Neil Gaiman is a legend, no doubt about it. However, I find many of his books hit or miss. The author is dominant when scribing a comic or children’s book- Fortunately, the Milk is one of my favourite reads. When it comes to other books like American Gods, I had a difficult time getting invested in the story. Neverwhere, on the other hand, is a story that has been on my radar for many years, and whatever drove me to pick it up this year, I am grateful I did.
Neverwhere was first created and developed as a television show in 1996 for BBC. Gaiman who had alternative visions for the plot allowed creators to do what was necessary for the short-lived series and worked on a novelisation of the story parallel to production. The popular book was then adapted for an American audience diluting some of the heavier British references. Finally, Gaiman took all sources to develop one last version that would stand as the currently available novel. Since, Neverwhere has been adapted to graphic novel, stage, radio, and there were talks of a film. However, that was optioned by the Weinstein Company so… I guess that’s not happening.
The story follows Richard Mayhew, an everyman type character with a boring life. His life is turned upside down by a chance meeting with Door, a young noblewoman from London Below whose family has been slaughtered. After Mayhew’s life fails to return to normal, he is forced to follow Door into the underbelly of London, which is a world full of magic and mysticism. Joined by a powerful Hunter and an arrogant mage, the party, tries to unravel who is behind the murder of Door’s family while being chased by a couple of brutal assassins.
The best part of this story is hands down the world Gaiman has created. London Below is a world of hidden fantasy disguised as the cities sewers, tunnels, and homeless. There are references to many other major cities having an equal magical underbelly. It is as if a world of fantasy has adapted with modern times and has learned to hide in and amongst the worlds more unappealing qualities.
Gaiman’s strength on characters has never shined so bright. This story is filled with intricate, enigmatic players. Mayhew is both lovable and frustrating, and as his choices and decisions irked me, you could never blame him. The wizard-like character, The Marquis de Carabas, is the pinnacle of an urban fantasy character, complete with many flaws. And, the villainous assassins sent to kill Door and family, are brilliantly portrayed as seemingly dim-witted but, highly dangerous and talented at their jobs. A slew of side characters filled out a dark fantasy world that is original, disturbing, and intriguing all in unison.
The world and the characters captured me, and the story took me on an unexpected journey of twists and turns. The conclusion lead to much bigger stakes than one could have seen coming, and was wrapped up with flare and satisfaction. Despite, all the wonderful quests in this book, it feels like just the tip of the iceberg, and there is so much more to this world below.
I enjoyed this book so much; I am upset it took me so long to pick it up. I would recommend Neverwhere to any fantasy fans that are looking for something completely different from the typical novels. An easy 4/5, with high hopes that Gaiman is soon ready to produce a well-deserved sequel.
Thanks booknerds, and be kind to strangers, you never know what realm they come from.