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Monday, September 8, 2008


Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Reason for Reading: IRL Bookclub, Mythopoeic Award Challenge
Rating: 3.5/5

It had to come at some point. I knew the romance was fragile. I am a fickle person, and it takes a lot to satisfy me. No one person could possibly live up to my standards all the time. Still, it was disappointing all the same when the day finally came.

The day of course, I wasn't completely charmed by one of Neil Gaiman's books. That's not to say, by any means, that I disliked Neverwhere. I enjoyed it, found it intriguing and all, but for me the excitement, the passion I remember after finishing American Gods and Anansi Boys just wasn't quite there.

I had a feeling as I read this book that I might appreciate it more were I a Londoner, or had I ever visited London. In Neverwhere, there are two Londons, London Above and London Below. London Below seems to exist sort of simultaneously with London Above (the borders between the two are a little fuzzy).

Richard Mayhew is an ordinary guy on an ordinary date with his beautiful but demanding fiancee when he stumbles across a young girl bleeding on the street. Richard knows he can't just leave her there, so he ends up taking her home. When she leaves the next day, he heads back to his normal life... only his landlord is trying to rent out his flat, his ATM doesn't recognize him, his coworkers are cleaning out his desk, and his fiancee can't remember him.

Richard, it seems, has fallen between the cracks into London Underground. A reluctant Door agrees to let him tag along in her quest to discover who murdered her family. And so begins a most bizarre journey into the underworld of London. I guarentee you'll never think the same way about a subway station again.

This book had all the great elements of Gaiman's other books. Fascinating characters, especially the marvelously stomach-churningly disgusting villains, Mr. Coup and Mr. Vandemeer. Richard is particularly interesting, being clumsy, kind, disorganized, and completely oblivious to the horror he is engaged to. The plot is twisty and and full of challenges for Door and Co. to overcome. The setting was of course, incredibly imaginative. I wonder if maybe the setting, though was my biggest hangup. I kept waiting for a precise explanation of how exactly the Londer Undergrounders could kind of but not quite be seen by London Abovers, whether London Below is a literally separate place or if it just occupies space not generally used by London Above.

Most of the locations in London Below are taken from the name of the London Above station, but are literal. For example, at Blackfriar's station, there are Black Friars who guard a secret relic. And so on. Like I said, I wish I had been to London so all of the locations had meant more to me.

I'm not going to lie though, I really want to visit London now. While riding the subway, in between visiting Platform 9 3/4, I'll totally be hitting up the stations mentioned in the book.

Husband: Okay, we took the subway all the way to Knightsbridge. Was there a reason we are now on the opposite end of the city from where we were supposed to be?

Me: Yeah, see in this book I read one time, Knightsbridge was actually Night's Bridge, like you crossed over a bridge, and it was night. Get it? Night's bridge? And now, here I am! Yay.

Husband: (smacks his forehead) No more reading for you!

(Just kidding, my husband is not anti-reading. He is actually quite pro-reading, which is a good thing considering the fact I spend a lot of time doing it.)


mariel said...

I tried reading Neverwhere last year but didn’t get very far before giving up. I’m hoping it just wasn’t the right book for me at that time, as it was only my second Neil Gaiman after Stardust. I’ve since read a bit of Fragile Things and Smoke and Mirrors, both of which I hope to finish in the next couple of months, and I’ve been enjoying them thoroughly. I’m always wary of being disappointed by a favourite author, but it’s a really lucky find when you love every single thing an author writes!

Trish said...

I had a difficult time with the you can see me now you can't aspect of the book. It didn't really feel consistent, especially at the beginning when Richard first encounters London Below and his life is changing. Why could some people see him and others not? :) Stuff like this drives me crazy! I've been to London, but it's been about 8 years and I don't remember many of the stations. I did really like how the above and below mirrored each other, though.

Rhinoa said...

Sorry you didn't like it. It's ok not to like Neil Gaiman, I am hit and miss with Terry Pratchett. I did like this novel though but am not a big fan of his short stories.

Nymeth said...

I'm sorry this one didn't quite work for you, Kim. I like it a lot, but I also prefer American Gods. Possibly even Anansi Boys, but I haven't read that one in a while, so I'll have to see how I feel when I revisit it later this year.

Reading this book does make visiting London even more interesting! I kept remembering London Below whenever I saw the names of the stations.

Amanda said...

Haha I can see how you might not like this one as much after reading other works of his. Neverwhere was my first Gaiman book and my favorite. But I'm sure if I had started out reading different ones, like Anansi Boys or whatever I might not prefer this one. And I've been to London so that made it work a bit better :)

Debi said...

Hmmm, first Trish and now you. Are you all off on a mission to lower expectations here? ;)

Andi said...

Sorry to hear that it didn't live up to the other Gaiman choices you've loved, but at least it was still an overall winner! I have it on my shelves--it's been sitting there for YEARS.

tanabata said...

Your imagined conversation with your husband made me laugh. And hey, if you've made it Knightsbridge you might as well pop in to Harrods. ;)