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The Somnambulist
The Somnambulist
Author: Jonathan Barnes
Once the toast of good society in Victoria's England, the extraordinary conjurer Edward Moon no longer commands the respect that he did in earlier times. Still, each night he returns to the stage of hi theater to amaze his devoted, albeit dwindling, audience, aided by his partner, the Somnambulist - a silent, hairless, hulking giant who, whe...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780061375385
ISBN-10: 0061375381
Publication Date: 2/1/2008
Pages: 384
Rating:
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 52

3 stars, based on 52 ratings
Publisher: William Morrow
Book Type: Hardcover
Other Versions: Paperback, Audio Cassette, Audio CD
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed The Somnambulist on + 902 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
This is yet another book that will leave staunchly divided opinions in its wake. You will either enjoy this book or hate it with a passion. I am among those who loved it.

There are many strange characters in this book: a man who lives backwards in time, circus freaks, an albino spy, The Human Fly, The Mongoose, The Prefects, The Chairman... In all it is quite a motley crew indeed that inhabits the pages of this story. Not all of them are going to be explained. Not all of them make sense. But in this creepy Victorian-era Gothic fantasy novel, they somehow seem right at home.

I can understand why there would be negative reviews of this book:

* The title character, The Somnambulist, remains mostly a mystery. His "powers" are never really explained and he doesn't even act like a true somnambulist.

* To quote the narrator towards the end of the novel, "I expect by now that your disbelief is not so much suspended as dangling form the highest plateau of credulity. Even so, I regret that this next incident requires a further extension of that capacity." You cannot take this book too seriously. Otherwise you might throw it across the room in abject frustration.

* There is a unique sense of humor in the book. Two characters actually refer to themselves by saying, "I'm afraid we're something of a deus ex machina."

* The ending is a mess. And while many people loathe the book for its final revelations and the way in which they played out, I take no real issue with how it unfolded. In a sense it matched the rest of the book. It was chaos. In a sense, so was the plot.

The author describes this book as "a giddy love letter to stories and genres" that he has always loved, namely Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bleak House, and Doctor Who. To that list I would add Neil Gaiman and Wilkie Collins.


In all, this is a quirky novel that should not be taken too seriously. It will appeal to just as many people as it turns away. But if reading about a Victorian-era magician detective with a Somnambulist for a sidekick sounds interesting, and if you like stories told with elements of the Gothic and the macabre, dipped in sarcastic British humor and rooted in steam punk and urban fantasy, then this book is an absolute gem. If not, you'd probably do better to just run away screaming. It will save you 300 pages of anguish and frustration.
reviewed The Somnambulist on
Helpful Score: 3
A very odd and intricate story. I have to agree with the first reviewer in that I read the book without any sense of liking it or not, I just felt I had to read finish reading it to see if it all made sense in the end.
reviewed The Somnambulist on + 902 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This is yet another book that will leave staunchly divided opinions in its wake. You will either enjoy this book or hate it with a passion. I am among those who loved it.

There are many strange characters in this book: a man who lives backwards in time, circus freaks, an albino spy, The Human Fly, The Mongoose, The Prefects, The Chairman... In all it is quite a motley crew indeed that inhabits the pages of this story. Not all of them are going to be explained. Not all of them make sense. But in this creepy Victorian-era Gothic fantasy novel, they somehow seem right at home.

I can understand why there would be negative reviews of this book:

* The title character, The Somnambulist, remains mostly a mystery. His "powers" are never really explained and he doesn't even act like a true somnambulist.

* To quote the narrator towards the end of the novel, "I expect by now that your disbelief is not so much suspended as dangling form the highest plateau of credulity. Even so, I regret that this next incident requires a further extension of that capacity." You cannot take this book too seriously. Otherwise you might throw it across the room in abject frustration.

* There is a unique sense of humor in the book. Two characters actually refer to themselves by saying, "I'm afraid we're something of a deus ex machina."

* The ending is a mess. And while many people loathe the book for its final revelations and the way in which they played out, I take no real issue with how it unfolded. In a sense it matched the rest of the book. It was chaos. In a sense, so was the plot.

The author describes this book as "a giddy love letter to stories and genres" that he has always loved, namely Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bleak House, and Doctor Who. To that list I would add Neil Gaiman and Wilkie Collins.


In all, this is a quirky novel that should not be taken too seriously. It will appeal to just as many people as it turns away. But if reading about a Victorian-era magician detective with a Somnambulist for a sidekick sounds interesting, and if you like stories told with elements of the Gothic and the macabre, dipped in sarcastic British humor and rooted in steam punk and urban fantasy, then this book is an absolute gem. If not, you'd probably do better to just run away screaming. It will save you 300 pages of anguish and frustration.
reviewed The Somnambulist on + 213 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Reminicent of the Preston/Childs novels with FBI inspector Pendergast, evokes a similar feel although its a different setting and period. The end is not nearly as interesting as the rest of the book. Very detailed for a first book. I can't say I enjoyed this book but I felt compelled to finish it.
reviewed The Somnambulist on + 91 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This seems to be a book either readers either take to...or they don't. I liked it. It is highly original, funny, dark and sly. Lots happens and I was never bored. I admit, my tastes may be a little eccentric. If yours are too, you will like this book.
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reviewed The Somnambulist on + 54 more book reviews
I really did enjoy this book overall. I'm going to give it a good rating because the author brought unique characters and a moving plot. I really felt this book was reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Being a fan of Sherlock Holmes I was enjoying the book... until around page 286 when the whole plot turned into something from the Twilight zone! Kudos to the author for the first part of the book but then I wondered - WHAT??? It just became too odd for words and Unbelievable !


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