Posts Tagged With: rats

“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 Readalong, Part I

I’ve been wanting to read one of Neil Gaiman’s novels ever since last year’s groupread of “Fragile Things.”  I had enjoyed the collection of short stories and looked forward to reading one of his longer books.  When Carl mentioned that he was hosting a groupread of “Neverwhere,” I immediately signed up.

This week’s reading covers chapters 1-5 of the book.  From this point onward, there may be spoilers.  After we’ve finished the book I’ll post a spoiler-free review for anyone who hasn’t read the book and isn’t following along.

1.  What do you think of our two villains thus far, Messrs. Croup and Vandemar?

They’re creepy and not-quite-human.  The scene with the darts and the random mice-eating makes me think that there’s more to them than meets the eye.  At the same time, I don’t have any real reason to dislike them, and it’s interesting to see them interact with each other.

2.  Thus far we’ve had a small taste of London Below and of the people who inhabit it.  What do you think of this world, this space that lies within or somewhat overlaps the space the “real world” occupies?

It’s delightful.  It’s got this whole Tim Burton style aura to it, and it seems so much more vibrant than the “real world” above.  I’m enjoying watching Richard keep underestimating it, beginning with the rats and pigeons and ending with Anasthesia’s demise.  This isn’t a happy-go-lucky Disney world, and there’s something very serious going on that Richard has inadvertently gotten caught up in.

3.  What ideas or themes are you seeing in these first 5 chapters of Neverwhere?  Are there any that you are particularly drawn to?

The recurring motif of doors stands out to me a lot.  I wonder if there are doors back into London Above that we don’t know about yet.  If there’s a way to get Below, then mightn’t there be a way back up?  I’m also curious about the political structure of London Below.  We’ve heard a bit about it, but we haven’t seen it in action yet.

4.  We’ve met a number of secondary characters in the novel, who has grabbed your attention and why?

Definitely Hunter.  She’s awesome.  I picture her almost like a female superhero; she may look a bit like a whore on first glance, but when trouble arises she can kick some serious bad guy butt.  I liked how she foiled Croup and Vandemar’s plans without anyone even knowing it.

5.  As you consider the Floating Market, what kind of things does your imagination conjure up? What would you hope to find, or what would you be looking for, at the Market?

Well, Gaiman did mention that they had books.  I’d imagine that the books in London Below contain all of the stories and ideas that authors thought up but never got the chance to write down.

6.  If you haven’t already answered it in the questions above, what are your overall impressions of the book to this point?

I’m loving it thus far.  At first I was a bit annoyed by Richard’s interactions with Jessica.  Seeing the two of them together made the book seem so serious.  I felt bad for Jessica at first, because it seemed like Richard didn’t really care about the reservations and wasn’t making any real effort to help her out.  As we saw a bit more of their interaction, I realized that she’s got a Type A personality and needs someone who can handle that.  Richard’s too laid back and has completely different priorities.  It’s one of those cases where the two of them just aren’t right for each other, and if Door hadn’t showed up then Richard and Jessica would have made each other miserable for the rest of their lives.  Once we stepped out of the relationship drama, I immediately was hooked.

When authors follow multiple characters’ point of view, I have a tendency to get attached to one character above all of the others.  In this book for me it’s Doors.  I want to learn more about who killed her family and about her place in the London Underground in general.

I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Categories: Fantasy, Fiction, Urban Fantasy | Tags: , , , , , | 40 Comments

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