“Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman is the story of Richard Mayhew, a Scotsman living in London with a boring job, an overly sensible fiance, and an otherwise plan and forgettable life. While most writers strive to create memorable characters, Gaiman has succeeded in creating one who is completely forgettable. That is until he performs a selfless act that brings him to the attention of the most unsavory of individuals from London Below and transcends his forgetableness.
Richard quickly falls into the cracks of London’s forgotten and into a surreal world hidden beneath the layers of and intermixed with London Above. This subculture flourishes in the abandoned tube tunnels and stations with what appears to be a small element of magic. Richard knows he wants to return to his life, but quickly adjusts to his new life.
Gaiman’s writing is flowing and expressive. He does not paint a picture for the reader. He creates the world he wants to tell you about and sets it up in front of you to experience, immersing, but not drowning you in descriptions and dialogue.
“Neverwhere” can easily be broken down into The Hero’s Journey, but it is more accurate to say this story is a collection of “Heroes’ Journeys.” Richard’s traveling companions include a young noblewoman, her body guard, and a scoundrel. Each completes their Journey in their own way while battling their own demons.
In addition to a fantastic cast of heroes, Gaiman has created the most wonderful of villains, Misters Croup and Vandemar. Described as fox-like and wolf-like respectively, these “men” are killers of the highest caliber and their cruelty knows no bounds. Usually, such an extreme would make a villain seem too unreal for the story. But, the entire story of “Neverwhere” is unreal, and thus, allows a place for these unreal villains.
Gaiman’s storytelling is fantastic and compelling. As a first time Neil Gaiman reader, I find that I am interested in seeking out his other works, including the acclaimed “Sandman” graphic novel series.
I give the book 4 flags