on 14 December 2004
Everybody traveling in London by Tube, is familiar with the loudspeaker's warning "Mind the Gap", that is the space between platform and train carriage. Reading Gaiman, "Gaps" takes on a much more complex meaning... People can fall through the cracks, literally, not only down onto the rails but much deeper, ending up in "London Below". Richard Mayhew, a young man with nothing much happening in his life, is an unlikely Samaritan. Still, when confronted with a choice he follows his charitable instinct and assists a wounded rag girl he finds lying in the street. To save her from her apparent killers he goes on a quest and from this moment his life turns into a rollercoaster of discovery and danger.
"Neverwhere" is a brilliant yarn of life in the underbelly of the city, with shady human characters, speaking rats and special "guides". There is more than one reality for sure. In London Above, Richard and the rag girl, named appropriately "Door", can be seen but not recalled beyond the moment. The real-life maze of London underground tunnels, hidden passageways and dead ends provide the existent, yet twisted, backdrop to the story. Time and distances have no meaning. The names of tube stations acquire new relevance: the Earl resides at Earl's Court, the black Friar monks are in Blackfriars and Islington is an Angel. Following Door and her unusual companions, Richard discovers the limits of his endurance. He has to question his existence and reality. While his desire to get back to his normal life keeps him going, his chances to shake loose from the shadowy underworld increasingly appear to diminish...
The novel, which expands on Gaiman's successful tv production, is a fascinating read, whether you know London or not (yet). His style is fluid and engaging, his characters are very much alive and moving the various layers of intrigue along at a good pace. [Friederike Knabe]
on 2 November 2002
Neil Gaiman's 'Underside' is a delight from start to finish. Richard Mayhew, a young Scot living and working in London, finds himself helping a young girl lying in a street who is being pursued by two sinister looking men. Reluctantly, he finds himself being drawn into a tangled web of a plot that leads him to an London Below, a London that exists both beneath London and as a parallel alternative universe London, a London where people live who 'fall through the cracks.' This London is highly inventive, richly detailed, and, despite the unrealness of it, convincing. I, for one, will never be able to take the London Underground again and wonder about the trains with darkened windows that go though the stations without stopping ' Do they carry the court of the Earl on it? And how did Earl's Court get its name? Or Baron's Court, for that matter? I shall certainly never go to Harrods or go on board HMS Belfast without thinking of the Floating Market. London Below is peopled with colourful and strange characters ' The Lady Door, The Marquis de Carabas, Hunter, The Angel Islington, (now didn't you just wonder how The Angel Islington got its name?) and many others, including the menacing Mr Vandemar and Mr Croup. This is the sort of book that Michael Moorcock would be writing if he was still writing decent books. Even if you don't know London, this book is still wonderful ' you will want to get to know it. The story is gripping and the writing is vivid and sharp. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Gaiman, by far, is the best writer writing fantasy today.
on 20 September 2002
Neverwhere is a fantastic piece of modern fantasy and I suggest that everyone who likes London and the surreal read it. I give it 5 stars, usually, but... DO NOT BUY THE AMERICAN VERSION!!! This is a British book, and the American version has been sorely edited. And I'm not talking about the second prologue, either. All my favorite lines are missing from the Avon printing. Apperantly Americans couldn't handle funny lines in serious scenes... So he edited out much good humour. Look, it's less good. Buy British!
on 19 September 2002
Neil Gaiman is a favourite writer of mine and this is a good showcase for his talent for his dark and potent imagination. Magically he takes that famously surreal map of the London Underground and twists it into something far stranger that lies beneath and behind the real London - a place where the famous station names come alive. Here we have a real angel called Islington, a Earl who holds court on his own underground carriage and a group of religious recluses known as the Black Friars (to name but a few).
As with all Gaiman's work, there is a great deal of dark themes in the book (The streets of London Below owe a lot to those areas of London above where the homeless live) and Gaiman makes sure this doesn't turn into a simple one joke idea. His characterisations are absolutely fantastic. Whilst Richard (the hero) is a fairly bland innocent abroad, he balances him against the sly, old Marquis de Carabas and the pantomime villany of Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar - a pair of vicious (and yet comic) characters who look to have shambled straight out of a Victorian nightmare.
The story itself is taut, beautifully-written, thought-provoking and a pleasure to read. Not a long read but one I'm sure you will come back to time after time.
on 14 June 2006
Richard Mayhew has just been "a Good Samaritan" to a girl lying bleeding on a London pavement, and has thereby ruined his entire life. The girl, you see, a young lady by the name of Door, is an important person in the world of "London Below", and some very unpleasant people are trying to kill her. By hiding her, Richard becomes "one of the people who fell through the cracks", invisible to the inhabitants of the normal world - London Above -and easy prey for the terrifying creatures of London Below. Until he finds Door again, and is sucked into her quest to find the murderers of her family...
Gaiman has created an eerie otherworld in the sewers of London and the tunnels and stations of the Underground that is complete in every detail and so interwoven with the "real" world that its frightening. Never having been to London, I'm starting to be a bit scared of the Tube Stations: real shepards at Shepards Bush (ones you don't ever want to meet), an earl in Earl's Court, saxophone players who live both in the Above and the Below, Old Bailey and Hammersmith are people, Knightsbridge is a bad neighbourhood...
And at the end you are left with enough answers to satisfy as concerns the main plotline, but not all the answers you want. There is so much detail in London Below that there are thousands of things begging to be explored and examined: The system of fiefdoms which apparently rules Below, but which is never really explained, the importance of Door's family, the Seven Sisters, the story of the swashbuckling, sardonic Marquis de Carabas (books could be written about him, he is undoubtably my favourite character) and more; really the list could go on forever. But that is what makes it all so convincing: Gaiman wastes no time explaining anything, he just tells the story. The spooky atmosphere and fast pace ensure that the somewhat predictable plot never gets boring - you don't even realise it was predictable until you come to the big showdown. And the end is just perfect.
on 7 January 2010
This story is uttery brilliant. It starts off like it is going to be a realistic novel but as you read on you get more and more attached to it. Its surreal twist of worlds grabs your imagination. I doubt anyone would be dissapointed with this novel. Neverwhere is the first Neil Gaiman book i read and i am already looking on amazon for more books by Neil Gaiman. I know it is not likely to happen but i really hope there is a follow up from Neverwhere. The ending leaves you happy but sad that it has ended and desperate to read more. This might seem a bit dramatic but it kind of of book that leaves you lonely when it ends as the story is sort of like a friend. You learn more about it and don't wish to leave it. when you finnish the novel it seems like it posesses that same empty feeling as one experiences when you have just had your family round for say a week and then they go and the house feels empty. I deeply recommend this book, i am only 13 but i understood it i think it is more for people a little older than i so i wouldn't recommend it to someone below my age.READ IT. If you open your mind to it, then it will be in your top 10 books.
on 2 March 2012
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!
on 18 February 2006
This is an intelligently, darkly written modern fantasy at its best. The characters are vivid and the images are all charmingly un-hinged and eccentric. Gaiman creates "the other London" - a London existing underneath our mundane world. This is Tolkein, Kafka, C.S Lewis and Pratchett all spiralled and spun into one demented mixture (though not necessarily in that order).
The main character Richard - an ordinary 30 something businessman - is inadvertently sucked into this other world by helping a young girl. His quest to "get back home" to the world above the underground throughout the entire novel only seems to heighten the dark characters and the fantastical nature of this bizarre, eccentrically charged world. The beautiful, yet quirky Door, Old Bailey, the irascible Marquis de Carabas, and the inhumane brutality of the villains Mr. Croup and Vandermar are all terrifyingly, yet wonderfully vivid and fantastical. This is how THE TEMPEST would have read had it been dreamt up by an intoxicated rock band from hell.
Coming to Gaiman for the first time, I was slightly dubious as I skimmed over the dark cover of the novel for the first time in a book shop. I let it settle for a while on my coffee table as I got home. But when I eventually picked it up I was hooked from the first page onwards. Not only is it a suspense thriller, its also a beautifully written journey through fairy land, through insanity, and heaven and hell, through light and through darkness.
I was unable to put it down even as the birds began to sing again in the dark of the twighlit hours of the morning - a fitting setting to the black, bohemian and slightly demented world of Under London, tinged with flashes of comic genius. I will never look at a tube station in the same way again. Truly worth a read. Highly recommended...
on 11 February 2000
Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" is one of the best fantasy books i have ever read. I thought i would read this book as i am a big Pratchett fan and loved the dark and brooding humour that Gaiman brought to their collaboration Good Omens (one of the best books ever written for oh so many reasons.) I had heard that the TV adaptation was poor but thought i would give the book a chance. I was captivated from the start, thrown into the vivid world of London below, where Richard Mayhew, a boring office worker, finds himself after a kind gesture. The characters are fantastically written, with the evil Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar, who enjoy their job so much, Old Bailey, The Angel Islington et al. You always wondered why it said Please Mind The Gap at train stations, read this book to find out the real reason. If you like fast-paced, hilarious, though-provoking, surreal fantasy then DO read this book, it'll keep you guessing right up to the last page, probably on the same day that you read the first page.
on 6 March 2015
Magical stories just leave me cold but I try to understand, so once in a while I read one more book of this kind and find some good thing but overall they are formulas that pretend to be metaphors, in this case the writing is entertaining and sometimes humorous, but I just do not care about the characters because they have powers and rational that are outside humanity so my expectations are of a normal universe but the writer controls this universe and he only knows the rules, and when a character returns from the dead and explains some mumbo-jumbo as the explanation for this event, it just annoying and lazy writing, like amnesia in soaps, or the long lost never mentioned what ever in soaps, a cheat to bend and fit a plot that collided with it self; or just a manipulation of the readers feelings.
I did like some of the writing, some of the humour, the plot not so much, the magic is not my kind of magic.