by Neil Gaiman
Published by Harper Perennial in 2003 (first published in 1996).
Neil Gaiman is an interesting author for me. His fans are almost religious in their praise of him, and people trust his judgment, his writing, his words, almost without question. Even I have fallen prey to this idea – that everything Neil Gaiman does is awesome – but, for some reason, I’ve never really found myself enjoying his books as much as I think I should.
I started my Gaiman reading experience with Stardust (after I saw the film), then read Good Omens (at the time I was a big Terry Pratchett reader), and now I’ve finally finished Neverwhere. I say ‘finally’ because I started reading the book about 6 years ago, as a freshman in college. I read the first 100 pages in one sitting and then I just stopped reading. There was no rhyme or reason to why I stopped; I just did. And once I did, I didn’t feel compelled to pick up the book again for six years.
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. (Goodreads)
I wouldn’t say I was disappointed by the book. I was just underwhelmed, and I can’t really explain why.
I thought the world-building in the book was well done. Gaiman is certainly adept at building a scene and setting the mood (creepy, mysterious, ordinary, and extraordinary). The characters were also well-rounded, all with distinguishable personalities (my favorite, hands down, was the marquis de Carabas). . I thought the female characters were especially well done – Hunter, Door, and even Richard’s annoying fiancé were real people with their own thoughts, feelings, and motives. There was a sense of urgency and danger to everything the characters went through, and the stakes were kept pretty high the whole book.
Overall there wasn’t really anything bad about the book, and there was actually a lot of good, but I still can’t help but feel a sense of apathy when I think of Neverwhere. The book seemed very original (in concept and setting), but I still felt like I’d read/seen it before. In the end, Neverwhere is almost as forgettable as the characters of London Below are to the characters that populate London Above.
While there wasn’t anything technically wrong with Neverwhere, I thought it was pretty forgettable… Fans of Neil Gaiman will probably chop my head off for this review.
I’ve read Stardust, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), and Neverwhere. I’ve heard good things about all of his other books (American Gods, Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Graveyard Book)… despite my apathy towards the three books I’ve read, should I give one/some of his other books a shot? Which ones are worth reading?