I chose Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere for my third Cannonball read. I thought I was purchasing the audiobook version, when in fact, iTunes tricked me into purchasing the e-book version. I didn’t even know you could buy e-books through iTunes. A word of caution: don’t attempt to buy a book on your phone while sitting in traffic.
Neverwhere was apparently Gaiman’s first solo novel, and others have said that you can clearly see that Gaiman is still making the transition from comics and screenplays to the more respectable form of novels. I find these thoughts to be pretentious and ridiculous. I’ve read (and watched) plenty of Gaiman’s other works, and I instantly recognize the style and tone as Gaiman’s. Perhaps I’m uncultured swine, but it all reads the same to me. Neverwhere is actually a novelization of the television series of the same name, in case you wanted to know. I haven’t seen it, but after reading the book, I would like to.
The book opens with Richard Mayhew, an average young man, working an average job, living an average life in London. On his way to dinner with his pushy fiancée, they come across a young girl splayed out on the pavement, bleeding and weak. Richard chooses to help the girl, picking her up and taking her back to his apartment instead of going on to dinner to meet his fiancé’s boss.
This single act of kindness throws into motion an entire chain of events, which are a bit spoiler-y if I really get into it. In short, Richard suddenly finds himself in world he never knew existed – London Below. In sewer tunnels, abandoned tube stations and the occasional roof top is a world darker, dangerous and much stranger than he ever imagined.
London Below is a city of shadows, of people, places and times that have “fallen through the cracks.” The world building, in my opinion, is full of potential. Admittedly, I would have liked to learn more about how society in London Below functions, the further details of certain customs and exactly how London Below came to be. Frequently I found myself more interested in the back stories of minor characters than that of the protagonist, Richard Mayhew. Again, so much potential, but I wish the author had taken more time to thoroughly explore the world he created. I would happily spend another dozen or so books adventuring through London, New York, Tokyo or even New Delhi Below.
I will admit that I’m probably being picky. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, and like all his works, I found Neverwhere a treat to read. A wonderful fantasy adventure, though probably not a classic. I would recommend the book to any Gaiman fan that hasn’t read it yet, and anyone else in the market for a good fantasy romp.