Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Review... The Somnambulist

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This book is written with a delightful vocabulary and a marvelous appreciation of prose. Each sentence seems crafted with care and is a joy to read. In Jonathan Barnes's debut novel, the Victorian detective story is brought to a beautiful stylistic level. 

That said, I found that several aspects of the book did not deliver as promised. The style was self-conscious, the point of view occasionally shifting without reason, and the unreliable narrator--when revealed--unlikeable and rather uninteresting. In addition, there is much to-do about the wickedness in the book, but the overall impression is just muddiness, the complete plot is exceptionally thin, and the title character, The Somnambulist, has not even a crucial role in the plot. Nothing more is known about him at the end than the beginning. There are hints that he is the soul of London, slumbering beneath to rise again when salvation is needed, but the reader is left confused as to why--other than for a snappy title--the book is called The Somnambulist.

Edward Moon, a fading magician, is introduced as the protagonist, but there is little about him to care for or even to revile. In fact, the most loveable/interesting of the characters is the grotesquely fat Fiend, whose origins are only barely hinted at. There is much left unwritten in this book, which leaves the plot shallow and unwieldy. It takes a wild turn into the absurd partway through which, I'm sad to say, ruined my suspension of disbelief and had me raising my eyebrows in displeasure.

In spite of these flaws, Jonathan Barnes shows great promise in his first novel. I will continue to read his upcoming works, in hopes that the scintillating style will be matched by just as cunning a plot and just as consistent the characters, next time around.

1 comment:

Laura {a spoonful of joy} said...

haven't heard of this author but i may have to check him out. i love the entire sherlock holmes series so maybe i'd like this book... thanks for the review!