Posts Tagged With: neverwhere

“Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman

During the past month I’ve been participating in a groupread of “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman.  This is a brief spoiler-free review for those of you who are curious about the book and haven’t read it.  For a more in-depth discussion, see:

“Neverwhere” is an urban fantasy novel by Neil Gaiman.  It tells the story of Richard, an average man in a dysfunctional relationship with his overbearing girlfriend.  One day, Richard stumbles upon a bleeding girl lying upon a sidewalk.  His decision to help her is life changing, as he finds himself sucked into the nightmarish wonderland of London Below.  London Below is inhabited by those individuals who fell through the cracks of society (and reality itself), and once Richard begins to see its denizens, he becomes invisible to people in the world above.  He follows the girl whom he rescued, whose name is Door, in the hopes of finding his way home, only to discover that Door’s life is threatened by the same people who murdered her family.

…and the villains!  Croup and Vandemar are a pair of bumbling but humorous mercenary bad guys who enjoy their job far too much.  You can’t hate them, because it’s very hard to take one’s villains seriously when they’re trying to talk with a mouth full of toads.

The atmosphere of London Below is one of the biggest strengths of this book.  Gaiman draws on both the mundane and the absurd to create a world that is simultaneously beautiful and menacing.

One of the weaknesses of “Neverwhere” is the general lack of character development throughout the novel.  Most of the characters don’t change, but Richard’s perspective on them does, so I’ll forgive it.  Most of the characters in London Below are unabashedly themselves.  Characters represent different archetypes and seem to have come out of a fairy tale, but one of the overreaching themes of the novel is that life isn’t always what it seems and that there is more to people than meets the eye.  The minor characters are extremely memorable, such as the Amazonian woman named Hunter who is searching for a fabled Beast or the Old Bailey who talks to birds and trades in favors.

Overall, I’d highly recommend this book.  It reminds me of a darker version of Alice in Wonderland, but in a more modern setting complete with subway rats, floating markets, and plenty of hidden dangers.  Even though the book has some flaws, the story is enjoyable and imaginative.


I read this book as part of the Once Upon a Time Challenge.

Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Urban Fantasy | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Neverwhere Groupread, The Conclusion

I’m late posting this because I’ve been at BEA all week.  Many thanks to Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting this groupread!  I’d heard many good things about Neverwhere before reading it, but never expected to be introduced to such a creepy/whimsical/wonderful new world!

Rather than following specific questions this week, we decided to just post our thoughts on the ending of the book.  For those of you who haven’t been reading along, this means major plot SPOILERS.  I’ll post a spoiler-free review in the near future for anyone who hasn’t read the book and doesn’t want to ruin the fun.

So, without further ado…

One of the most fascinating characters to me throughout the entire story has been Hunter.  She reminds me a bit of a female comic book character.  Based on her appearance earlier in the story, Richard mistakes her for a prostitute, but at the same time she saves his life over and over again.  I didn’t expect Hunter to betray Door, but at the same time I didn’t think that it was out of character for her at all.  Hunter has one major goal throughout the book, and that is to kill the Beast.  Betraying Door brought her one step closer to doing so.  Hunter highlights the grey area between good and evil, and must face the consequences of her decisions, putting herself into a position where she is unable to kill the Beast herself.  Hunter’s betrayal shows the complexity of human nature because even though she sold out her friends, she still wasn’t necessarily an evil person.

The Marquis was one of those characters that I kept thinking was the bad guy, but then it turns out that he wasn’t.  Meanwhile, Islington was a frickin’ angel!  I had thought that he’d be trustworthy.  One of the morals of this story is that appearances can be deceiving.

I’m impressed by the way that Richard grows up towards the end of the novel, but I did kind of want to slap him and turn him around because I already knew that there was no way that he could just return to his old life after developing a sense of imagination and coming into himself.  I was just like “No, Richard!  Don’t do it!”  I was so glad that he was able to return to London Below, and I’m glad that he didn’t get back together with Jessica.  I was pleased with the ending; it just felt right.

Categories: Fantasy, Fiction | Tags: , , , , | 13 Comments

Neverwhere Readalong, Part II

Happy Memorial Day, and welcome to part two of the Neverwhere readalong.  This week’s discussion covers chapters 6 thru 12 of the novel.  I’m loving the book thus far; it’s got a perfect balance of darkness, magic, and humor.

I’m probably going to be a bit behind on visiting people’s blogs.  I’ll try to get to all of them today, but I’ve got a lot of catching up to do because I’ve been away from internet/cell phone service/etc. for the weekend.  I went camping with my family in Pennsylvania, which was both relaxing and exhausting.  I read a couple books while I was there, and I’ll be posting reviews of them over the next few days.

The following discussion will contain spoilers.  I’ll post a spoiler-free review of “Neverwhere” once I’ve finished reading it for anyone who isn’t following along.  For those of you who are, be sure to pop over to Carl’s blog to see the rest of the discussions.

Dear Diary, he began.  On Friday I had a job, a fiancee, a home, and a life that made sense.  (Well, as much as any life makes sense.)  Then I found an injured girl bleeding on the pavement, and I tried to be a good Samaritan.  Now I’ve got no fiancee, no home, no job, and I’m walking around a couple of hundred feet under the streets of London with the projected life expectancy of a suicidal fruitfly.

1.  Chapter 6 begins with Richard chanting the mantra, “I want to go home”.  How do you feel about Richard and his reactions at this point to the unexpected adventure he finds himself on?

I like seeing the way that begins to come into his own during this week’s chapters.  At first he’s not willing to believe that what’s  going on is real and keeps asking questions based on what he knows above.  He acts very sensibly and has no imagination.  As the story progresses, he begins to lose his inhibitions and begin to accept the nonsensical and wonderful world below that he’s slowly becoming a part of.  Seeing him pass the Ordeal of the Key seemed like a rite-of-passage that marked his full acceptance of London Below, and the Ordeal physically marks Richard’s realization that life isn’t as black-and-white as he thought it was.

2.  The Marquis de Carabas was even more mysterious and cagey during the first part of this week’s reading.  What were your reactions to him/thoughts about him as you followed his activities?

At first I thought that he might actually be the mystery employer.  I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw him talk to Croup and Vandemar and realized that he was on Door’s side.  Pity about the crucifixion.  He seemed like an honorable chap, if nothing else.

3.  How did you feel about the Ordeal of the Key?

I touched on this a bit in my answer to the first question because I think that the Ordeal marks Richard’s acceptance of the topsy-turvy underworld.  If he’d have given in to the voices in his head that told him he was insane, it would have been a rejection of London Below.  Instead he affirms the potential to see the world in a different way, which is a potential that I think he’s had all along.

The ordeal itself was nightmarish, but Gaiman’s details here made it even more absurd.  I loved the part about the cup of tea.

4.  This section of the book is filled with moments.  Small, sometimes quite significant, moments that pass within a few pages but stick with you.  What are one or two of these that you haven’t discussed yet that stood out to you, or that you particularly enjoyed.

It’s things like seeing Old Bailey telling bad jokes to birds, or seeing Door and Richard awkwardly drunk off their asses on wine from Atlantis, or even Lady Serpentine’s breakfast that make “Neverwhere” so special.  Gaiman uses silly nonsensical details to create a world of wonder and intrigue.

5.  Any other things/ideas that you want to talk about from this section of the book?

Croup and Vandemar are such fantastic villains.  I still can’t hate them and find myself laughing at them every time I see them.  It’s hard to hate someone who chomps on Tang dynasty statues or tries to talk with a mouth full of frogs.  Croup and Vandemar are both dangerous and delightful, and I look forward to seeing more of their shenanigans.

Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Urban Fantasy | Tags: , , , , , | 21 Comments

Groupreading Updates

I just wanted to take a moment to mention some of the upcoming groupreads that I’m planning on participating in.  Anyone else who wants to join in is welcome!

I recently read Scott Lynch’s “The Lies of Locke Lamora” as a part of a groupread.  The Little Red Reviewer is hosting a readalong of the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, which will begin next week.  So far the schedule is looking like this:

Start reading on or around April 21st. . .
part 1 – beginning thru End of Chapter 3, discussion questions go out Thurs April 26, posts go up Sat April 28
part 2 – Reminiscence “The Lady of the Glass Pylon” through end of Chapter 6, discussion questions go out thurs May 3, posts go up Sat May 5
part 3 – Chapter 7 thru end of Chapter 10, discussion questions go out May 10, posts go up May 12
part 4 – Chapter 11 thru end of chapter 13, discussion questions go out May 17, posts go up May 19
part 5 – Chapter 14 to the end, discussion question go out May 24, posts go up May 26

I’m also currently in the middle of a groupread of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire.  It’s an excellent book thus far, and we’re going to be groupreading the second two books beginning in late May/early June.

During the interim, I’m looking forward to a groupread of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere.  So far, the schedule for that will be:

Read the Prologue through Chapter 5, May 13th-20th. Discussions for this section posted Monday, May 21st.

Read Chapter 6 through Chapter 6 through Chapter 12, May 20th-May 27th. Discussions for this section posted Monday, May 28th.

Read Chapter 13 through the end (Chapter 20), May 27th-June 3rd. Discussions for this section posted Monday, June 4th.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming readalongs.  I love participating in discussions while reading because everyone has such different ideas and opinions about the books and the directions that the plot might be heading.  It makes for a wonderful experience!

Categories: Fiction | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

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