BookBin2010: Neverwhere

A little late on posting this one. I actually finished this book almost a week ago, and I started writing this review around the same time. I don’t know why I’ve had such a block when it comes to finishing it though.

So, Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman’s 1996 story of the events that take place in “London Below.” Apparently, this was a companion piece to a television series of the same name, released by the BBC. I’ve never seen it, obviously, since I didn’t even know it existed until about 5 minutes ago when I saw the DVDs on Amazon.com.

This is the story of Richard Mayhew, a rather unassuming young man who leaves his home in Scotland to move to jolly old Londontown to seek his fortune. He finds a job he doesn’t like all that much and a girlfriend who doesn’t really like him all that much. Otherwise, his is a life less extraordinary. Until the day he stumbles (literally) upon a mysterious young woman named Door, badly injured and in need of help.

Ever hear the saying “No good deed goes unpunished”? Richard learns the true extent of this phrase after he takes Door back to his apartment and tends to her injuries. See, she’s from London Below, a strange realm that exists beneath London as we know it. Most of the time, those from this realm can pass among the people of London Above without being noticed. The fact that Richard can see Door is a blessing to her, but definitely a curse to him. Suddenly, he begins to attract more and more attention from residents of London Below, including a pair of the creepiest assassins in the history of creepy. Even worse, his existence in London Above becomes increasingly tenuous. His girlfriend has forgotten him, his job shows no records of him, his friends don’t even acknowledge him.

What to do? Go Below. Help Door discover who killed her family and why, dodge the assassins Croup and Vandemar, get drunk with an angel, flirt with Hunter, and maybe just maybe figure out how to get back to the life he once knew in London Above.

This is where Gaiman truly shines, creating a fantastical world of sights, sounds, and extraordinary characters. The journey our heroes must travel is rather Ozian by way of Edward Gorey, and the richness of Gaiman’s world is both thorough and stunning. All that aside, there was something about the story itself that never really reeled me in. I never felt enraptured. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the story. There are elements to this tale that I absolutely loved. Holistically, however, I felt that it was a pretty run-of-the-mill tale embedded into another of Gaiman’s wonderfully imagined worlds.

Final Verdict: I have a surprising degree of ambiguity about whether or not I want to hold on to this book (which actually tips the scales in favor of letting it go). It was a present, but it was purchased because I asked for it, not because someone thought I might like it. And while I do love Neil Gaiman and I did think this was a relatively enjoyable read, I’m hard-pressed to think of any occasion in which I’d want to go back and read this one again. So, I suppose that means I’m releasing it keeping it releasing it. This is definitely a book that I would recommend to those who are fans of fantasy tales, especially those written by someone as talented as Gaiman. However, I would recommend borrowing this one from the library or picking it up for cheap at a used book store or thrift store. Hey, one in my area will be selling a practically unused copy soon enough 😉