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The Domino Men

(Domino Men #2)

3.40  ·  Rating details ·  988 ratings  ·  168 reviews
With a gallery of vividly grotesque characters, a richly evoked setting and a playful and highly literate style, this is a literary fantasy from the author of 'The Somnambulist'.

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.

An amiable
Unknown Binding, 288 pages
Published February 21st 2008 by Gollancz
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3.40  · 
Rating details
 ·  988 ratings  ·  168 reviews

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Dan Schwent
Dec 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-weird
Henry Lamb works as a file clerk in a London office and secretly has a crush on his land lady. Shortly after his Grandfather has a stroke, Henry is "promoted" and goes to work for a secret government agency called The Directorate. It seems that for well over a century, the Directorate has been at war with the House of Windsor over a pact made with an tentacled alien god called Leviathan. From there, things get weird...

Wow. This was one weird read. It has a Tim Powers level of weirdness and also
Mar 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, 2009
The Domino Men is the follow-up to Jonathan Barnes' The Somnambulist, which was a steampunky, crazy romp that involved dead poets and milk-drinking giants. The Domino Men is a completely different style; it's an urban fantasy set in present-day London, and while it still has wacky elements and ties to The Somnambulist, it's far more restrained. The main character, Henry Lamb, is a filing clerk, which is a long ways from the conjurer and his bizarre sidekick of the first book.

I didn't like Henry
I much prefer this book to Barnes' debut effort The Somnambulist. Apocalyptic and strange with dashes of Lovecraft and Morrison. It's very gloomy - possibly too gloomy for some people, but I love gloom. I felt badly for the protagonist because he was little more than a pawn in someone else's vast chess game. Then again, perhaps we all are.

See what I mean? Gloomy!
Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would like to know whether Barnes counts Neil Gaiman as an influence, because the Domino Men themselves seem to have been modeled after Croup and Vandemar, the horrifying assassins from Neverwhere, but they are far more comical in this bizarre good vs. evil story. The basic plot revolves around the war between the Directory, a top-secret organization, and the house of Windsor, the outcome of which will determine the fate of London. Seems that Queen Victoria struck a Faustian deal with evil 150 ...more
Mar 27, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, horror
I wasn't entirely thrilled with this not-quite-a-sequel to Barnes' great debut novel The Somnambulist. It's not that it's bad... I just expected more. It's set in the same world as the first novel, but instead of Victorian era London (which lent The Somnambulist a certain amount of charm), the setting is much less exciting current day London. Instead of a main character who is an illusionist and a detective, it has Henry Lamb - who is a filing clerk. Instead of the mysterious, invulnerable somna ...more
Jan 27, 2012 rated it it was ok
GAAAAHHH. I wanted to like this so badly, but it's kinda hard to like a story that is 95% teaser capped by one of the worst endings I've ever managed to "What the FUCK?!" my way through.

Barnes is a damn good writer when it comes to creepy imagery and turns of phrase. And for the first 80 pages or so, that is more than enough. It's dark and interesting and you just KNOW that Henry, the milquetoast hero, is going to turn into a badass as he(and we)learns exactly why the English crown and Shady Sec
Paul Weimer
Feb 02, 2009 rated it it was ok

A book I received under the auspices of Amazon Vine, The Domino Men is a fantasy/horror novel by Jonathan Barnes.

There have been a spate of what some have labeled "The New Weird" in fantasy and horror in the last few years. Authors like Jeff Vandermeer, China Mieville, and M John Harrison are the major figures in this movement, but this movement has influenced new authors, too.

Jonathan Barnes' work seems to fall into this bracket. The Domino Men is a novel set in the same world of his previous n
Feb 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
I can't describe what genre this book is in. Science fiction? Urban fantasy? It has elements of those, but not steeped in them. It reminds me of that movie Wanted, with a main character is a repressed ordinary guy who discovers there's more to his life than he'd ever dreamed.

This book has stories buried inside stories, and a Douglas Adam's flavour to the bad guys. I love reading British slang and this has it in spades. It doesn't have a happy ending, or even a grimly badass ending like Wanted. I
Apr 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It's sort of but not quite a sequel to The Somnambulist, and I liked it a lot better than I did the first book. But then I really liked the first book up until the end when it all seemed to lose cohesion and fell apart. The only characters the books share are the Prefects, who if you've read the first one you'll remember as the creepy-as-hell middle-aged schoolboys with a penchant for homicidal pranks. As characters go I love them, in fact they were probably my favourite thing about The Somnambu ...more
Jake Forbes
Jan 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Jonathan Barnes second novel is a delightful melange of Douglas Adams and HP Lovecraft; or perhaps a decidedly British parallel of Tim Powers at his most whimsical. The mysterious opening scene hooks you fast and the Barnes reels you into the bizarre world with great characters and gruesomely clever imagery. The "narrative hijacking" works brilliantly; I felt downright giddy the first few times it happens. The second half of the book is barely controlled chaos. Events unfold so quickly that almo ...more
Jan 16, 2009 rated it liked it
I'd never read anything by Jonathan Barnes before, and I went into this story without knowing what it was about. I think that's the best way to start this book, because my first impression was the same as the main character's; I had no idea what was going on. Even fifty pages in, I was still puzzled. There was only hints here and there from the strange events in protagonist and main narrator, Henry Lamb's life, of evil looming over London, and nothing being exactly what it seems.

The words that
Timothy Tobolski
Sep 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is an odd book. Marked as an unofficial sequel to 'the Somnambulist', the setting completely skips at least a hundred years between that and this novel. I haven't come across any direct connection but I get the feeling it's in here somewhere.

So far, there's only two recurring characters: Hawker and Boon, the terminally creepy Prefects. As bad as they were in 'the Somnambulist', this time they frighten one of the new characters to physically wet himself. Barnes has a strange affection for Ha
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really good book, it didn't have all of the magic of the exceptional Somnambulist, but it came pretty close. This time set in the present, a story so wild and imaginative, so fun and humorous, so genuinely quirky and odd in the best possible way, it has all the trademarks of Barnes and some reccuring characters, particularly the titular duo, some of the more memorable and wacky characters from his auspicious debut. Great book and a very fast read. Highly recommended.
Sep 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book, but it's the sort of book that makes me wonder: what sort of person is able to imagine such insanity, and what sort of person am I that I found it engrossing? It's not a direct sequel to The Somnambulist, but it does involve some of the same organizations, characters, and themes of that book.
MB (What she read)
Apr 22, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" fans
3.5 stars
Kind of strange dark fantasy with odd glints of humor. You can tell the author had fun writing it. It probably would have been 4 stars for me but I found the last few chapters and the end rather a let-down.
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
I wanted to finish this book. I really, really wanted to get myself to the end. I loved The Somnambulist and all its fantastic, wacky characters. However, The Domino Men, despite featuring characters that obviously link the two books, fell short of something for me. I'm not sure what it is. The transition from the focus being on a conjuror and his mysterious assistant to a rather bland, modern day, Average Joe? How it felt more like the narrator was droning on and kind of bored? How bland it is ...more
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
‘Domino Men’ uses an interesting ‘found manuscript’ premise, telling the reader that the editor discovered it on their doorstep ‘on the day that its author disappeared from the face of the earth.’ The novel itself is tightly plotted (with perhaps a few veiled digs at Prince Charles?) It is a riot of dark humour and manic inventiveness – a drugs mule exploding with the bright pink impact of a water balloon, with accompanying implied sound effects; not to mention multiple deaths by sneezing powder ...more
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reviewing this book is a bit of a challenge, because the plot is so deftly wound together that discussing any of the major plot points may be a thread a would-be reader could pull on and unravel the story. Rather, then, I will list some of the major character and events without explaining the relationship between them.

- The protagonist, Henry, begins as a filing clerk in an Archives Office and lives in Tooting Bec.
- A shadowy government agency called the Directorate
- Forces Man Was Not Meant to
Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
Got this as a bargain book at a library sale. It’s best described as bizarre, twisting fantasy. Unfortunately I did not come to truly care much about the main character and skimmed a lot.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Weird, eerie, and thoroughly enjoyable. Even overcomes its theoretically-fatal flaw, a hero who doesn't actually do anything. Much better than the Somnabulist.
Jonathan Gruber
Oct 06, 2017 rated it liked it
very diverting, page turning fantasy about good vs. evil in england - interesting characters and story but ultimately kind of empty
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Todd Stockslager
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Is this an allegory of the dangers of

--Post 9/11 terrorism and shrinking political freedom?
--Biblical apocalypse?
--Corporate gigantism?
--Inept royalty?

I really don't know what this mess is supposed to be or how to react to it (I never read other reviews or check ratings before writing my own, so I have no idea how other reviewers are responding to this book). I wavered between one and two stars--between judging this a total waste of paper, or merely a waste of my time that others may f
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think at some point I may have heard of Barnes’ first novel, The Somnambulist, but I can’t swear to that. This is book #2 in a series – a fact that irks me no end when I find out after I finished the book. But, I think they can be read as single novels with no detriment to the reader.

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 da
Jun 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Overall Rating: Disappointingly Predictable
The last novel of Jonathan Barnes, The Somnambulist, was mind-numbingly, awe-inspiringly, cleverly, allegorical, and though overall Barnes delivered a very well thought out plot and message, The Domino Men seemed to fall short of all it could have been. Barnes is still a brilliant writer, continuing to display his talent for finding the precise words to express himself perfectly and succinctly, rather than settling for a cluster of merely good words. H
Aug 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: urban-fantasy, horror
(this is copied over from my Amazon Vine review)
I haven't read much in the urban fantasy sub-genre unless you count Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novels. The other thing in the genre I can remember having read recently was Edghill's "The Sword of Maiden's Tears", which was okay but almost painfully an obvious projection of its target audience's wishes (i.e. lonely nerd girls wanting a broken elven prince to fix up and fall for). This is, as Americans would say, "a whole another can of worms", an
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Apparently this is a follow up to The Somnambulists, but pretty much an independent story and reading the first isn't required - which is good, because I didn't know that when I read it. The book was a random gift to me from someone who'd never read it and only picked it up because of the title, but after about 2 years gathering dust I figured I should try it.


I'm torn between 2 and 3 stars, 3 because at least the author appears to be able to write grammatically and literately, but in the end
Jul 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This contemporary fantasy novel is about a file clerk suddenly thrust into the middle of a life-or-death battle over the future of Great Britain.

Henry Lamb is the sort of average person who exemplifies the term "civil servant." One day, he is taken to the giant ferris wheel called the London Eye, where he meets a humanoid being named Dedlock living in a tank of amniotic fluid. Henry is forcefully recruited into The Directorate, one of those super-secret organizations that doesn’t officially exis
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. London Eye secret office and some demons? [s] 14 57 May 11, 2013 09:14PM  

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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.

Other books in the series

Domino Men (2 books)
  • The Somnambulist (Domino Men #1)