Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Read: 10/9/2012 — 10/18/2012
In Six Words: Overshadowed by praise, but still good.
Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart – and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed – a dark subculture flourishing in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city – a world far stranger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known…
Why I Started Reading This Book and Final Verdict
Neil Gaiman is a name that is whispered (in tones that resemble high-pitched squeals rather than hushed tones) across the book community. I picked up Neverwhere during one of my stops at Borders when it was going out of business. I knew that getting a Neil Gaiman book was a must, and I believe I chose Neverwhere because it is one of Smash’s favorite books. I put off reading it for a long time, though, because really. How do you deal with the pressure of reading well-loved author? Solution: I prodded Kelly into agreeing to have a Neil Gaiman week for Halloween. And I liked this one. I did. It won’t be my last Neil Gaiman book. (And not just because I own Anansi Boys.)
While I enjoyed Neverwhere, I did have a couple problems outside of the book itself: I read this during a reading slump, which makes my reading slow and labored; and the expectations I had going into this book worked against me and actually stopped me from enjoying this book as much as I probably could have. The expectation aspect is easy to quantify: I expected something that would totally and utterly rock my world. It didn’t. (To be fair, few books do.) Reading during a slump is less easy to quantify, but likely had its sticky little fingers all over my enjoyment. (Like having my focus stuck on the commas. Holy commas, batman!)
By FAR, the best part of Neverwhere is London Below. It is a world unlike any other. If there are hard and fast rules, few know them. (Richard, of course, is utterly clueless.) Many times in books, fear is created through the lack of knowledge and the lack of control. This is what makes London Below. Like Richard, we don’t understand London Below. It twists. It turns. It defies our London Above logic. It is fantastical without being magical. It fascinates and it horrifies. It is AWESOME.
Neverwhere is the kind of book that doesn’t necessarily inspire a lot of connection with its characters. Richard is our main narrator, but I never particularly liked him. I wanted to know more about Door and her family. About the Marquis. About Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar. About Hunter. MOAR! In many ways, I desired more knowledge and a greater connection with the characters. But at the same time, when the story ended, I wanted another chapter; I didn’t want to leave. But the lack of connection with its characters was made up by the humor. It is both subtle and pervasive; the kind of humor that has your lips curving up in a sly smile when you read. And the descriptions! (They’re pretty cool. You probably don’t want to miss them.)