by Neil Gaiman (1996)
I’ve never read anything by Neil Gaiman before but I have seen some TV/film that he has written for and enjoyed it, so I gave Fragile Things a go which is a collection of his short stories. Some of them were really good but some of them I didn’t like at all, but I wanted to give his writing another go so I picked up Neverwhere full of optimism.
Neverwhere is a book set in an alternate London where there’s such a thing as ‘London Below’ which is home to the people that have fallen through the cracks of life and one in which the laws are different to the world we know. Richard Mayhew is an average man who has an average job and an average engagement to an average woman who he doesn’t even really love that much. He is just floating through life not really giving much thought to what he wants and so when a girl named Door falls into his life, everything changes and Richard finally has to have a serious think as to what he wants from life.
With nonsense and unexplainable happenings, this book is full of action and fantasy taking place in London Below. We follow Richard on his journey to just get back to his own London Above, but first he must help this mysterious Door at his own risk, but what does he have to lose?
I love the absolute strangeness that comes with Neil Gaiman which is just strange enough that it doesn’t need to be explained and you just except that this is normal for the world he has created. The array of characters he creates with their eccentricities and quirks are flipped between within each chapter so the pace is always enough to keep up with and interest hardly ever wavers.
Richard was actually quite an interesting character to read about – he is as average as can be so when his life is thrown into tumult, his laid back ‘just go with it’ attitude is hard to believe. There are a few creepy characters included and one or two that you can never be quite sure which side they’re on – good or evil – and I love this mystery and how it allows the reader to try and guess and speculate what’s going ot happen.
This is definitely a book that I would recommend to read and experience, and it has certainly made me want to try out another of his books purely for the imagination and creation of these unique characters and worlds!
“Mind the gap!” – Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere
As always, I’ll be including some spoilers now so look away if you like the sound of this book and want to give it a go yourself before peeking back!
The first thing that I notice with this book is how laid back and not bothered by everything Richard is so when Door fell to his feet in helplessness, his character is shocked into actually making a choice and doing something. I couldn’t believe Jessica and how she couldn’t care less for Door and was actually giving an ultimatum to Richard that if he stayed to help the girl then the engagement was off – cruel!
From here on in his life was changed and it was so eerie to read when people just looked straight past him and didn’t notice him – all because he had been in contact with people from London Below! It sounded awful and I could not imagine that happening in real life so it was creepy to read. Especially the bit where he was taking a bath and some strangers came in to look at the house to buy it and they didn’t even notice him – how horrible would it be if no one could see you and just looked straight past you?
One of the most mysterious characters was the Marquis de Carabas (no idea how to pronounce his name and probably never will) because I had no idea whether he was good or bad, only until the end. He paid in favours and just seemed to not really care what happened to himself much. When I read about the box at the end I had completely forgotten about it and my friend had to explain that he keeps his soul in a box like a Horcrux – so that’s why he was so flippant with his life when he met up with Croup and Vandemar! It was an ingenious detail to the story and one of the best characters in the book actually.
One of the most shocking things that, I’ve got to say, I did not see coming was the evil angel.
I totally did not expect the angel Islington to be evil and hire Croup and Vandemar to get Door for him – you expect angels to be angels! It was a brilliant twist to the story – I love plot twists, but when they are unexpected and completely take you by surprise most of all!
One huge part of this book was the ending and just how brilliantly written it was. There’s Richard just living out his back-to-normal life again, going to work and meeting new people till he realises that he just can’t carry on like this, not after he’s seen what he’s seen.
So when he nearly begs for a door to take him back to London Below and the Marquis appears, it’s such an awesome way to end the book. You didn’t need anything more, no Richard meeting Door again or actually reaching London Below, just the knowing that he’s going back it totally enough and it was such a satisfying ending to this story.
It was a great ending to a great book. I kept contemplating throughout the book whether I really was enjoying it or not, but though maybe the writing style was a little off for me sometimes (like when four flights of stairs are explained ???) the story made up for it and I liked the world-building in this book.
I would definitely recommend giving this book a go and I might just try out some more of Neil Gaiman’s work after reading Neverwhere!