Education: Graduated from Oxford University. Hobbies and other interests: Attending the theatre and the cinema, swimming, walking, feeding swans.
Writer and book critic. Reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement.
The Somnambulist, Gollancz (London, England), 2007, revised, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.
Domino Men, Gollancz (London, England), 2008.
Jonathan Barnes is an British writer and book critic who has worked as a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement. After graduating from Oxford University with a degree in English literature, Barnes began working as a reviewer. But soon afterwards, he started drafting his first novel and attempting to get it published, a lengthy process that almost ended in failure. Indeed, Barnes reported in a Fantasy Book Critic interview that he sent his manuscript "to all kinds of publishers and agencies and it was pretty comprehensively rejected. In the end, close to giving up, I sent the first few chapters, entirely on spec, to Gollancz where it was rescued from the slush pile by my future editor Simon Spanton." After his book was picked up by Gollancz and published as The Somnambulist, Barnes revised the novel for its American release under the same title. Discussing the American edition, Barnes explained that "Gollancz themselves sent it to William Morrow where it was picked up by the wonderful Diana Gill who's nurtured it and brought it to American bookshops." Summarizing his experience of becoming a published author, Barnes remarked that "it's really all down to the kindness of strangers—first Simon, then Diana."
Barnes's novel The Somnambulist tells the story of Edward Moon, a magician and detective. Moon, along with his mysterious guide and protector (the mute somnambulist), investigates two murders. Set in early twentieth-century London, the investigation uncovers a government conspiracy that reveals the involvement of a strange cult. As odd as the protagonist, his sidekick, and the plot may be, the story is further populated by colorful characters such as an albino who is also an arsonist, and a character called The Fly. Critics applauded the book and commented on its strange story and even stranger form. Indeed, Jen Baker, writing in Booklist, observed that "Barnes is up to something very special here. He's created a new genre, really, a graphic novel written in longhand." Commenting on the surprise ending, a Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that "Barnes saves his best surprise for the story's homestretch, when he reveals the identity of his narrator." Though the book is something of a parody of the nineteenth-century Victorian London murder mystery, Library Journal critic Jenne Bergstrom found that The Somnambulist "takes itself seriously enough to be a compelling and entertaining read on its own merits."
Barnes's second novel, Domino Men, was published in 2008. As Barnes explained in his Fantasy Book Critic interview the book "is not a direct sequel to The Somnambulist but it takes place in the same world, a little over one hundred years later. There are a few familiar faces, some unlikely survivors from the first book … but it's largely quite a different kind of story." The novel features protagonist Henry Lamb, a former child actor who finds himself embroiled in an organization founded to protect the world from being invaded by aliens. The Domino Men of the title are Hawker and Boon, killers who dress like schoolboys. What follows from these two seemingly disparate plot lines is an international spy thriller coupled with a murder mystery. Set in contemporary times, the novel features such modern-day London landmarks as the London Eye Ferris wheel. Reviewers applauded the book, particularly its satirical tone. For instance, Eric Brown, writing in the London Guardian, stated that Domino Men "is a wonderfully original concoction of grotesque humour and sparkling prose." Lisa Goldstein, writing in Strange Horizons, found that, at times, the story "read[s] like a collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Vlad the Impaler, with additional dialog by H.P. Lovecraft."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2007, Jen Baker, review of The Somnambulist, p. 31.
Guardian (London, England), March 1, 2008, Eric Brown, review of Domino Men, p. 16.
Library Journal, February 1, 2008, Jenne Bergstrom, review of The Somnambulist, p. 59.
Publishers Weekly, November 19, 2007, review of The Somnambulist, p. 34.
Times Literary Supplement, February 16, 2007, Michelene Wandor, review of The Somnambulist, p. 23.
Fantasy Book Critic Web log,http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/ (February 25, 2008), "Interview with Jonathan Barnes."
Strange Horizons Web site,http://www.strangehorizons.com/ (May 2, 2008), Lisa Goldstein, review of Domino Men.