Yup. Don’t act like your even surprised that this is another Neil Gaiman review. I told you guys I was becoming obsessed. (I am already almost done with The Graveyard Book, btw). Like Stardust, I listened to Neverwhere on audiobook, narrated by none other than Gaiman himself. And let me tell you, that man was born to read out loud. It really is perfect. Anyway, here is the blurb from audible because if I tried to sum this book up this post would be ridiculously long and probably spoilery.
Richard Mayhew is an unassuming young businessman living in London, with a dull job and a pretty but shrewish fiancée. Then one night he stumbles upon a girl lying on the sidewalk, bleeding. He stops to help her, and his life is changed forever.
Soon he finds himself living in a London most people would never have dreamed of: a city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels. It is a world that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. And it is the home of Door, the girl whom Richard rescued, and whom, if he is ever to return home, he must now help in her mission to preserve this strange underworld kingdom from a mysterious figure determined to destroy it.
If Tim Burton rewrote Phantom of the Opera, if Jack Finney had a dark side, if you rolled up the best of Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and Caleb Carr into one, you still wouldn’t have Neil Gaiman. In Neverwhere, he delivers one of the most absorbing reads to come along in years.
Not to much surprise, I absolutely loved this book. The world that Richard spends most of the story in is known as London Below. It looks just like London, but is full of everything that “falls through the cracks”, whether that be people, places, or events. And of course, magic. What fantasy world isn’t complete without magic?
The characters really make this book though. Richard is hilarious. He basically has a couple moments where he decides that this whole world is completely ridiculous and he is probably just going mad and making everything up in his head. He is sassy a lot as well, but I don’t think he ever actually intends to be sassy or even really realizes that he is doing it, which makes it even more entertaining.
I really liked the secondary characters as well, especially The Marquis de Carabas. He is so complicated and mysterious that you spend the whole book just trying to figure out just what he is up to, and whether you should root for him or not. It adds a whole sub-mystery to the plot that is really fun. I also enjoyed the bantering of Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandermar, who are subsequently trying to just kill Door the whole time.
The single best thing about this book though, is the same thing that I find the best thing about all of Gaiman’s work. That his stories go beyond fiction.
You know when you are reading a fiction novel that is set in our own world, and you find a plot whole that makes no sense? Like, say that there is a boy who gets jumped or something and he pulls out a gun he had in his pocket that has never before been mentioned and might even be out of character, and shoots the assailant dead. You would ask yourself where he got the gun right? Why is this kid just waltzing around with a gun in his pocket and it hasn’t been mentioned in the previous 200 pages?
That would make you angry, right? Because it doesn’t make sense. Well, my friends, meet Mr. Neil Gaiman, captain of nonsense. That’s what his books are, they are absolutely beautiful nonsense. The best kind of nonsense. His fiction novels soar above the normal boundaries of fiction and take themselves all the way up into fairy tale territory. That’s what he writes, fairy tales. When you read Hansel and Gretel you don’t question why there is a witch just chillin’ in the woods with a house built out of candy, do you? She just is. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t make sense to you, that is just they way that it is. We give freedom to fairy tales that we don’t give to fiction. I think this frustrates a lot of authors because they can’t just make something up and write it down- it has to make sense first. That is the difference between most authors and Neil Gaiman. He simply just doesn’t care that it doesn’t make sense. Because that’s just the way it is. And I honestly can’t thank him enough for that.