Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

Release date: 16 September 1996
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★★ – 10/10
Goodreads link
Book Depository link

Neverwhere blurb:

UNDER THE STREETS OF LONDON…

It’s a place where 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.

WOW.  My friend Ekho was not wrong when they said this book was a fairytale for adults.  I am blown away.  And not just that, I want more. More! MOOOOOOAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRR!!!

Gaiman is a master story-teller.  Every time I thought I had something figured out, it was really just him lulling me into a false sense of security before ripping the carpet out from under me again.  They aren’t plot twists so much as explosions in your subconscious while you read.  Every turn is so well calculated that there’s a hidden meaning in every flinch, every blink and every whisper.  It’s nearly as though you’re reading two books at once — the book on the surface that you’re enjoying, and the book underneath where everything is actually occurring… rather much like London itself in this amazing story.

One of the things that I love that Gaiman does is weave together other fairy tales.  Take for instance, this quote from Alice Through the Looking Glass:

… Why, sometimes I’ve believed six impossible things before breakfast.

Gaiman takes this, and morphs it into his own little ode to Lewis Carroll in the following paragraph:

It was then that Richard began to laugh; he couldn’t help himself. There was a hysteria in there, certainly, but there was also the exhaustion of someone who had managed, somehow, to believe several dozen impossible things in the last twenty-four hours, without ever getting a proper breakfast.

The characters are a raggedy bunch of misfits, and there are no small characters.  The mains are Richard Mayhew, a boring financial something living in London Above; Door, a small child-like creature who may of nobility and has a knack for locked objects; the Marquis de Carabas, a shady creature who seems to sneer disdainfully at everyone; and Hunter, a hunter.  You then also have the shady and villainous Mr Croup and Mr Vandemeer, who are both so ghastly that it’s really not worth me providing you a description, as you meet them very quickly, and Gaiman describes them both so lovingly.

Part of what I love about Urban Fantasy novels is that you already know and understand the world that they take place in, but in actual fact, I’m not sure that Neverwhere qualifies as an urban fantasy as there is a whole other world created in this story.  London Below may be based on the bits of London that fell between the cracks, but it has a magical beauty all of its own.  While all the places are real places, they really aren’t real at all.

Basically what I’m trying to get through here is that the novel is amazing.  Maybe not the best thing I’ve read this year, but it is 100% a 10 star read.  I highly recommend it, and when I get back to London, I might just try walking down some back alleys and speaking to rats… you know, just to see what happens!

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