Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Somnambulist

The Somnambulist proved to be a truly frustrating novel for me. I kept reading in the hope that it would improve, but somehow the text always disappointed just when it seemed to be on the cusp of improving. When a story hinges on the reveal of a zombified romantic poet and you see the twist coming, there's a problem.

The story also flounders a bit by trying to be a few too many things at once. The prose is equal parts Arthur Conan Doyle and Susanna Clarke. The introduction is straight out of a Series of Unfortunate Events, so you start right off thinking the book seems slightly unoriginal.

Still, there are quite a few redeeming qualities to the book. Barnes spends a lot of the novel trying to show off how clever he is, but does genuinely succeed on occasion. The atmosphere is excellent, with a just slightly tweaked version of London serving as the real star of the story. Barnes shows a lot of promise for a novice writer, but this is clearly the work of a Freshman.

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