Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

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I was in one of those moods where it felt like ages since I read something magical. There’s a lot going on in real life that feels so different and messy. It’s like one of those montage scenes in movies about the Vietnam War where you just see one depressing headline after another followed by shots of soldiers in the fields fighting for something they don’t understand. The world seems to be just holding it together and the only cure for that kind of reality is escapism.

I started reading Neverwhere as my Halloween read. I can’t read a lot of thriller or horror without having a massive anxiety attack, so I went for fantasy instead. We start off with a guy named Richard Mathew who is your typical bored working guys. He has a girlfriend and a steady job and one of those old school Ashton Kutcher faces where you can’t help but to crush on him.

One day as he’s walking with his girlfriend to dinner, he notices a girl laying on the ground bleeding out. He finds himself wanting to help her even though he has no clue who she is. He ditches dinner with his girlfriend and takes this near-death stranger back home. Little does he know what exciting events will follow.

Richard finds out the girl’s name is Door and she is the only surviving royal family member of this underground city called London Below. She is being hunted down by two goons who have other plans for her. Ever since Richard meets this girl, his entire life has changed. His girlfriend doesn’t know who he is and his job doesn’t remember him being there. Everything seems like a big joke until he realizes that he’s

I’m a huge fan of Neil Gaiman. He’s probably one of those authors that I’ll end up reading their entire body of work. Neverwhere is his first novel from what feels like millions of years ago, but I think it’s one of those timeless pieces of work that will never get old.

This is not your kid’s fantasy novel. There’s fighting and violence. There’s anger and mystery.  There’s, thankfully, no love which is great because if Gaiman forced a love scene between Door and Richard, I would have shot him that 1-star review.

I love that we get to learn about the London Below along with Richard Mayhew who is just coming to grips with it himself. I love the incorporation of this urban setting. It’s magical realism at its finest without being like Murakami weird with a strange egg form growing in the corner of your room (1Q84 reference).

I absolutely loved how he incorporated the homeless population. In this story, those who are homeless aren’t always just strung-out junkies or people suffering from mental illness. As Gaiman describes it, they’re folks that have fallen through the cracks of society. They use trades and bartering for money. They’ve built an entire world around the real world. I honestly wish I can be a part of it at least to feel like a little magic still exists.

However, it wasn’t the perfect Gaiman. I think that my favorite of his novels will always be American Gods, but this does rank pretty high to the top. I will admit that I was pretty exhausted while I was reading, so many times I tried to read I fell asleep. It made it difficult to keep track of the story and read the descriptions. I may give this another read in the future when I can fairly judge this work.

The writing was a bit too descriptive and I felt like there were definitely some redundant lines here and there. However, I can also see this being a movie in the future. I love the character descriptions and in the illustrated version you get to really envision something Neil Gaiman was considering. It was like Harry Potter, but if he didn’t find out he was a wizard until he was in his thirties. What do you do when you’ve run out of imagination and a mysterious girl lands in your lap?

You can get a copy of Neverwhere Illustrated Edition on Amazon.com

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