Iowa City Public Library's Reviews > The Somnambulist

The Somnambulist by Jonathan  Barnes
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From Chapter One: "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 "

It’s not THAT bad. The prose, for instance, is obviously pretty clever. Implausibility is an issue tho. Consider the opening murder–a ham actor being lured to a sumptuous room by a luscious tart, only to have his mother appear to berate him, and some kind of beast, which climbs up the walls, attack him. Our detective Edward Moon, who is also a stage magician, never quite turns out to be as infallible as he thinks he is. And how DOES the Somnambulist, part of Moon’s act, survive swords thrust through his body? Who is the mysterious narrator? What kind of bizarre plot to destroy London is taking place? And what role does the dead poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge play in it?

"I suspect by now that your disbelief is not so much suspended as dangling from the highest plateau of credulity." Yup, but as compensation, I never had a clue where this weird story was taking me. Part of the fun is figuring out just what rules apply here, what genre conventions are being followed or violated–Victorian mystery, science fiction, conspiracy, or horror. A fun book that keeps you off balance. --John

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