I have to say, as I begin, that I both love and hate Neil Gaiman.
His writing style is such that I have to love him. It’s intelligent, witty, drenched in literary artistry… quite one of my favorite styles of any writer I’ve ever read.
But his content – oh, agony! I despise creepiness. I don’t do horror. I don’t especially go in for fantasy, in general. I don’t enjoy violence. And I don’t do storiesthatmakeyourskincrawl. And Gaiman does all of these things.
And yet, somehow, I keep reading him… because his style is so addictive that I can’t really help myself. I keep thinking, “His writing is so good… sooner or later, I have to come across something that isn’t quite so dark and creepy.” But I haven’t, yet. And this is my fifth book of his! (This, Anansi Boys, Coraline, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Dream Hunters. And I’ve got to say, I can’t believe Coraline is sold as a children’s book. If I’d read it as a child, I would have woken up screaming in the middle of the night from the nightmares it had given me.)
But I guess that’s when you know a writer is that good – when you don’t even like his genre, and you keep reading him. What can I say?
This book is about Richard Mayhew, who lives in London (London Above). Through a meeting with a girl named Door, he ends up estranged from that world and part of London Below.
Here are a couple of my favorite passages of narration from Neverwhere:
The introduction of the villains: “There are four simple ways for the observant to tell Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar apart: first, Mr. Vandemar is two and a half heads taller than Mr. Croup; second, Mr. Croup has eyes of a faded china blue, while Mr. Vandemar’s eyes are brown; third, while Mr. Vandemar fashioned the rings he wears on his right hand out of the skulls of four ravens, Mr. Croup has no obvious jewelry; fourth, Mr. Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing at all alike.” (p. 7)
“Mr. Croup was in a cold fury. He was walking twice as fast as Mr. Vandemar, circling him, almost dancing in his anger. At times, as if unable to contain the rage inside, Mr. Croup would fling himself at the hospital wall, physically attack it with his fists and feet, as if it were a poor substitute for a real person. Mr. Vandemar, on the other hand, simply walked. It was too consistent, too steady and inexorable a walk to be described as a stroll: Death walked like Mr. Vandemar.” (144)
One of the interesting thing about these villains is that the narration about them is so humorous one can hardly help laughing, even though they’re nearly evil incarnate.
After the brilliant narration – and, who am I kidding, also after the characters of the marquis de Carabas and Hunter – what I loved the most about Neverwhere were the twists. I mean, Agatha Christie herself would have been proud (and, indeed, he quotes her! End of chapter 17). That’s really all I can say about that without giving things away, but just know: it’s cool.
There are just so many brilliant moments in this book. In all seriousness, if you’re (like me) not a person who generally enjoys fantasy, or creepiness, or violence, or ultra-evil villains, read this book anyway – Gaiman does all those things so well you can’t help but like it. And if you do like any or all of those things, this is your new favorite book.