Newest Review: ... proves top have eccentric capabilities. When the creepy and dangerous Messrs Croup and Vandemar come looking for Door at Richard's flat, ... more
'With cities, as with people, the condition of the bowels is all-important'
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
Member Name: pmcds
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman
Advantages: Everything: characters, location, speed and descriptives, action
Disadvantages: Nothing, absolutely nothing
Richard Mayhew is a pretty boring, average human being. Moving from Scotland to London, he finds himself oppressed by a fiancee who loves her status more than she loves him; a job where he is made fun of rather than appreciated, mainly by his 'best mate'; and generally not much of a direction about him, so much so that he forgets even the simplest of things. A bit wet, Richard is then an unlikely hero when out for a crucial dinner date where he is about to meet fiancee Jessica's high powered businessman father when a strange girl falls unconscious on the pavement in front of them. Eever keen to do 'the right thing', Richard refuses to continue, insisting on helping the girl to somewhere she can be looked after, even at the expense of his relationship on such a crucial evening.
Thus ensues a strange situation where the girl, Door (short for Doreen, apparently) proves top have eccentric capabilities. When the creepy and dangerous Messrs Croup and Vandemar come looking for Door at Richard's flat, the two of them narrowly escape, and following the girl's weird ability to transport them from place to place through any old door, Richard must suspend belief entirely as he enters the world of London Below, where everyone and everything is unseen by those in London Above. In short, there co-exists an entirely separate world right on top of ours, where various London Underground stations are actually people (there actually IS an Angel called Islington; the Black Friars are important Below Guardians and Hammersmith can make you anything with his hammer and anvil - what a genius), people called Rat People talk to rats who are particularly intelligent and helpful creatures and there is a great conspiracy with a villain who is as yet undisclosed but wants to capture Door. Richard is sucked in, a weak minded man persuaded by a lot of nonsense that's just, well...not nonsense at all.
A work of science fiction genius, Neil Gaiman has said that he had immense fun creating and editing all of the various characters and locations in the book. Although he essentially takes a lot of existing London places and either makes them more glamorous or uses them as characters. Mayhew is portrayed as a weak minded man, but is really no different in his daily life to you or me. A normal person, made to seem inferior by an imaginative world where everything is possible. Turning into a hero to save Door, he gets himself involved in her survival, and by helping her he becomes one of the people from London Below. No one from Above sees or hears him properly, his old life disintegrates before his eyes and he finds himself on an incredible journey with incredible characters underneath the streets of London. Gaiman does his homework well with the geography. Clear research has been done but with a heavy dose of literary discretion to twists and turn common elements and historical derelicts into something that works for his tale.
Originally published in 1997, this is a more recent reprint with a few changes. This is one of a few of his works where he has published his 'chosen text'; that is, not necessarily that which ended up being published after the original editors had their way. We get an informative foreword where he describes his feelings about the book, the editing, and the fact that Neverwhere was initially only ever supposed to be a TV show script. Initially used as this, the book was published shortly after, although the editing interfered with how Gaiman actually wanted it. One of the most interesting things about this reprint is how he explains the main villains, Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar, who are time hopping murderers for hire who have powers that go beyond normal human ability. They remind me of the two Messrs from one of the Bond films, although I can't quite remember which one; and Gaiman's occasional literary sarcasm makes them at once hated and admired.
This is just one example of some of the glorious characters in the book. There are creatures, humans, creepy semi-alive characters such as the Velvets (who remind me of the Sirens of Greek Mythology); magical bodyguards such as Hunter and the enigmatic and occasionally heroic Marquis de Carabas, one of Door's adventuring party owes her a favour and is calling to collect. It's things like favours, the Floating Market Truce, Down Street (which just keeps going down and down), and tokens and omens which can help you get from place to place, that make me think there is just no end to Neverwhere and the Land of London Below and the hidden differences between our world and theirs. I'd dearly love Gaiman to write a sequel. In the Q&A at the end of his book, he even suggests that were he to do this, he'd go and explore other Undergrounds in the world, such as Tokyo or New York. The thought of this makes me REALLY want him to write this, and I think that feeling is indicative of just how much I enjoyed reading this.
It's brilliant. You have to go with the flow and let the author explain his creative places and characters in the detail he sees fit. It reads as an adventure with no specific end, different tasks within the plot appearing and disappearing from time to time, while we try to find out what happened to Door's family and wonder whether Richard is doomed to a life as a Below citizen never to return to his old life. the character are wonderful, it'll make you smile regularly, and you'll want to go and grab another Gaiman book straight away. So recommended I can't describe it. I'm off to watch the TV adaptation.
Summary: Fantastic tale of a man who falls through to 'another' London for an adventure