Review: ‘Neverwhere’ by Neil Gaiman

Blurb from GoodReads:

Under the streets of London there’s a place 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.

Review:

This was a surreal, highly inventive and at times very enjoyable romp through a subterranean hidden London- crawling with ghoulish, grotesque, sometimes beautifully-written characters. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it (even if the beginning was a bit slow,) and how much it stayed with me. Gaiman’s ability to transform the mundane into the magical never ceases to amaze me, and I loved how relatable his main character, Richard, was. (Even though at times he did annoy me.) I also liked Door, the vulnerable homeless ‘rat-speaker’ named Anaesthesia- hence the above illustration- the angel named Islington (y’know, ‘cos there’s an Angel tube station in Islington, London) and the Earl of Earl’s Court, who holds his court in a tube carriage.It had plenty of twists and turns and surprised me on many levels.

The two villains- Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar- felt a bit too bizarre for me, however- I would have liked more of a back story to them, and the violence they left in their wake was truly shocking. I also absolutely hated Jessica’s character- I know I was meant to, as she is the most controlling-annoying fiancee (of Richard) OF ALL TIME, and yet she still grated on me as I feel like she slowed down the plot. It was also intensely, seemingly unrelentingly, creepy at times. This is not a story for little kids, no matter how enchanting Chris Riddell’s recent illustrations (for ‘Neverwhere’) are. (I only mention this, as Riddell is one of my favourite illustrators, and is known for illustrating children’s books- for instance, books by Philip Ridley.) There is a surprising amount of gore and bloodshed. I would have liked Door’s backstory- and her magical powers- to have been developed more. As I also have a rodent phobia I also cringed at the plentiful references to rats and ‘rat speakers’- homeless people who converse (and semi-worship) rats.At times the zaniness also got a little too much for my taste- it’s so surreal it almost becomes alienating- but having said that, overall I thoroughly enjoyed this and would recommend it.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10

Read if you enjoyed: ‘Rivers of London’ by Ben Aaronovitch

This Book in Four Words: Creepy. Funny. Macabre. Magical.

All images are via Tumblr. The illustrations are by Chris Riddell, specifically for his illustrated version of ‘Neverwhere’ and are originally from his Tumblr blog here. I highly recommend it.

 

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