Sunday Review: The Domino Men by Jonathan Barnes (Gollancz)

The Domino MenTitle: The Domino Men
Author: Jonathan Barnes
Publisher: Gollancz
Release Date:  12 February 2009 in Paperback
Read ebook version.

Last February when I reviewed The Somnambulist, I said;

The story isn’t wholly logical and it isn’t meant to be. It’s phantasmagorical, teasing, and imaginative. The characters are extra-ordinary sometimes grotesque but quite believable in this setting. A combination of the personality of the narrator and skill of Barnes makes it strangely believable and quite compelling.

So after giving it such a favourable review I was eager to read what Jonathan Barnes could come up with next.

The Domino Men is a completely new tale unconnected from The Somnambulist apart from two characters that appear in both and play a quite vital role in each.  This time round we have Henry Lamb (our narrator most of the time) who finds out that his life working for the Civil Service Archive Unit storage and retrieval is a bit more complicated than it first appears. It seems that his comatose Grandfather is involved in a secret war with the Royal Family.

Barnes tells an unbelievable yarn in quite a believable way. Our narrator is co-opted into fighting against the Queen and Arthur, Prince of Wales – though the war is a bit subtler than an armed conflict. This war has been going on ever since an agreement was reached by the Queen and a third party about London. Luckily there aren’t that many people that know about it. Though I think that Number 10 might know a little more than is relieved here as they’re housing two characters in a magic circle in their basement.

Barnes is a skilled storyteller drawing in the threat to London slowly. Harry Lamb takes up the challenge that’s presented to him even if he’s a bit naïve about what’s really going on. But because we see things through Harry we’re engaged in a way we wouldn’t be if it was told any other way and the story revolves around Harry in fact his life is the story. 

The injection of the second story line and narrator allows us to see how both sides that are fighting. The other thread shows the transformation of Prince Arthur and the other darker side to The Domino Men.

I’m impressed how Barnes builds everything up and how he focuses a large scale and a world altering event through the key people that make it happen. He doesn’t waste anything. Everything has a point and a purpose as Harry finds out everything isn’t as it seems.

I’m rather jealous really as I’d love to go to work one day to find out that my entire life has been a lie and that the foundation I’ve build my life on isn’t what it seems and that I’m about to become a hero even if Harry doesn’t realise it at the start.

I’m excited to see what his yet untitled third novel is going to be.

Highly Recommended.

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