a hospital. The leadership of the Directorate prays DNA wins out over ¿tea¿ and other stifling weapons of mass stupefaction especially working for the government. Henry is bewildered with what is going on as he meets the Directorate chief in the London Eye ferris wheel and is aware of two insane men (Hawker and Boon) dressed as children lurking under 10 Downing Street. All Henry wants out of life is a paltry pay check and his landlady; not battles with an abomination, the House of Windsor and their agents, and his supervisor at rating time. The real hope lies with Henry convincing the enigmatic dangerous Domino Men, who seem only interested in beating him to a pulp, to help the city, but Henry is a lowly bureaucrat not a charismatic leader.
As zany yet different than the Victorian Era fantasy thriller THE SOMNAMBULIST, THE DOMINO MEN is another wild ride, but this time takes place in modern London. The story line is fast-paced from the moment a stranger falls from a window to Henry¿s and never slows down yet contains word play and jocular observations about power (always abused), tea (a watered down drug of choice), and heroes (everyday people). The cast is over the top of Big Ben but also make the soul eater seem terrifying even before the arrival. Not for everyone, THE DOMINO MEN is a refreshing humorous contemporary thriller.
Well worth the time spent reading it. The characters were fascinating, though the Domino Men themselves tiresome, which of course was their intent.
I am going to save my typing hand and not give the premise of the whole story (Read It). What I am going to do Is simply tell the reader, The Domino Men is one of those rare, intriguing reads that does not come around often. I did not think Barnes could make his second book as good as The Somnambulist, but he does. I love Jonathan Barnes! He is hands down my favorite new writer!
Hmmmm.....this was a novel where the reader and the main character are equally clueless as to what's going on in the beginning of the book. However that befuddlement lasts way too long. There ideas in this book that are really interesting and there are a bunch of quirky characters who are on the path to intriguing but never quite make it. The ending is beyond bad almost to the point where you have to question how any editor said it was good enough. Also, the writing style didn't always mesh with what was going on in the book. Overall, after The Somnambulist, a big let down.