Monday, June 27, 2016

Neverwhere Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Standalone
Pages: 370

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If This All There Is, Then I Don't Want To Be Sane

Richard Mayhew has decided to move from Scotland to London where he hopes to begin a new life. Unfortunately Richard's new life consists of him working a meaningless desk job, and finding himself engaged to a controlling woman who wishes to be accepted amongst the elite upper-class. 

While heading to an important dinner (or important in the eyes of his fiance) Richard finds a woman bleeding in the middle of the street, and from there his world changes as he discovers a new secret world below the city of London.

The world below London that Richard discovers is called London Below, while regular London is referred to as London Above. London Below is a magical place, but magical in a twisted way. It's as if Gaiman took all the grimy aspects of urban civilization and found a way to build a world in it with magical occurrences. In London Below, there are secret trains running in the London subway, people that can talk with rats, and monsters that are looking to rip people apart any chance they can get. It should also be noted that there's a trade based economic system, and a floating market that frequently changes locations.

In Gaiman's world a person can either live in London Below or London Above, but once you're in one of these worlds it's as if the other world doesn't exist. This becomes the central conflict for Richard, as he's dragged into a world where being a pen pusher and a doormat for his fiance has done little to prepare him for.

Richard must escape and return to London Above if he wishes to survive. He must also help Door, the bleeding woman he finds in the middle of the street. She is being pursued by Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, two violence loving, pain addicting henchmen who are working for a mysterious employer. Croup and Vandemar are twisted, a point that Gaiman demonstrates early when Vandemar throws a knife into a rat, impaling it, before crushing its skull between his fingers, and proceeding to eat it.

It's interesting to note that most fantasy worlds usually make readers want to stay. In the case of Neverwhere it becomes really ambiguous. If you want to stay in this world it's because people like Door, Richard, and the Marquis de Carabas are living in it. And because of London Above's 9:00 - 5:00 work world traps. On the negative side of things, it would appear your life expectancy is a lot shorter in London Below as random monsters and raging killers seem to be about a dime a dozen.

Originally adapted from a TV show with the same name, Neverwhere is one of Neil Gaiman's earliest novels ... or at least a novel that wasn't co-written with Terry Pratchett. Signs of that shows, especially if you're coming into this reading the novels Gaiman published later. Overall this is a strong work, but compared to Gaiman's usual high standards, I find this isn't as good as the other novels I've read by him.

Score: 8.0

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