Sunday, January 31, 2010
Title: The Somnambulist
Author: Jonathan Barnes
Genre: Sci Fi / Historical Fiction / Mystery
Rating: 3 out of 5 clever narrators
The Somnambulist, written by Jonathan Barnes, focuses on the exploits of an ex-stage magician and his loyal companion as they attempt to solve a murder mystery and protect London from destruction.
My review of The Somnambulist is going to end up being in two parts, because I felt very polar emotions while reading it. In terms of writing style, Barnes is an excellent narrator. However, I feel that his story as a whole suffers from lack of organization and clarity. First, the good:
From the very first paragraph of the book, Barnes draws the reader in. He utilizes narration not simply as a way to tell the story, but as a way to get the reader to relate more closely to the author. The narrator is a living being, not simply an omniscient observer. Barnes has a lot of fun with his narration, injecting humor and anecdotes into the story. This really keeps the reader coming back for more, because it makes The Somnambulist read more like a dialogue between author and reader, which is a lot of fun. However (in my opinion, of course), underneath the creative storytelling, The Somnambulist is an unpolished mystery tale.
A major flaw I see in this story is that Barnes tends to leave his audience in the dark when it comes to details. One expects a small amount of this due to the "mystery" genre, but Barnes goes on to mention past events and character relationships that he never really fleshes out or describes for the reader. This made me feel as though the author and the characters were always sharing inside jokes and stories that I was not invited to partake in. This was very frustrating at times, and serves to undermine the relationship that Barnes forges with his quirky narration. Ultimately, The Somnambulist feels like a sub-par sequel. I found myself not caring about what was currently happening. Rather, I wanted to learn more about the characters' pasts - something that Barnes teases with, but never delivers.
Another problem I have with The Somnambulist is that it feels very disjointed. The first three quarters of the book deals with the murder mystery that the main character attempts to solve, and then all of a sudden, a major plot development happens that basically throws the first part of the book into the trash and makes it irrelevant. Even the character that the book shares its name with seems inconsequential and pointless.
To be honest, I was very disappointed with The Somnambulist. It began as a very unique story and held a great amount of promise. However, it ultimately falls short.
3 out of 5 clever narrators.