(2008) Jonathan Barnes, Gollancz, £10.99, pbk, 281pp, ISBN 978-0-575-08230-4
This is an excellent and very funny second novel by Barnes, proving that the first was no accident. It concerns one Henry Lamb, an undistinguished civil service filing clerk... at least until he is recruited by The Directorate, an organisation fighting a secret war against the House of Windsor since Victoria unwisely signed a contract with the being known as Leviathan. It seems there was more to Lamb's grandfather than his family realised, and soon Henry meets the Head of the Directorate in his 'office' in a capsule of the London Eye. Meanwhile Prince Arthur Windsor is made aware of his family's secret history while succumbing to the addictive qualities of 'tea'. But London can only be saved by the terrifying Domino Men, held captive deep below 10 Downing Street, a couple of Bunter-esque schoolboys (with a touch of Tweedles dum and dee) to all appearances, but in fact a pair of extra-dimensional psychopathic mercenaries. While Lamb wants nothing more than to enjoy a romance with his landlady-cum-flatmate, he is drawn deeper and deeper into a bizarre world he never knew existed. At the same time he is looking for justice for his grandfather who fell prey to Victoria's agents, the Englishman, the Irishman and the Scotsman... But every day that passes brings Leviathan closer to freedom, having been trapped in a Directorate agent decades before. Can Lamb get what he needs from the Domino Men before Leviathan breaks loose and, if not, what is to become of the population of London?
This amusing book speeds along at a breakneck pace, with a beautifully realised gag on almost every page, yet Barnes also manages to keep the drama high and the proposed fate of the Londoners, once known, is terrifying (especially if you're bored by alien threats that seem to want nothing other than to eat us). This book will appeal to those who enjoy the likes of Alan Moore, Mark Gatiss and Tim Powers, to name but a few, and I can't recommend it highly enough. I, for one, am greatly looking forward to whatever Barnes comes up with next.
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