#40: Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman

I always try to stay away from those things that are built up to mounds of hype.  It is always a great pleasure to find them later in life when everyone is no longer chattering about those things, so I can enjoy them on my own without exponentially built-up expectations.

That is what happened with the writing of Neil Gaiman. A few years ago, everyone on the train I was taking read American Gods.  I began it and, I suppose because of the hype, could not finish.  I was quite disappointed with the chronology; I was confused.  I kept having to go back and re-read pages because I couldn’t believe what I had just read.  Fortunately, I re-began it in my quest to read the top 100 fantasy novels and was thrilled.  Because of my love for this novel, I have begun reading as many of his books as possible.  Here, we’ll talk about Neverwhere, number 40 on my list.

Neverwhere reminded me a little of “The Wizard of Oz” (movie).  The main character, Richard, a boring ol’ chap, finds himself caught in a world between the worlds after saving the life of a young woman named Door, who he finds bleeding in the street.  In this strange land, called Under London, he finds a floating market and an underground home of an angel.  Along with new acquaintances, he has to pass certain tests with the hope to save Under London and get back home.  The story is fraught with mysteries and puzzles to solve.  Oh, and I just love when authors use names as a way to tell the reader something about the character.  Here, the name Door is an obvious representation of that character’s ability to open things.  Little secrets, even when so obvious, make me wonder what else I might miss and keep me quite engaged.

Gaiman’s ability to take boring young male characters on adventures is spot-on.  All three of his novels I have read (Anansi Boys is the other, and I’ll review that soon!) use the same premise (boring guy meets some crazy person, goes on an adventure, saves the world – you know, the usual) but not to the point of feeling formulaic.  The characters are different guys, with different interests.

This novel first began as a television show in London and was not highly regarded. There is a comic book, and soon a radio version of the work to be released as well.  It is especially interesting, while reading this novel, to imagine the book having not been written first.  As Gaiman wrote the story, he would have had to imagine the characters in a similar sense to the television portrayal.  It’d be interesting to know whether people who enjoy the television show enjoyed the book.

What a clever, modern author Gaiman is.  Incorporating his writing into television shows, radio shows, and comic books (Sandman is amazing, more on that later).  He must have no fear of being irrelevant too soon.  Reading his Tweets daily keeps him, as an author, in my mind, and makes me curious about reading more of his work.  I’m excited for his newest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane to be released here in the United States in 14 weeks, 1 day, 9 hours, 13 minutes from right now.

Here’s an excerpt from the Neverwhere television show in case you’re interested; this part takes place early in the novel so no surprises will be ruined if you decide to pick up this book.


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