Monday, May 7, 2012

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Wow.  I haven't written a book review for quite some time.  I hope it's like riding a bike.
I read Gaiman's Neverwhere back in March and rushed through it.  My family was wowed at my ability to fly the sofa with this book in my hand.  Gaiman wrote this in 1996 and it is a perfectly dark urban fantasy.


Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk.  His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed.  There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them.  And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew.   (from the book cover)

I had trouble getting into it for the first few chapters and even sent a text to my stepdaughter to see what she thought about this title.  She is a HUGE Gaiman fan and her advice was to keep going; it was going to be worth it.  So I settled in and plugged away until I couldn't give it up.

Richard is a wonderfully simple guy who easily morphs into a modern hero.  His only superpower is his naivete and his kindness.  He wants to believe people are what they say they are and he thinks he wants the life his overbearing fiancee, Jessica, has created for him.  Thankfully he rescues himself when he stops to care for Door.  Great name, Gaiman, because once he's met Door he enters a completely foreign world with monsters and angels plus ordinary people who have quite literally fallen through life's cracks.  Neverwhere is multi-layered and fantastically written.

One of my favorite sections is when Richard, after getting Door to her destination,  returns to his office, Jessica's office and his apartment only to find his life doesn't exist.  Wouldn't that be a truly horrid nightmare?

"Jessica.  Thank God.  Listen, I think I'm going mad or something.  It started when I couldn't get a taxi this morning, and then the office and the Tube and---" He showed her his ragged sleeve. "It's like I've become some kind of a non-person." She smiled at him some more,  reassuringly.  "Look," said Richard.  "I'm sorry about the other night.  Well, not about what I did, but about upsetting you, and ...look, I'm sorry, and it's all crazy, and I don't honestly know what to do." 
And Jessica nodded, and continued to smile sympathetically, and then she said, "You're going to think I'm absolutely awful, but I have a really dreadful memory for faces.  Give a second, and I know I'll get it." 
And at that point, Richard knew that is was real, and a heavy dread settled in the pit of his stomach.  Whatever madness was happening that day was really happening.  (61)

Brilliantly creepy.  Richard, begging for his non-life back, knows even then he wouldn't change helping Door.  A hero who doesn't know or want to be a hero is always the most fun to read about.

Find N. Gaiman here @ Neil Gaiman and on twitter.

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