Sunday, February 28, 2010

CB II Book 12: Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

I''m having a bit of a conundrum. I like Neil Gaiman. I think his writing is great, he descriptions of people, places and items of note is fantastic and his imagination is brilliant. I've read three of his books now; Good Omens, American Gods and now Neverwhere. I really enjoyed American Gods but, upon the completion of the other two, I found myself with a feeling of "well that was...alright." It seems that I just don't connect with some of his writing like I do with other authors. Is it him? Is it me? I just don't know. Nevertheless, Neverwhere is a perfectly fine read for those that are fans of Gaiman's other works and I'm sure that I may be in the minority with my less than stellar impressions of the book.

Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew who, on the eve of leaving for London to begin a career in securities, receives a warning from an old woman as he's lying on the sidewalk outside the pub about to be sick. "I'd watch out for doors if I were you." she states. Typical of young men preparing to venture to the big city and with a liver full of liquor, Richard promptly disregards her warning and even more expediently, forgets it. After living in London for a while, Richard finds himself engaged to a woman who is out of his league, in a job that seems to be plodding along but not really taking him anyhwere and just kind existing day to day. One evening, as Richard and his fianceee are about to have supper with her boss, they come accross a girl laying on the sidewalk who is obviously hurt badly. His finaceee admonishes Richard to leave the woman where she is as this supper is extremely important to her carreer. Richard, being a person with a soul, stops to help the woman and takes her back to his apartment to care for her. Eventually she recovers enough to tell Richard what happened and her name, Door. Soon thereafter, two men appear at Richards door asking about the woman he had rescued. These men obviously have bad intentions towards the girl so Richard tries to provide cover as best he can but when he goes back into his apartment, the girl is gone.

The next day, things start to get very strange. People he's known for years have trouble remembering him, his bank account seems to be missing and some people come to look at his apartment while he is still there but don't even notice him. Richard sets out to find out what the hell has happened to him and what happened to the girl which leads him  to the underground of London with the help of a street bum. He meets the rat people and is taken to the Rat King who aids him in finding Door again. Door tells him of her family's murder and her talent for opening, well, doors. what follows is a harrowing adventure through the underground to bring the killers to justice and to remove an ancient evil from the underground of London.

That's not a very good description so let me just say this: Neverwhere is yet another re-telling of Alice in Wonderland. It's far more sinister than the versions that I'm familliar with and certainly isn't out of place amongst Gaiman's other works. All the characters you're familiar with are here in some form or another. The Cheshire cat, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, The Mad Hatter and of course The Queen of Hearts. Gaiman is in fine form as he weaves his imagination in and out of the classic tale. There's blood, there's horror, there's the supernatural and it's definately an excellent book. So what's the issue I had with it? Well, I've read it before. That is, the story of Alice has been told, told and re-told many many times. While it's interesting to read Gaiman's take on the adventure, you always know what's coming next. I just didn't connect with this book like I do with most others. As I said, it's a perfectly fine tale, but it's a tale that you've all read before. If your a fan of Gaiman's, you're sure to love it. If you're a fan of Alice in Wonderland you'll probably enjoy it. For me, well, I've been down that rabbit hole before and I don't feel the need to go back.


  1. Well then. It does sound interesting. I know the feeling of reading a book and being entirely nonplussed by the end. If they're going to write one that's already been done, the least they can do is make it really really good. Like extraordinary. Like blowing all the other tellings out of the water good. That rarely happens.


  2. I read this one when I was trying to get into Gaiman after not really liking Good Omens that much, and I really liked it! I didn't really notice the Alice connections as much as you did, but I can see where you're coming from. I think I really liked the complete weirdness of the whole thing, and it was pretty creepy in parts. I didn't LOVE it but it made me want to read more stuff by him. You should get your girls Coraline!

  3. I'm just about to finish this book and I've read both the other books you've read of Gaiman's as well. I was absolutely thrilled with American Gods when I finished it but I'm beginning to think I'll end Neverwhere with the same feeling you've just described. I confessed this to a friend of mine and he told me if I loved American Gods then my next choice should've been Anansi Boys as it's set in the same world and has a lot of the same characters. So if you're looking to fall back into Gaimans world then might I suggest the same book. I trust this friends opinion on books and authors enough without having read it myself yet.