Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, Review by Alexicon

isbn9780755322800-detailNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman is a dark fantasy masterpiece. I feel I should apologise as this blog slowly becomes “Let’s gush about Neil Gaiman” but I keep finding new things to gush about. Published in 1996 as an expansion on the script of a TV drama he wrote for the BBC, Neverwhere was Gaiman’s second adult novel, and easily surpasses Stardust (his third).

Richard Mayhew is a bewildered Scottish businessman, living in London and working for a marketing firm, his day to day is the average day to day of an average London professional, and his girlfriend Jessica fits the bill nicely. The novel sets you up on false pretenses however and with the introduction of the strangely named female lead ‘Door.’ Richard is a man who falls through the cracks. He finds himself in London Below, twisted, dark and mysterious version of its plate glass and pigeon filled sister. Old Bailey is a man who lives atop roofs. Earl’s Court is a converted underground train carriage containing an Earl and his court. Hammersmith is a ten foot tall blacksmith and The Angel, Islington… Well you can probably assume.

The quirky nature of the characters and places within the novel are a true strength, and the characterisation is so well rounded as well. There is no one in there who feels like a plot device. Even an early misfortune, involving a comparatively minor character, which Richard has to come to terms with eats away at him throughout the novel. Two of the most excellently developed characters are the perfectly evil Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar, two of the most prolific assassins, brutes and killers in all of London Below. They gave me an instant vibe of Mr Wint and Mr Kidd in the James Bond adventure Diamonds are Forever, packed full of whimsical quips and a malice which can only come with a huge grin. Mr Croup is the more intelligent of the two, while Mr Vandemar is the Lenny to his George. Together they almost singlehandedly (were there not two of them) take the position of some of the most enjoyable antagonists to read in all of fantasy literature.

There is nothing like the atmosphere this book sets up. There is that back-note of familiarity and then the bizarre nature of the novel and together it makes for a page-turner which will constantly surprise you. The style is excellent, a perfect blend of black comedy, fantasy and harrowing, nail-biting moments. The pacing is perfect. My only criticism is that I wish there could have been more. Gaiman doesn’t tend to write sequels, but he’s hinted in a lot of places that Neverwhere may well be an exception to that rule. I for one hope it is.

Neverwhere can be found at Amazon.co.uk for £7.91 and Amazon.com for $8.98.

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  1. #1 by Amelia Groves on June 26, 2014 - 8:32 pm

    I think I’d definitely like to try this – I’m intrigued by the portal aspect and the nonsense character names! 🙂

    • #2 by alexicon1 on June 26, 2014 - 8:41 pm

      Some of the dialogue and description as well, I was toying with quoting this: “The nearest person happened to be a short, grey, elderly man-at-arms, who would have looked, Richard decided, exactly like a recently retired civil servant were it not for the tin hat, the surcoat, the clumsily knitted chainmail and the spear; instead he looked like a recently retired civil servant who had, somewhat against his will, been dragooned into his local amateur dramatics society to play a man-at-arms.”
      One long sentence, I know, but it paints the best picture of this guy that you could hope to wish for!

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