Monday, May 12, 2008

Promised and Delivered

Nearly every book you encounter comes with gushy blurbs on the back cover, the first few pages, the book jacket, or in all three places. "The best book this year!" "Wildly inventive!" "An astonishing new voice!" Most readers learn to take these with a grain of salt before they leave the primary grades. However, Jonathan Barnes' The Somnambulist actually lives up to its hype, and then some. It really is "inventive and often witty" (Observer, U.K) and it truly does "make the familiar daringly unfamiliar" (Jeff VanderMeer). And yeah, you should "remember the name Jonathan Barnes," as the book jacket itself advises.

The book was terrific, every reader's dream. It is a sort of fantasy/thriller/detective novel set in Victorian London. At the start of the novel, we have our protagonist, Edward Moon, preparing to take the stage for his nightly performance. Edward Moon is a detective and magician, quite past his prime, who performs his nightly show with his partner, The Somnambulist of the title (a mute giant who does not bleed when stabbed). But he longs for the glory days, when he was a fixture of society and a well-known detective. The wish for one last great case has nearly passed into pure fantasy when the last great case explodes into his life with a vengeance. Along the way, there are such jewels as the Freak Brothel and the man who lived backwards. I highly reccommend this one. It's original, inventive and entertaining, with many amazing elements and no small dose of humor. Check it out, if you can find it.

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