The Somnambulist (Domino Men #1)
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The Somnambulist (Domino Men #1)

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3.22 of 5 stars 3.22  ·  rating details  ·  3,256 ratings  ·  633 reviews
Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. Needless to say, I doubt you'll believe a word of it.

Once the toast of good society in Victoria's England, the extraordinary conjurer Edward Moon no longer commands the respect or inspires the awe that he did in earlier times. Despite having previously unraveled more than sixty perplexing criminal puzzles (to the delig...more
Hardcover, 353 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by William Morrow & Company (first published January 22nd 2007)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Peggy
I’ve been a reader all my life. I majored in English in college and grad school, and I’ve worked in bookstores since 1992, most of that as a buyer. I’m surrounded by books at home and work and I see new ones every day. It’s sometimes difficult to quantify why certain books speak to us; why we pick up this book, but not that one.

Other times, it’s not difficult at all:

Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvi...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

Regular readers know that I am a big fan of the unique subgenre known as "steampunk," but might not know what exactly steampunk is; and similarly, regular readers also know that one of the issues often tackled here at CCLaP is the difference between so-called "genre" projects and so-called "mainstream...more
Rachel
Feb 11, 2009 Rachel rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: crap
A couple of rip-off Croup and Vandemar wannabes and the mention (i refuse to say allusion, because that would imply that it somehow honors or preserves the integrity of the original) of Samuel Taylor Coolridge doth not a similarity to Neil Gaiman make. The preposterous suggestion that this book was "a fantastic journey in the spirit of Neverwhere" duped me into buying this block of bound-together toilet tissue. I finished it out of a combination of devastating idleness (I was job-searching at th...more
Brad
I should never read the plaudits plastered on the cover of a book, nor those that litter the first few pages. I am invariably annoyed by what I find and occasionally even led astray. Luckily with John Barnes’ The Somnambulist, I was mostly faced with the former brand of upset.

According to the book company, Barnes’ style is a mix of Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Susannah Clarke and a little bit of Carl Hiassen. And maybe there is something to these comparisons, but mostly I think these names are laz...more
Sandi
I really don't know what to make of this book. It was mostly weird and didn't make a whole lot of sense. Yet, the plot was fairly simple. The characters never really developed and some of the weirdest were never explained, like the guy who claimed to be living life backwards from the future to the past. We never find out who or what the Somnambulist is. He never lives up to his potential as a character. Characters appear out of nowhere late in the story and really don't have much of anything to...more
colleen the contrarian  ± (... never stop fighting) ±
2 1/2

Overall my impression of this book was 'meh'. It wasn't great... it wasn't horrible. It was just sort of there...

I had high hopes for this story, being a fan of stories set in Victoriana, of Poe's and Doyle's mysteries, and of the strange and outre - but I just couldn't find myself caring all that much about this story.

For one thing I don't recall ever wondering, when I read those other mystery stories, how the detective of the story got the reputation for being so great. Edward Moon seeme...more
Greg
I think this book may be really worth five stars, and there was a moment about thirty pages to the end where I thought, this is a five star book. Something about the end though brought it back to a four.
This is what escapist fiction should be. It's fun, it's interesting, the plot twists and keeps you guessing, and it's all done with a relative ease that doesn't make the even the most remarkable seem contrived. Sadly though most escapist (I mean non-serious literature, or fun books, or shall I s...more
Tara
May 01, 2008 Tara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mystery and fantasy lovers
I dare you to read the first two pages and not want to finish the rest of the book.

Part Victorian murder mystery, part fantastical alternate history with a liberal dash of lexigraphical acrobatics The Somnambulist combines a labyrinthine plot with haunting characters and an unreliable narrator which coalesces into an unexpected crescendo no one could anticipate.

The Somnambulist is a bald, mute giant of man who when pierced with swords does not bleed. His almost constant companion is Edward Moon,...more
John Buckler
Nov 14, 2008 John Buckler rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Nobody
I wanted to like this book so much, but I just couldn't do it. It had an interesting story about the city of London, and the world in general during the the late 1800's, yet it wasn't written very well. I tried so hard to enjoy it, but then I realized that I was pretty much just trying to finish it, as I was curious to how it ended. I liken it to watching a terrible movie at 3 in the morning. You pretty much now how it's going to end, and you know you should just turn it off and go to sleep, yet...more
Juushika
In Victorian London, aging magician and detective Edward Moon, accompanied by his assistant, a giant known only as the Somnambulist, are called in to investigate the most bizarre of murders. As Moon's investigation continues, he uncovers a plot against the state—a plot which, after long preparation and much waiting, is now only days from being put into action. The Somnambulist is set in a world not quite like our own, colored by steampunk and fantasy and populated by a cast of bizarre, slightly...more
Rick
Jan 31, 2008 Rick rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: horror
Jonathan Barnes' brilliant debut novel, The Somnambulist, chronicles the late Victorian-era adventures of a legendary magician-cum-detective Edward Moon and his mute, hulking, hairless sidekick, known only as the Somnambulist. The two investigate a series of bizarre murders, meet a cadre of eccentrics, and involve themselves in several strange incidents that culminate in a plot to destroy and remake London.

The unreliable, unnamed narrator, who frequently raves like a madman, issues a warning in...more
Eijomio23
Ugh. Utter crap.

The opening 100 pages or so a great, lots of intriguing characters, mysteries, supernatural goings-ons. But then, as the story progresses, it becomes more and more of a (if I may apply a literary term) clusterfuck. It's just a mess of idiocy, none of it particularly interesting. By the end, the main characters become lost in a crowd of Johnny-Come-Latelys that exert way too much influence over the story.

And what do we call them, boys and girls? Deus ex machinas!
That's right. A...more
Bev Hankins
[Sits. Blinks. Shakes head.]

Last night, at midnight (how appropriate), I completed the final scheduled book for the R.I.P. VII event--The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes. Now I need to write up a review. Um. Okay. [Blinks some more.]

Yeah. It's one of those books. The kind where you finish and you just don't know what to say. The only thing that really occurs right off the bat is: Man, that was one weird little book. And I do mean weird. But I guess weird is good when you're working on a book f...more
Brooke
When I read the "If you liked these , you will love The Somnambulist" list that Borders put together, I decided that Jonathan Barnes' debut would have to land on my "favorites" list. It was compared to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Neverwhere, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, and The Prestige, some of my most favorite things ever. It was probably a mistake going into it with such high expectations, because although it was an excellent book, I felt disappointed after I turned the last...more
Shanon
The Somnambulist is a detective story about a retired detective, Edward Moon, turned conjurer (though I’m not sure what he conjures) and his sidekick the Somnambulist, a hairless milk-drinking giant. I kept waiting for Moon, the detective, to DETECT something but nope – never really did. Even in the end, the villain had to explain the entire evil plan to Moon – if only he made an evil cackle while doing so I would’ve had flashbacks to my childhood cartoon villains. Moon’s character was quite dis...more
Margaret
A frustrating book in that it started strongly and then dissolved into a muddle about a third of the way through. The plot loosely hangs together, but (a) emphasis on "loosely," and (b) with no real underpinnings in logic or why we should care. Even fantasy (this book reads like a fantastic mystery or a mysterious fantasy - take your pick) needs logical, thought through in some detail and depth, underpinnings. Here, the plot and "purpose for being" of the book and the solution to the opening mur...more
Kit
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Donna
I have to admit I kept reading this just out of curiosity of how it would all end. I mean, any book that has a bearded lady prostitute, a giant who can have swords driven right thru him without bleeding or even be hurt, is one that rouses my curiosity. The characters are definitely unlike any I had read about before, which also kept me going. I was disappointed in the main character, though. Edward Moon is supposedly a legend in his own time, renowned for solving murders. I know his prime was su...more
Jeffrey Johnson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tracey
I believe this was a pass-along from my Mom, but I don't remember what (if anything) she had to say about it. The quickie review: a poor-man's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Set in Victorian England, an unreliable (and 4th wall breaking) narrator introduces the reader to Edward Moon - "past forty and barrelling toward his 6th decade" - a magician whose career is (forgive the pun) waning, and his enigmatic partner, The Somnambulist. Moon is also a celebrated detective, tho it seems his last case...more
Stefan
I finished this novel a couple of days ago and haven't written anything about it so far because, honestly, I can't think of anything relevant that hasn't been written before in other reviews. It's a very good novel, somewhere between historical fantasy and horror, with a dark, witty sense of humor and an interesting narrative style. It's set in Victorian London, but the city in the book falls somewhere between China Mieville's New Crobuzon and Neal Gaiman's "Neverwhere". (Although, come to think...more
Irena
I don't think I have ever hated almost every character in a book until now.

First, this story has an omniscient narrator (or at least close to one). You know, the ones who tell you things like 'as you'll see, this was a mistake'. Second, the main character is supposed to be a very good detective, but not a single thing that happens confirms that. Third and this might sound familiar: he works with an assistant, he has an older housekeeper and has an addiction (not drugs, something else, but still...more
earthy
A mess of derivitive plots and characters which aspires to be something unique and intriguing, but ultimately fails to be anything more than a mush of stereotypes and unfulfilled promise.

Is this a gothic Victorian fantasy? A London-centric detective story? A dystopian steam-punk thriller? The author never seems able to make up his mind, and in the meantime, his self-aware narrator takes twists and turns which make no sense and ultimately cause the reader to stop caring at all.

The characters are...more
Jenne
So, imagine that a magician/private detective, a time-traveler, a medium, a medium-debunker, a Scotland Yard inspector, a housekeeper, a bearded-lady of the evening, a shadowy government organization, a company called Love, a sinister "Oriental", a sideshow freak, a corpulent prisoner, a corrupt gaoler, two schoolboy hit-men, two vengeful mothers, the animated corpse of a famous poet, and a mysterious mute giant with a milk-drinking habit all run into each other in post-Victorian London, and the...more
Bandit
This book in insane in the best possible sense. I'm not sure I have ever come across more crazy wacky outrageous impossible magical and strange characters all packed in the same book. And it works. The madness of a plot, conspiracies and victorian mysteries and magic and mad poet followers and a titular mute giant with a fondness...no, passion for milk, the narration trickery, the quirks of the story telling, the whole thing miraculously works and oh so well. I've read this mad adventure in a da...more
Beth
More aptly titled "The Why-Botherist"
Kathy Duncan
Be warned. This review is of no value whatsoever. In fact, reading it is a complete waste of your time. I urge you to find something more constructive to do. Cook dinner. Wash your laundry. Watch grass grow. Flee. I plan to tell you so little about the book that you won’t know if you want to read it or not. Maybe I’ll change my mind and tell you so much that I spoil the ending for you. It’s hard to predict at this point. Be further warned that I will flat out mislead you every chance I get. If y...more
Sam
I loved this book, it combines so many of my favourite genres from historical fiction through horror to fantasy that it was like it was written for me. The book opens with the statement Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and wilfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you'll believe a word of it., which sets the satirical and...more
Pauline
I'm not exactly sure what I just read, but I greatly enjoyed it. From the very first sentence, I fell in love with the writing style.

Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and willfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you'll believe a word of it


With an opening like that, how can one NOT fall in love with this book. I would...more
Jonathan
I read the reviews, all telling me that the book wasn't worth it and that I should not waste my time. I did not listen because I found the opening so beguiling that I did not know how a book could possibly end up being such a colassal failure--and I figured that, given the positive quotes on the back, it couldn't be ALL bad. Well, gentle reader, I am telling you now: the opening is more true than it wants to be. This book truly does NOT have any literary merit. Believe the reviews. As they did n...more
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The Somnambulist in the Somnambulist 4 41 May 31, 2013 07:52PM  
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Jonathan Barnes is the author of two novels, The Somnambulist and The Domino Men. He contributes regularly to the Times Literary Supplement and the Literary Review and is the author of several scripts for Big Finish Productions. He is currently writer-in-residence at Kingston University.

More about Jonathan Barnes...
The Domino Men (Domino Men, #2) Doctor Who: Persuasion Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Perfidious Mariner The Ordeals of Sherlock Holmes (Big Finish Sherlock Holmes) Cannonbridge

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“I have long believed the city, the country, indeed the world at large to be run by precisely the wrong kind of people. From the government to the great financial institutions, the peerage to the police force, our lives are controlled without exception by the stupid and greedy, the venal, the rapacious and the undeservedly rich. How much more comfortable would it be if the rulers of the world were not the cognoscenti of the bank balance, the ballot box, the offshore account, but were drawn instead from the ranks of the everyday - honest, kind, stout-hearted, commonplace folk.” 4 likes
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