Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman


Continuing on my Kindle tour of Neil Gaiman (see here and here), I next turned to Neverwhere Gaiman’s first full length novel. The book started out as a screenplay for a BBC miniseries but Gaiman developed it into a full length novel so he could enjoy the total control that comes from being a stand along author rather than part of the film making process.

Here is the basic plot: Richard Mayhew is your average young businessman working in London. He has a job, an apartment, and an attractive – if high maintenance – girlfriend. An the way to a date with his girlfriend and her boss he stops to help an injured young woman and ends up bringing her back to his apartment to recover.

This simple act, plunges him into a frightening new world known as the London below; a shadowy surreal world somehow below and beyond the London he knows. The young women soon disappears but Richard’s life will never be the same. Somehow his regular life has been erased. He is no longer visible by those around him. His apartment is rented out from under him. His credit cards no longer work. He is a non-person as far as the world he once inhabited knows. In order to have any hope of getting his life back he must track down the women he helped and join her quest in this mysterious and dangerous world.

Like all of Gaiman’s work, Neverwhere is an imaginative and creative story and it posits an alternative world in which his lead character must complete a quest. But for some reason this book didn’t really grab me in the same way the others did. This one seemed to mirror my reaction to American Gods: interesting but a little messy and not quite as captivating.

I will admit that it could have been that I was distracted, but something I wrote about American Gods applies: “It was as if the journey was interesting but I am not sure I would want to take the same trip again.” The story itself was interesting and their were twists and turns to keep up the suspense. There were lots of interesting characters and some of them particularly well done (the Marquis for example or the heavies Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar). But all of the ingredients didn’t come together in as satisfying way for me. With Stardust I was always want to block out some time so I could read it. With Neverwhere it wasn’t like I struggled to keep reading but it wasn’t something that was always on my mind; it wasn’t one of those books that I always wanted to be reading it.

As this was his first novel, it seems likely that he honed his craft and that his later books benefited from that. On the other hand, maybe this one just didn’t strike a nerve with me. But even so, Neverwhere is an entertaining read. Just for the imagination and creativity involved. Gaiman is certainly an author whose latest work I will always want to check out. And for that reason alone, I am glad I read Neverwhere so I can better appreciate the arc of his overall career.

Obviously, Gaiman fans will have read Neverwhere long before I stumbled upon it. If you haven’t yet read any of his work you might choose to read chronologically. Or you could just dip in randomly like I did. Either way, I am glad I decided to read more of this by now world famous author. He is one of those few hugely popular figures whose popularity seems deserved.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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