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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 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, unambitious London file clerk, Henry Lamb leads an unremarkable life—until the day he learns he's expected to assume the covert responsibilities of his universally despised, now comatose grandfather. London is at war, and a shadowy organization known (to a very few) as the Directorate wishes to recruit Henry to the cause. All he has to do is find "the girl," save the world from the monster Leviathan, and defeat the unspeakable evil lurking in the cellar of 10 Downing Street: the serial-slaying schoolboy twins known as the Domino Men.


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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 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, unambitious London file clerk, Henry Lamb leads an unremarkable life—until the day he learns he's expected to assume the covert responsibilities of his universally despised, now comatose grandfather. London is at war, and a shadowy organization known (to a very few) as the Directorate wishes to recruit Henry to the cause. All he has to do is find "the girl," save the world from the monster Leviathan, and defeat the unspeakable evil lurking in the cellar of 10 Downing Street: the serial-slaying schoolboy twins known as the Domino Men.

30 review for The Domino Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    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 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 feels a bit like The Man Who Was Thursday at times. There were lots of unexpected twists and turns. Henry Lamb is a good everyman character cast in the Arthur Dent mode. You feel for him as he gradually pieces together what's been going on his whole life. Barnes has grown as a writer since The Somnambulist. I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoyed The Somnambulist, as well as fans of Tim Powers, G.K. Chesterton, and Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    This is an audiobook I got from the local library. I would not recommend it. Listened to it while driving in the car, the great thing about this book is it didn't matter where you picked back up, it was all the same. Henry Lamb is the main character and narrator so all you know is told through his eyes and ears. I'm sure Jonathan Barnes named him Lamb on purpose as he is the most passive, nonreactive, unquestioning, character ever written. His vocabulary consists of, "Really?", "Why?", and even This is an audiobook I got from the local library. I would not recommend it. Listened to it while driving in the car, the great thing about this book is it didn't matter where you picked back up, it was all the same. Henry Lamb is the main character and narrator so all you know is told through his eyes and ears. I'm sure Jonathan Barnes named him Lamb on purpose as he is the most passive, nonreactive, unquestioning, character ever written. His vocabulary consists of, "Really?", "Why?", and even when getting no answer he plods along with anything they want him to do. (I need a strong main character to like a book.) The storyline is fantasy, not steam-punk as Barnes's first book was, and is written well. If the writing wasn't that good I couldn't have lasted through the book. The story gets weirder and weirder and in the end, is so out there and confusing that I felt let down. Adding this: Gerard Doyle was the narrator of this book and he did an excellent job. His narration was one of the main reasons I stuck with it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    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 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 all that much, he's far too passive. When it comes to storytelling, I prefer a narrator who makes things happen (or at least shows some independent thinking) over one who reacts to everything around him. And I missed the steampunk - to be fair, I don't expect every author to stay in the genre he or she started in, but I felt like Barnes really got the steampunk atmosphere down quite well before and was looking forward to more. The Domino Men stands on its own, but I do wish I had read the two books closer together. Hawker and Boon were completely unforgettable, so I had no troubles there, but the role the Directorate played in The Somnambulist is really, really fuzzy in my head. I kept wanting to draw connections between the shadowy group in both novels, to see if what we learned about them now explained their actions then, but all I could really remember was that they existed.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    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! 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!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bill

    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 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 years ago giving the city of London to the unspeakably evil being Leviathan in exchange for the continued wielding of power by her royal family. The seemingly helpless pawn in the whole deal is protagonist Henry Lamb, whose life is turned upside down on the day his grandfather is seemingly felled by a stroke. This is one of those books that takes off at a run in the very first chapter and really never lets up, and things just keep getting more and more strange. I like this guy's writing, I like his style, and I like his imagination. I hope he keeps turning out stories like this one and his first novel, The Somnambulist.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stefan

    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 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 somnambulist, the protagonist's companion is his slightly frumpy landlady. It's almost as if Barnes purposely set out to make this novel less exciting than the first one - and the fact that the main character, in true Arthur Dent style, really doesn't know what's going on for a good part of the novel doesn't help either. Still, Barnes' prose has a lovely flow, and he is great at jolting the reader with a burst of darkness once in a while. Thankfully there are several appearances by Hawker and Boon from the first novel (imagine Croup and Vandemar from Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere A Novel in school boy uniforms). The plot moves along steadily towards a conclusion that, in my opinion, was completely over the top and nearly knocked the book down to 2 star status... but in the end "The Domino Men" entertained me sufficiently to get three stars. Despite some weaknesses in his first two books, I think Barnes is a very talented writer who will produce a real masterpiece before long.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    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 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 Secret Organization are at war over the fate of London. Except that he doesn't, and we don't. As the 'plot' moves forward, it gets more and more LOSTian, adding kinda-sorta interesting details that really don't explain ANYTHING about what the hell is going on. Something something kind like Cthulhu...something something black snow...prince is on pink heroin? Heroin is Elder God blood? Something something talking cat. It's all a confusing mess that is never explained, and Barnes commits a few minor Deus Exes along the way, which is unforgivable. The biggest problem is probably Henry, who NEVER DOES ANYTHING as he gets sucked into this thuper-thecret organization that is his birthright. He just goes with the flow, does what he's told and never questions ANYONE. It's maddening and unacceptable in a 'hero,' especially one that is the readers' eyes and ears. A good ending could have salvaged much of the rest, but it's just effing stupid. I am convinced that Barnes has a great epic novel in him. This ain't the one.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Paul Weimer

    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 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 novel, The Somnambulist. The story ostensibly is the story of Henry Lamb, hapless file clerk (and former child TV star) in London who slowly is wrapped in the tendrils of an ancient conflict that involves his grandfather, the House of Windsor, and the fate of Earth. The world is not quite the one we know, since the Crown Prince is named Arthur, and only has had one wife, without a single child. And then there is the titular Domino Men, Hawker and Boon. They cut a swath of sadism and darkness in the novel that really is at an angle to the rest of the action. While they are important, they aren't central to the narrative. And what a narrative? A Dark faustian bargain which "The Directorate" has been fighting for a century. Over the top hilarity is cheek and jowl with darkness and denigration. This jarring tone is carried throughout the novel and it gave me as a reader continual emotional whiplash. The novel started off well enough, but as the novel progressed, I became dissatisfied with it. Lamb, like his name, is far, far too passive for a protagonist. He doesn't question his orders and is pushed around the chessboard like a hapless pawn. I couldn't identify with him, and only could pity him. In addition, midway through the novel, the first person past narrative was punctuated by a different first person narrator who shows us Arthur's perspective. While it becomes clear in the end why we should be privy to this narrative, I didn't feel it fit all that well with Lamb's story. Finally, the ending ended my chances of walking away from the novel satisfied. Characters are brutally tortured and go through hell while London suffers cataclysmic upheaval. Even for fans of the New Weird, there are far better and more rewarding novels than this one in that vein. It's not a terrible novel, but it could have been much better than it was executed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    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 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. It had an ending that made me put down the book and feel this mix of amazed sadness and an intense desire to start over again, which is what any good book should do. It was funny, but not in a laugh-out-loud way. I guess the right word is wry, and it kept up this backbone of amusement that seemed directed at itself. If I'm talking about the book as if it grew a face and started talking to me, it did in a way. It's scary, but not like Pet Sematary which that had me sleeping with the lights on at night for weeks. It's sad, and that's because I really liked the main character, as ordinary and loser-ish as he was portrayed; and it's in first person! There was one point near the end where the book dragged just a little, because it was immediately after a section which was so exciting, but in that understated manner the whole book had. There were also some actions which were not really explained, but with the type of bad guys this book had, I don't think their motives even had explanation. Understated, that's the best word...maybe not. It's just that every characteristic of this book is muted but just really intense at the same time and I love it a lot.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Manda

    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 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 Somnambulist. They're so unsettling because whatever they are, they definitely aren't human, and even when they're committing the most reprehensible acts of violence there's something so unmalicious about them. They aren't really enjoying the pain the inflict on people... they're just bored and seem to see human beings as toys for their amusement to destroy as they please. And that makes them extra creepy. But their "I say, jolly good show, old chap!" double act is also kind of funny in a really sick sort of way. In short, I really liked this one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jake Forbes

    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 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 almost all of the earlier suspense and looming menace are lost. The split narrative, initially so clever, loses much of its unique and spiteful flavor and comes off a sort of a cheat to get around the limitations of a first-person narrator. I still enjoyed the book a great deal, and once the dust had settled, Barnes ended his story perfectly.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jai

    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 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 I kept using to describe this book to people was "creepy" and "disturbing", but it affected me like the way cartoon violence does; you're insulated by the vagueness and by the fact that you're reading a book. There is also some humor in the writing and tone, which keeps it from being truly scary, at least to me. I also had a good time recognizing paths that were likely going to cross and paying attention to all the foreshadowing. Certain minor details never really get explained, which I chalked up to atmosphere. It's not for everyone, but if you have a decent tolerance to sometimes gross events, and you like dark humor, you'll probably find this an enjoyable read. More of my review - http://janicu.livejournal.com/58290.html

  13. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Tobolski

    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 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 Hawker and Boon, and, despite them being some sort of (no doubt) supernatural assassins, he instills that same affection to the reader. They don't appear for well over a hundred pages -- and then for barely a chapter -- yet you can't help but want to speed along or skip chapters just to see what part they play in this grand scheme.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    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. 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.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    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. 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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    MB (What she read)

    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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really liked this book because it gave a great version of hell, an filing cabinet for sorting. This is a book about the fight between good and evil even though the lines get blurred. This book is about a deal with the devil made to save London 175 years ago. The devil is Leviathan, a sea monster. It is a deal written in blood from the reign of Queen Victoria. The book is about the Directorate, an agency created to stand against the return of Leviathan. The main character of this book is Henry I really liked this book because it gave a great version of hell, an filing cabinet for sorting. This is a book about the fight between good and evil even though the lines get blurred. This book is about a deal with the devil made to save London 175 years ago. The devil is Leviathan, a sea monster. It is a deal written in blood from the reign of Queen Victoria. The book is about the Directorate, an agency created to stand against the return of Leviathan. The main character of this book is Henry Lamb whose grandfather lies in a coma trying to fight the return of Leviathan to collect on its blood debt. This book is about how the Directorate run by a Dedlock lures Henry Lamb into a world of the supernatural. He grandfather was chief agent at the directorate and then has a small TV British TV that Henry was also part. His father introduced the Process in this TV show and the phrase saves London from the ravages of Leviathan. This book is written as memoir found by someone else The book involves the Domino Men who are named Hawker and Boon who are supporting devils who bring the plot along to its inevitable end. We are never quite sure who these Domino Men are but supporting devils who bring destruction to everything they touch, they tease and they torment but are immortal and never die. There is a lot of blood, death and weird body transfer of people. Ampersand is a drug to control people through the sweat of Leviathan. The goal of Henry is find Estella who can "win" the war. The Domino Men know where Estella is. A lot of the Directorate dies in this book and we are left at the end with a sense of dread. This book has a lot of characters that are supernatural and odd. The book kind of wanders but gets to the point and everything comes together. It is interesting with an extra narrator. It is worth the read if you can past the blood and gore.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ainslee

    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 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 compared to The Somnambulist? Maybe it's that there's still a few loose ends and whatnot from the previous book that I was somehow hoping could get tied up (This thought originally came from my hope that the sequels would be a bit more... linked.)? I got a little past halfway. I made myself get to that point, hoping it would feel a bit more like something would pick up. I personally got nothing. I even set it aside for a while to give myself a rest. Normally it helps. Not this time. I don't even care for any of the characters enough to actually bother reading the last chapter or two to see if I can determine their fates. I might just re-read The Somnambulist again and pretend that The Domino Men doesn't exist. Yeah, there was room for a sequel at the end of the first book. This just doesn't cut it for me. I gave it three stars because, despite how bland the overall story was to me personally, it was well written, and I just really loved that first book and a reappearance of two of my favorite characters from it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    R.S.

    ‘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 ‘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 and office supplies. Bizarre elements combine with striking imagery: Dedlock in his tank of amniotic fluid, breathing through gills as he welcomes the protagonist, Henry Lamb, to the Directorate and reveals exactly who this shadowy organisation is at war with. ‘Queen Victoria started it all by making a Faustian bargain, signing London and all its souls away to a nefarious inhuman entity.’ The nefarious entity (Leviathan) has its own story to tell in third person POV – which allows a higher being to hijack the story of Henry Lamb’s problems in the modern world. It is only at the end of the novel that we find out why. Even the three oily lawyers from Wholeworm, Quillinane and Killbreath are like a bad, deliberately non-pc joke: an Englishman, and Irishman and a Scotsman – but are they really human anymore? Henry Lamb is unremarkable and unassuming, a weak character who is so unassuming that I never liked him as a narrator. My personal bias against 1st person POV meant I preferred Leviathan’s version of events, but this is a minor criticism and the author has created some memorable baddies that more than make up for this. There is quite a body count, largely due to the serial killing Domino Men. These malevolent twins, also known as The Prefects are death incarnate, especially when they escape from their prison in the cellars of 10 Downing Street. These are not psychotic children but middle aged men in short trousers and school uniform and this is what makes them scary. The way they speak is a manically bright, inane staccato banter like a cross between one of the long-running sketches in the Fast Show and Billy Bunter, but their dialogue is effectively menacing nevertheless. The story flowed well with a good pace through to a satisfactory, if a little predictable, ending; all in all an enjoyable, if rather surreal, novel.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    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 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 Know - The House of Windsor - The Domino Men, a pair of serial killers who dress as public schoolboys. The story does a fine job of maintaining a general sense of doom and dread, as well as implying that the hell we are bound for may well be of our own making. Alright. That's all you get. Now go read it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Richard Horsman

    I enjoyed The Somnambulist, but this was a major misstep. Somehow Barnes took what could've been a romp of a pulpy story and rendered it joyless, maybe by trying to force it to be something more. It also features one of the most dull and unappealing protagonists I've encountered in ages. You can absolutely write a great book about a weak and insecure person (see almost everyone in John Cowper Powys' novels, for example), but Henry Lamb's endless whining just makes this book that much more annoyi I enjoyed The Somnambulist, but this was a major misstep. Somehow Barnes took what could've been a romp of a pulpy story and rendered it joyless, maybe by trying to force it to be something more. It also features one of the most dull and unappealing protagonists I've encountered in ages. You can absolutely write a great book about a weak and insecure person (see almost everyone in John Cowper Powys' novels, for example), but Henry Lamb's endless whining just makes this book that much more annoying. He's essentially the worst version of the "point of view character" from a first year writing class, a device I find irritating even when handled well. Bottom line: Barnes is capable of much better. No idea what happened here.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Violet

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The more I think about it, the more strange this novel seems. But the funny thing is that it was pretty darn good. It was a beautifully bizarre book. And to kick off this whole strange tone is its status of a “sequel” to The Somnambulist. It’s not really a sequel at all. More like an ‘in the same universe’ book. It had some of the same characters (not even the main characters) but other than that, it was in no way related to The Somnambulist. Yet they still call it a sequel. Don’t ask me, I have The more I think about it, the more strange this novel seems. But the funny thing is that it was pretty darn good. It was a beautifully bizarre book. And to kick off this whole strange tone is its status of a “sequel” to The Somnambulist. It’s not really a sequel at all. More like an ‘in the same universe’ book. It had some of the same characters (not even the main characters) but other than that, it was in no way related to The Somnambulist. Yet they still call it a sequel. Don’t ask me, I have no idea why they did that. Probably one of the most prominent things that kept on coming to mind while reading this is how horribly Barnes portrays Queen Victoria and the House of Winsor. Queen Victoria, the bringer of all these wonderful civil projects, the person so good they named an period of time after here, was the person that set the whole ‘war’ in motion. She was the one that bargained off all the people in London for protection of her empire, which by the way still collapsed so I think that made the contract all the more horrible and unjust. In the novel she was not only absurdly impressionable but even bordering on psychotic. Then there was the current queen, whom it’s implied is Queen Elizabeth II, who is a complete shut in and also wants her son, the Prince of Wales, to get addicted to drugs, and then kill his wife. Okay, now that I explain it, it seems even more bizarre and absurd than I first thought. But all of the stuff with the royal family is so obviously fictional (Victoria was really an extremely stubborn and smart woman, Elizabeth really does show her face, and the Prince of Wales is not Arthur as in the book but really Charles) that he can get away with this horrible portrayal without getting shot. Still, it’s pretty shocking. Another thing that stuck out for me was the way it was written. It starts with a first person narrative by Henry Lamb with the whole faux-memoir feel, but then a suddenly different person comes in with the line, “Henry Lamb is a liar,” to narrate a whole new story and in third person no less. Now this does seem quite strange, doesn’t it? You’d think that this drastic shift gets in the way and/or hinders the story, right? However, it doesn’t all that much. I mean I admit that the shifts in POV does take a little getting used to, but does become significant later on when you realize that it was Leviathan seeping through Henry. And while I admit he could improved the way he told the story with this system, maybe showing some sort of progression towards one side or the other or some sort of battle between them through the length of each of their sections. But overall, it’s an extremely interesting way to tell a story. It’s different and goes along with the beautifully bizarre atmosphere of this book. Another extremely odd thing about this book is what Leviathan really is. Without giving away too much, I’ll just say that it’s something so unpredictable that it will leave you laying awake at night repeating the words “weird” and “strange” a thousand times while the whole situation rolls around and around in your head. It’s something so fitting yet so outlandish that you can’t help but wonder about the logical sense behind this book. And that leads to what I’ve been building the past few paragraphs: the completely mad-cap, ludicrous, offbeat, ridiculous, fantastic style of writing that Barns does so brilliantly. Yes, most things, if not everything, in this book and The Somnambulist (his only other book) are textbook bizarre, but he does them so skillfully that it doesn’t seem like the babblings of some Bedlam patient, but instead words of an insanely imaginative writer. I admit there are probably some people out there that would think the former instead of the latter, but to me it is ultimately and without a doubt the latter. And that is why I love this author dearly even though I’ve only read two books of his. He is just so wacky that I can’t help but admire his imagination and crave his odd stories. And while he is not the best writer in the world, he is truly a wonderfully storyteller. On another note, after reading The Somnambulist and the interview with Barns in which he talks about his inspirations, I noticed the same influences in this novel. It is once again very Neil Gaiman-y, with the return of the Prefects which remind me a lot of some of Gaiman’s characters and a few other things. And it also obviously has major influences from Doctor Who (brilliant British sci-fi show), what with the whole Leviathan being an implied alien wanting to take London of all places, and the fact the invasion of shorts happens on Christmas Eve and Day (It seems that both Barns and the writers of Doctor Who share a love-hate relationship with Christmas). But the thing is that it is not so obviously influenced by these thing and others that it becomes a fanfiction. Instead it becomes like a tribute to these things, a salute in their general direction so to speak. It also becomes extremely entertaining to those people that love his influences, or love their genre(s) (*cough* me *cough, cough*). So if you like Doctor Who and/or Neil Gaiman, I advise you to check Jonathan Barns out. Alright-y then, with that advice I bid you adieu. But I have to add that I do have a personal wish for Barns to hurry up and write more books. He only has two out! Hurry up man!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gracey

    This was a strange, confusing book. I don't know if it was more confusing because I didn't read The Somnambulist first, or if it's just confusing. In my defense, I tried to read The Somnambulist first but couldn't get into it. The Domino Men definitely grabbed and kept my attention, but I'm afraid I didn't like it much. As I said, it was confusing and all the twists were either ridiculous, boring, or obvious. This was a strange, confusing book. I don't know if it was more confusing because I didn't read The Somnambulist first, or if it's just confusing. In my defense, I tried to read The Somnambulist first but couldn't get into it. The Domino Men definitely grabbed and kept my attention, but I'm afraid I didn't like it much. As I said, it was confusing and all the twists were either ridiculous, boring, or obvious.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Patrice Fischer

    Do not believe the rave reviews on the cover. This is the lowest rating I have ever given a book that I finished. I kept thinking that there would be some explanation through the twists & turns, so I kept on plugging. It was not worth it. Seriously, *ick*.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ms Stef

    I have read this style of story before. End of the world, I never knew what my “true” destiny was, special designer drug and a vague ending. And I have read better by Jeff Somers, Christopher Moore, and David Wong.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Gruber

    very diverting, page turning fantasy about good vs. evil in england - interesting characters and story but ultimately kind of empty

  27. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

    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.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Des

    Weird, eerie, and thoroughly enjoyable. Even overcomes its theoretically-fatal flaw, a hero who doesn't actually do anything. Much better than the Somnabulist. Weird, eerie, and thoroughly enjoyable. Even overcomes its theoretically-fatal flaw, a hero who doesn't actually do anything. Much better than the Somnabulist.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I like the way it was written, but the story was too bonkers for my taste. By the time I got to the last hundred pages, I was just reading it in autopilot, trying to get it finished.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I really love this author. This novel was crazy, creepy, weird, and wonderful. I wish there were more!

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