The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.
“Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks. Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.”
I’ve been working my way through Neil Gaiman’s adult fiction, and it is really good, Neverwhere being no exception. It’s a deliciously eerie and darkly humorous story, and I really enjoyed it. The book is early Gaiman and I suppose you can tell that he’s experimenting, but I still loved the creative plotline and the writing, which is inventive, enthralling, and amazingly descriptive. I almost wanted to touch the words. American Gods might be a bit more ambitious of a novel, but in some ways Neverwhere is better; it’s certainly much more atmospheric.
Neverwhere is by turns humorous and disturbing. One humorous part was at the very beginning when Richard is trying to confirm a reservation he totally forgot about. The person on the other end’s tone implies that “a table for tonight should certainly have been booked years before – perhaps, it was implied, by Richard’s parents. A table for tonight was impossible: if the pope, the prime minister, and the president of France arrived without a confirmed reservation, even they would be turned out into the street with a continental jeer” (pg. 15). There are also certain sequences that are quite nightmarish, such as when no one remembers Richard, not even his fiancee. I have a theory about this; the less people knew him, the more invisible he is to them. Complete strangers can’t see Richard at all, a colleague at work can barely keep her attention on him, a good friend has no idea who he is, and his fiancee just manages to recollect his first name, if not his last. The beginning of his plunge is of course him helping Door, the wounded girl, but when he’s turned out of his apartment, he must enter the other side of London in earnest.
Neil Gaiman is amazingly creative; I don’t know where he comes up with the multi-faceted worlds in his novels. American Gods, Neverwhere, and Stardust all take place in unique realms just below the surface of mundane, regular life.
There are some really inventive characters in this novel. I enjoyed the character of Door, and also Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar who are really, really scary. They basically live to torture people, and the scenes with them were so chilling. Perhaps these two characters aren’t so inventive; they’re pretty much typical supernatural villains who enjoy torture and eating things that no human being eats. There are a lot of other characters though, who are so weird and different, like the marquis, Hunter, and many, many others in the strange realm that Richard enters. Door is an interesting character. It’s impossible for Richard and everyone else to tell what color her eyes are, “not blue, or green, or brown, or gray; they [remind] him of fire opals: there [are] burning greens and blues, and even reds and yellows that vanished and glinted as she move[s].” (pg. 39). That was just one of the many beautiful descriptions in Neverwhere.
Perhaps some sections of the book were a bit bogged down, but overall the book proceeded at a fairly good pace, and I was seldom bored. There were many twists and turns, and sickening events, and all in all this was a thoroughly good Gaiman novel.