Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Domino Men

I've just finished an odd sort of book. Domino Men is Jonathan Barnes follow up to Somnambulist. I say follow-up rather than sequel as it is set in the same universe as the prior book but doesn't continue the story or use many of the same characters. Overall the book is weaker, with less interesting characters, increased pointless violence (if you recall the jarringly brutal execution of the first book, expect a lot more in this one) and a tighter, if less interesting story line.

In this one we find that the shadowy government organization the Directorate is fighting a surprising enemy for the life of London. Those familiar with English political history will have some inkling as to who that enemy might be, but I'd rather not spoil it all the same. The main character is a milquetoast loser whose claim to fame was his youthful stint on a sitcom where he always uttered an inane line. His filing clerk days fall behind him when the Directorate swoops into his life.

Barnes is Oxford educated and writes for the Times Literary Supplement. Nothing out of the ordinary about that, but little literary jokes in the book make me wonder if this book isn't meant to be a joke, or at the very least a turning of the tables, on genre fans. He sharply contrasts the humor of his deft use of language with terrible images and little hope for his characters. I get the sense that he is asking if readers of escapist, apocalyptic fiction really enjoy it. It reminds me of Joe Hill's excellent "Best New Horror" short story which indirectly asks fans of horror why it is they like this stuff.

Clever bit of literary theater or not, the book is fun to read for most of it and then becomes less so. The last few sentences of the book imply another in the sequence, but one that would be futuristic in nature. I am quite curious to see where he takes it next.

No comments: