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4.5 out of 5 stars
Neverwhere
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2015
There are a few things I need to clear up before I get into the bones of this review. The first is that I started reading Neverwhere because I’m getting involved with a London book club, and as the first host I was able to take my pick of the titles that the club will discuss – the only catch is that all of the books are London-themed. I actually studied London in Literature as a module at university and so a lot of the books on the list were books that I’d already read. But I’ve read some Gaiman before and this one was new to me, so it was a no-brainer.

The second thing that I wanted to mention was the sad death of Terry Pratchett, a personal hero of mine, due to Alzheimer’s disease. Pratchett passed away whilst I was reading this, which brought his death home even closer – I’ve already read Good Omens, which Pratchett and Gaiman wrote together, and the two authors were close friends. On the blurb of the book, Wired even says that it’s “the sort of book Terry Pratchett might produce if he spent a month locked in a cell with Franz Kafka.”

I’m not going to talk more about Pratchett, nor indeed about London apart from to point out that the novel is set in the city and, to a certain extent, underneath it. The locations in the book do, of course, help to define it, but it’s the characters and the story line which really grip you – loosely speaking, we follow a loose band of heroes through the murky underworld of a second London, which thrives beneath the streets and in the sewers.

It’s a vividly-described and thoroughly engrossing hybrid between a sociological satire and an honest-to-goodness fantasy novel, with elements of other genres thrown in. If London is a melting pot for different cultures, Gaiman’s work is a melting pot for different genres, and it’s fascinating to see how they’ve evolved over time and formed their own unique fusion.

This might not be Gaiman’s finest work, but it is still a fantastic piece in its own right, and it’s one that’s definitely worth reading if you get a chance to do so.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2012
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I loved this very clever book. It is a fantasy book but in fact you slip into the fantasy quite seamlessly and it comes as a shock when you suddenly realise that you have been drawn into this strange world of London Below.

I was hooked from the very start with the lovable, slightly naive Richard and his increasingly bizarre adventures in both London as we know it and the London we perhaps hope never to know.

When I next travel on the London Underground I will be looking more closely for London Below peeping out. The Underground will never again feel quite the same to me!

What a clever concept of an underside of London (London Below), just lurking beneath the surface and occasionally leaking out into London Above(our world). What to some of us is mundane and familiar is suddenly transformed into the exotic. And nothing is quite what it seems.

The hero (?) Richard, was so sweet & funny and the other characters were well rounded and appropriately scary as befits centuries of living in a strange parallel world. The ingenious use of their names only added to the bizarre feel of that world and raises an "ahhh that's clever" when one encounters someone like Old Bailey, Black Friars or Angel Islington.

Basically it is a book about trust, sacrifice and betrayal, it's beautifully balanced with just the right amount of cruel and saintly characters who don't always stay in their supposed personalities. But beneath it all it's a metaphor that shows how in our real life cities how invisible certain people can become, easily slipping through the net!

I know that Neverwhere was made into a TV show but sadly Neil Gaiman wasn't really happy with it.

I can't wait to read more of Neil's tales.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
As I mentioned in my review of The Graveyard Book I picked up both a copy of it and of Neverwhere on Portobello Road Market. This was to solve the gap in my reading that was called Neil Gaiman. After falling in love with Bod and The Graveyard Book, I decided to read Neverwhere during a few days at home due to illness, just to cheer myself up. And cheer me up it most definitely did. I thought it was brilliant! I really loved this story, as it's a modern fairytale and I adored the setting.

Unlike Un Lun Dun - comparisons are unavoidable as I read these two so closely together - Neverwhere is recognisably tied to London's true Underground, if only by the names of places visited, where UnLondon's similarities are more tied to the above-ground London. Having just visited London last June, I had fun spotting the different stations and figuring out whether we'd gotten on or off the trains there. I liked that the names didn't just refer to places, but people too. Earl's Court, for example, has a true Earl and Blackfriars was inhabited by monks.

The protagonists of the book, Richard and Door, were fun characters. Richard is your regular working class guy, stuck in his job, engaged to a woman who doesn't actually treat him very well and all in all, he doesn't seem to be very happy in his life. Despite this he has the courage, or perhaps the decency is a better word, to help the young girl that suddenly appears on the pavement before him and his fiancée when they are on the way to an important dinner, ignoring the dire threats his fiancée throws at him if he doesn't leave the girl be and comes along. And suddenly Richard turns out not to be as regular and boring as he always thought. It's the beginning of a magical journey of self-discovery for Richard and I liked how he discovers that his 'old' life isn't enough for him any more after he's discovered his courage in Neverwhere. Door on the other hand knows her courage and her place and thus is a perfect foil for Richard. She's feisty and knows what she wants and how to get it and at times she can be ruthless in getting what she needs. The one thing I found a little disconcerting in the two's relationship was the romantic overtone between them, as Door is supposedly a teen and Richard an adult.

The secondary characters in the novel are fantastic. Most of them were somewhat sinister, even if they were on our heroes' team. The Marquis De Carabas and The Earl, the Black Friars, they all behaved a little off at times. The only characters which I never doubted were, Old Bailey and Anaesthesia, they alone seem Richard's unconditional allies. Jessica was a wonderful creation in her atrocity, she embodies all the bad characteristics women can have in a relationship, from being domineering, to deciding she'll fix Richard and help him become as ambitious as she is and she thinks he ought to be. She set my teeth on edge every time she hit the page. Messires Croup and Vandemar are truly creepy! They are the evil sidekicks from hell and they were very freaky and gruesome. These two and Jessica show how well Gaiman can write a villain, because they were some of the better villains I've ever read.

With an intricate plot, containing a couple of twists I hadn't seen coming at all, Neverwhere was totally enjoyable, a perfect read for a day spent in bed, and comes highly recommended. After The Graveyard Book, Neverwhere has reaffirmed Mr Gaiman's superstar status for me and I will definitely be searching out his other novels. If you haven't read any Gaiman, you really should because his works will be the classics of the future!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 September 2010
Having previously read a few Neil Gaiman novels I knew pretty much what I was in for in purchasing 'Neverwhere'. So it is fairly easy for me to say if you are normally a Neil Gaiman fan it is safe to say you will love this. I know many people will probably have got their first taste of Neil Gaiman by watching 'Stardust'. As a word of caution to these people, I would not call 'Stardust' Gaiman's usual style of story and adapting it for the big screen furthered that separation. To these people I would recommend reading the book of 'Stardust' before moving onto his longer novels such as 'Neverwhere', just so as not to leave you too surprised by what you might find.

I don't want to deal too much in specifics in this review so as not to spoil the story but, as I have said, this is most definitely a Neil Gaiman work. He has taken something that millions of people know, the city of London, and dealt with it in a slightly left field manner so that, by the end of the novel, you as the reader look at it in a much different way. Richard Mayhew's journey of self-discovery becomes the reader's too, as he questions himself and the situation he finds himself in, so does the reader question his position in and reactions to the world. This, in my opinion, is Gaiman's true art: his ability to right fantastical fiction about situations people just would not encounter, but make them resonate with everyone.

Really the only thing I can say against 'Neverwhere' is that I feel it lacks characterisation to quite the same depth found in 'American Gods', for example. While I cared about and felt fully engaged in the world of London Below the characters found therein and their quest, I don't feel that I knew as much about them as I found in 'American Gods' or even 'Stardust' but this only affected me because I had those reference points as a comparison.

In conclusion, I would suggest this book to anyone with an inkling of interest in the fantasy genre, but if you are unsure give 'Stardust' a go first as stepping stone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 May 2010
Gaiman has a talent for writing stories which mix the everyday with the fantastic in a way that makes you think again about both, its truly enthralling and something I really enjoy in any book. He also has a talent for telling tales in the way Grimm's fairtales are told but with the more contemporary context they truly come across as being as grizzly as they are great.

I hadnt known about or seen the TV show (Neverwhere - The Complete BBC Series [1996] [DVD]) but I figure that this, the authors preferred text, is both more grizzly and fantastical than a TV production could be (as the saying about reading goes "The pictures are better"). Having read the book I think that the graphic novel does a good job of depicting the characters, perhaps coming closer than the TV show (Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere").

It is the story of Richard Mayhew whose actions as a good samaritan rebound upon him as he fades from our reality and has to navigate the terrifying and treacherous world of "london below" a magical, fantastical and terrible place, lawless in the main and populated by the destitute, the creates of fables and nightmares. Mayhew is set on making his way back home and having his old life once more but first must play his part in the intrigue playing out in London below.

If you have enjoyed Gaiman's other books you will surely enjoy this one, if you like fantasy you'll enjoy this tale too and perhaps if you like moral or adventure stories you'll like it too. I liked it and it reminded me a little of Morlock Night in its depiction of the underworld or perhaps The London Underworld in the Victorian Period: v. 1: Authentic First-person Accounts by Beggars, Thieves and Prostitutes or London Labour and the London Poor (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This was impressive writing. I was caught in the world of Richard Mayhew and could not leave it until the last page was turned. What a strange world Gaiman describes - an underworld to our world.
When Richard Mayhew comes into contact with Door, he somehow ceases to exist in the overworld - or our world. People don't see him any longer, and there is no electronic record of his existence. So Richard goes into the underworld to find Door and get his old life back. After having found her, he joins in her quest and this in turn changes him.
My 4 comes from the ending of the book. It was a bit obvious. But this book was a thoroughly enjoyable read.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2002
I don't know how many of you may remember the BBC T.V. series of Neverwhere (if you live in the States even more so). I still have a battered first edition knocking around on my shelf at home. Well read but happy.
TV never quite did this justice, and the important thing I realised from re-reading this novel recently is that from doing so I now find very hard to picture it on TV at all. Neither can I picture it transferred as a graphic novel - the form Gaiman is most accreditted to. This is a work all of its own.
London below is a brilliant, ironic, dark an foreboding place with fascinates with each new place and character we are shown. I find myself believing that it almost could exist, and Gaiman's use of local historical knowledge and re-working the tube map creates a giant world of which i am left wanting to see more after the book has been finished and returned to the shelf.
For the snooty who think of Gaiman as a lesser writer for finding fame in graphic novels, I would strongly suggest you read this book. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
For those who don't have such strange heirs and graces read it also. I did and I've been smitten ever since.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2004
Neil Gaiman's main character in this book is Richard Mayhew: a bright young man, a Scot living in London for the past 3 years, in securities, a pleasant personality and content to be dominated by his bossy and ambitious girlfriend, Jessica, who recognises his potential. His life is unexciting at this point and consists mainly of working, trailing around museums and art galleries after Jessica and doing as he's told. Then one night, in the midst of obeying Jessica, they encounter a girl - a young woman bleeding on the pavement. Richard's a good chap and goes to help her. Jessica is mortified at the idea of Richard making her late and dirtying his suit to help the poor muck encrusted girl. Richard disobediently picks her up and takes her home. Jessica dis-engages him. His adventure begins.
The girl, Door is her name, is a denizen of London Below: a vast city and a different world, where time is different to London Above, there are extraordinary people with special magical skills, people who can talk to rats and birds, ancient, legendary individuals and societies, mythical creatures, an angel, demon-types, vampire-types, darkness with a will. The world is tribal, feudal and competitive. Rivalries can be deadly. The rivalries are put aside on market days. The floating market congeals in different locations. Nobody knows who decides where, but the news of a market is passed from person to person and hordes of buyers and sellers arrive at the appointed time and place. Richard is plunged into this world. He is no longer properly visible to the people of London Above, indicating that he has fallen through the cracks and is now part of London Below. Door is in terrible danger, pursued by the monsters that slaughtered her family. She doesn't know why. She has many friends and she's highly respected in the world below. Richard joins the small group assisting Door in her quest to discover the truth and avenge her family. Richard has to change, grow, focus, toughen up and generally adapt to this hard, dangerous and disturbingly interesting environment.
It's a gripping and imaginative plot. Some of the characters are not very plausible but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of the story, once having committed myself to total suspension of disbelief. Anyone who likes fantasy will be likely to enjoy this.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2003
Neil Gaiman uses London as the backdrop of a tale about an average business man who has to escape from the underside, an alternate London made up of sewers, tube stations and doors that lead into strange and dangerous places. Gaiman adds believability to this strange tale by describing real London locations and even Harrods gets a mention. You really feel Gaiman loves talking about London, and you can picture the events in the novel unfold within the dark alley ways, damp sewers, and eerie tube stations of London.
Gaiman's other strength is the way he introduces the grotesque yet majestic characters. You feel he really loves the characters he writes about and none of them are ignored as characters that appear briefly in the novel still remain in the readers mind.
The novel is quite a dark novel but it is written with some wit especially when we see Richard Mayhew's view point as he struggles to come to terms with the new world he has entered and his dilemma of trying to escape, but inevitably secures emotional relationships with the characters he meets and at times there are many tender moments that touches the reader emotionally.
The novel is a triumph of fantasy. It's the sort of novel that introduces strange sets of circumstances that makes the reader feel like the main character Richard lost and somewhat confused, but then with each page the puzzle is revealed, and it's how Gaiman leads the reader through this wonderful world that is the novels biggest achievement.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I bought and read this having just finished and enjoyed Gaiman's latest novel, 'The Ocean at the End of the Garden', and whilst equally beautiful, 'Neverwhere' is entirely different in it's style. I bought Neverwhere while staying with my parents and was so devastated to realise I had left it behind having not finished reading it that I bought another copy the moment I got home, rather than wait for them to post it to me. The writing, as well as being slick and well crafted, is also very humorous - 'laugh out loud so people look at you' humorous. I found myself anticipating the calamities and reading them half squinting, terrified, rushing to get to some form of resolution only for the next impending disaster to leap out of no where. It touched on different areas of mythology with ease and conviction. However, what makes this book is the characters. The relationships I felt towards the main characters felt much more like something that would develop over a series rather than just a single book. You love them in spite of all their obvious flaws and root for them all, even when you perhaps shouldn't. I am just sad that it had to end. Buy it now
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