Saturday, April 11, 2009

[Lisa's Take] The Domino Men - Jonathan Barnes

The Somnambulist was one of the top 5 books I read last year, so you can imagine my excitement when JD came home with a copy of Barnes' new book, The Domino Men. He sent me a picture of it when he found it in the book store - as I hadn't even known Barnes was working on a new book, you can imagine the sort of thrilled noise I made.

Anyway, I think JD did a fine job describing the gist of The Domino Men in his review, so I'll cut straight to the chase.

Domino Men was good, but not great - not even in the same league as The Somnambulist, though to say so is definitely rooted in my own bias against "real world" settings. Unlike the Victorian and slightly Steam Punk setting of The Somnambulist, Barnes' latest endeavor is set in the same world, but modern day. Maybe it's just not "fantasy" enough for me, but whenever too much realism sneaks into my books my opinion immediately turns south.

The book also didn't seem as nuanced as I would have hoped - as JD mentioned, there was much less an air of mystery. Most of the plot was predictable and I called nearly all the major twists. I wasn't a huge fan of most of the characters, and though they were constantly suggested to be great schemers and mad geniuses, these aspirations were only thinly realized in the plot. I will admit that I made a decided sound of glee when The Domino Men came on screen (on page?) but few of the other players elicited such a response.

That said, I finished The Domino Men in one day (admittedly a day where I wasn't feeling great, so I did nothing but sit about and read all evening). Barnes' best feature as an author is his ability to write a damn good narrator - much like in The Somnambulist, my favorite character was the snarky, acidic narrative voice that starts breaking into the main character's accounting a few chapters into the book.

This powerful and entertaining voice coupled with Barnes' ability to keep a plot racing meant that while The Domino Men wasn't as good as its predecessor and wasn't quite my cup of tea... I very much enjoyed it. I'm thrilled that Barnes' fist novel was successful enough to merit a second, and I look forward to his future work (and hopefully work with a less futuristic setting).

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