Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Natanya's Ramblings on "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman

Title/Author: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Publisher/Year Published:
HarperCollins 1996
How I got this book: Bought used from Powell’s (awesome bookstore in Portland, Oregon)
Why I read this book: It sounded like my kind of book
As a fan of dystopian literature (Brave New World and The Handmaid’s Tale in particular), I was drawn to Gaiman’s creation of an alternate universe beneath London. His story begins when his protagonist, Richard Mayhew, discovers a young girl on the side of the road. After bringing her to his flat and helping her get back to her world, he discovers that he no longer exists in London Above, the London he has always known. Instead, he can only be seen or heard by those living in London Below, a dank, dangerous, and unpredictable world. With the companionship of Door, the girl he aided, Richard embarks on a perilous journey to discover who hired assassins to kill Door’s family and to find his way back into existence within London Above.
Having seen this novel on many lists and read dozens of raving reviews, I expected to get sucked into Gaiman’s universe, unable to leave until I finished reading. While I certainly enjoyed the novel, I read through it at a relatively leisurely pace and, until I neared the end, had little trouble putting it down. Gaiman’s story is unique, darkly humorous, and at times gruesome enough to make me shudder, but I suppose it leaves something to be desired. London Below is an interesting place, but it is also confusing, maze-like, and definitely an underdeveloped part of the story. While at times it exists in the sewers, literally beneath London, most of the time it is more of a parallel world to London, containing the same places in another dimension. Perhaps this was Gaiman’s intent—to leave the world hanging in between London and a complete parallel universe—but it tends to make the novel a bit confusing. What I did enjoy, however, was Gaiman’s use of real places—particularly tube stations—within the world of London Below, giving backstory and meaning to strange station names like Earl’s Court, which, in London Below, truly houses an earl with his court.
Although certain aspects of the plotline were predictable, it had many interesting twists (and Richard’s sheer ignorance) to keep it away from the overused hero’s journey movie plotline. But unfortunately, by the end of the book I did not feel that I really knew the characters, beyond Richard’s whininess and very slow ability to comprehend all that happened to him. While I certainly enjoyed the novel, I could not say that it “blew me away” or that it had any lasting impression on me. Perhaps it is one of those books that require a rereading to pick up on all of the little details and references, but I doubt that I will reread it.
All in all, I do not regret reading Neverwhere and would recommend it fans of fantasy, dark humor, and Neil Gaiman.
Rating: 3.5 stars


  1. Natanya--I felt the same exact way about this novel! It was my first Gaiman novel so I was just expecting something amazing and that I wouldn't be able to put down. The end was the only place that I flew through as well. I didn't feel connected to any of the characters at all! Great review!

  2. I actually really enjoyed this one, I liked it much better than his other book for adults I've read, American Gods; I flew right through this. I still find that his children's books are my favorite though.

  3. I felt like this about Neverwhere as well. And I really wanted to like it, too. I'd liked the Sandman comics and Gaiman seems like a really nice guy, but in the end my main reaction to Neverwhere was pretty much just, well, "meh". It was kind of entertaining while it lasted, but that's about it, imho.

  4. Oh man, this is definitely going on my to-read list. The blog is going to make my book buying go out of control! :)

  5. I love Good Omens so I picked up American Gods. Have yet to read that yet, but I thought of Neverwhere. Now I don't know if I'll enjoy American Gods or not. Hopefully I do, I really loved this author with Good Omens. Thanks for the review, it was very useful as my book shop doesn't carry anything else of Gaiman's and if I have to wait to order...I want it to be really, really good.

  6. While this isn't my favorite Gaiman book, it's one that's higher on my list. The scene where they are crossing the bridge at the beginning makes me really sad.

    In other Gaiman news, on IMDB a movie is listed as in development for The Graveyard Book!

  7. The only Gaiman book I've read is The Graveyard Book which I adored! I've been meaning to tackle his adult literature for a while now. I still haven't decided which one though

  8. I still haven't read The Handmaid’s Tale and really want to. I like dytopia themes and from what I hear The Handmaid’s Tale is a must read. I've yet to read anything by Gaiman either. But I think I'll wait on him for a little while.

  9. Neverwhere is an enjoyable read but I did enjoy The Graveyard Book much more. You must read The Handmaid's Tale, very readable and will stay with you forever.


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