The Domino Men
By Jonathan Barnes
(William Morrow, Hardcover, 9780061671401, 400pp.)
Publication Date: February 1, 2009
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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. . . .
Jonathan Barnes caused a considerable splash in the literary pool when he dove in with his head-spinning debut, The Somnambulist, a novel of the truly odd and exceptional that the Washington Post called "strange, magical, and darkly hilarious . . . an original and monumental piece of work" and Denver's Rocky Mountain News dubbed "the best fantasy novel of the year." In his second endeavor, the acclaimed author returns us to a strikingly similar world--albeit at a different time--ushering fortunate readers into his latest breathtaking cabinet of curiosities.
Henry Lamb, an amiable and anonymous file clerk, pushes paper in the Storage and Record Retrieval section of the Civil Service Archive Unit. His life has always been quiet and unremarkable--until the day he learns that he's expected to assume the covert responsibilities of his universally despised grandfather, now lying comatose in the hospital.
Summoned to the gargantuan Ferris wheel known as the London Eye, Henry receives his orders from Dedlock, a gilled and wrinkled old gentleman eternally floating in a pool of amniotic fluid. London, it seems, is at war, resisting an apocalyptic fate foisted upon it by a long-dead queen. A shadowy organisation known (to very few) as the Directorate wishes to recruit Henry to the cause. All he has to do is find "the girl" and save the world from the monster Leviathan, who can already taste the succulent metropolis that will soon be his to devour. Simple enough.
But there are formidable enemies lining up to oppose Henry, all gathering in and around the royal family. His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Arthur Aelfric Vortigern Windsor--the sniveling, overbored, underappreciated sole heir to the British throne--has been shaken from his resentful malaise by grisly, seductive visions of unrestrained power . . . and by an extremely potent narcotic called ampersand. And an unspeakable evil lurks in the cellar of 10 Downing Street: the twin, serial-slaying schoolboy nightmares, the Domino Men--so-called for their hideous desire and terrifying ability to topple every towering edifice in the city, one after the other . . . just for a giggle.
Jonathan Barnes, author of the critically acclaimed novel The Somnambulist, graduated from Oxford University with a first in English literature. He reviews for the Times Literary Supplement and lives in London.