Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

details
Title: Neverwhere.
Series: London Below, The World of Neverwhere #1.
Writer(s): Neil Gaiman.
Publisher: Avon.
Format: Mass Market Paperback.
Release Date: November 1st, 1998 (first published September 16th, 1996).
Pages: 370.
Genre(s): Fantasy.
ISBN13:  9780380789016.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.

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Having our hands held and pulled through life is an appealing and effortless way to progress through the world. To never have to challenge ourselves or to think twice at all the things that happen to us and around us is just such an easy path to take. However, such a way of life is bound to strip you away from the wonders that the journey itself holds for all of us. Sometimes, these surprises were always in front of us or even within us. It’s at that very instant when you realize what was out there to be discovered that your Self is unchained and everything seems to be within the palm of your hands. Created in 1996 by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry, Neverwhere was originally a six episodes mini-series on BBC Two. It is in the middle of the series that author Neil Gaiman went ahead to write a novelization of the show that hence saw this title acquire its well-known international praise.

What is Neverwhere about? In the heart of London is an uninteresting and uninterested young businessman who is engaged to an authoritative woman. On his way to an important occasion that his fiancée holds dear to her heart, they run into a girl lying on the ground bleeding. Unable to refuse what his heart desires, he wishes to help her out while his significant other prefers to ignore the situation before them. It is from this moment on that the plain good man, Richard Mayhew, falls between the cracks of his beloved city and finds himself engulfed in the machinations of a wickedly dark subculture existing right under their nose, within abandoned subway stations and uncharted sewer tunnels. Unfortunately for him, the bizarreness of his reality doesn’t end there as he embarks on an adventure of self-discovery and unparalleled reverie.

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Legendary author Neil Gaiman doesn’t fail to meet expectations with his indisputable reputation placing him on everyone’s radar. His writing skills are beyond reproach and it is even more so in Neverwhere where his talents allow him to infuse a beloved and well-known city with a darkly imaginative twist that explores its darker corners with such vivid storytelling techniques. In fact, London Below flourishes with life with little detail, successfully leaving it all to the imagination of the reader. While it somehow works, it remains albeit unsatisfactory as the rich underground universe merits more focus to fully grasp its subtleties. Despite that, it is essentially author Neil Gaiman’s writing style that allows Richard Mayhew’s adventure to be memorable and strikingly visual, wholly capturing the reader’s attention from cover to cover.

Veiled in a fairytale coat, the story presents Richard Mayhew as an ordinary and mundane character who rediscovers himself through an adventure that his mind is unable to make sense of. His road to self-actualization comes in the form of a realization of his own willpower and his ability to act for himself, by following what he believes in rather than what he’s told to do. Although this character growth is almost tangible, he remains lifeless, almost as if he was meant to be a vessel for the reader but not exactly as inviting as he’s should be, with a frustrating demeanor that denies us the ability to connect with him. This, unfortunately, remains an obstacle that isn’t easy to circumvent but the presence of far more riveting characters, such as the dynamic evil duo of Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, makes this stand-alone tale—even with a sequel called The Seven Sisters currently being written—a satisfying reading experience.

Neverwhere is an enticing urban fantasy tale exploring the hidden and ominous underbellies of London with a protagonist’s new license on life allowing him to rediscover himself and his vicinity.


EXHIBITA

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This is a novelization of the TV mini-series Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry.

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41 comments

  • Three out of five? I’d call it rather satisfactory than satisfying 😉 but then, you’re a more generous reviewer than I am on my best day 😂
    I fully agree with your opinion of the main protagonist’s lifenessness – he’s a paper cutout, which is surprising for me as usually Gaiman’s protagonists are compelling and believable. I think the actual protagonist of this novel is London Below 😉

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    • Hahaha I honestly didn’t see a difference between those two words. 😛 And yes, his characters are usually so much more interesting than this one. Can’t blame the idea behind this one though. For now, I won’t rule him out of my list of authors still worth checking out though. I just need to pick up a much better one next so I don’t feel like I only give the dude 3 stars all the time hahah

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      • What have you read by Gaiman till now? I’ve read my good share of his books and as a rule, he seems to have trouble with a satisfying conclusion 😉 – the only exceptions being The Norse Mythology (but that’s definitely not his own conclusion 😜) and The Study in Emerald. And, grudgingly, The American Gods (but only to a point 😉).

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        • I’ve read American Gods (gave it a passing grade of 3 stars, despite enjoying the super long journey. I’ve read the comic book adaptation and am waiting for the 3rd volume. Also read Sandman (will end up rereading that one this year) and Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader. The only other novel I read was The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which is so far, the best one of his work for me… for now… What do you recommend me, based on what you know about my reading habits? I’m not sure if I want to try Coraline (I saw the movie and enjoyed it), The Graveyard Book or Stardust next… I don’t know what the last two are actually about but I’m hoping they’re my cup of tea… 😛

          Liked by 1 person

          • The Graveyard Book was mediocre for me. As usual with Gaiman, great ideas, less than stellar execution 😉 I quite enjoyed Stardust, is funny and witty, but it’s mostly an elaborate play on fantasy tropes – not sure if it’s up your alley.
            My favourite Gaimans are The Norse Mythology, which I really adore, as it’s a highly engaging, at the same time modern and respectful retelling of Norse myths, and The Study in Emerald (the comic book version). Both had been reviewed on our blog, if you’re interested 😀
            I think you’d also enjoy one of the best Marvel what-if stories, 1602, showcasing all favorite Marvel characters in an early Renaissance English setting 😁

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thanks for your valuable input on these. I want to read Norse Mythology too but it’s because it’s not purely “FROM” him that I’m less in a hurry to pick it up hahah! And yes! 1602 is on my list too! Definitely something that intrigues me. 😁

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  • Sorry you weren’t completely convinced, but I am glad you en enjoyed it overall.. Like Nicki, I listened to the dramatised version with a great set of actors incl. Christopher Lee and Benedict Cumberbatch and loved it!

    I do see what you mean about the protagonist, he certainly wasn’t the most exciting character. But perhaps that was kind of the point with him? What happens when a very ordinary (boring) person is exposed to something extraordinary? I couldn’t help wondering how I would have reacted. I live in London, not too far from the British Museum, which added an extra dimension. Great review as usual!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ohhhh so cool that Lee and Cumberbatch were on that version! I’d be down to try that out sometime.

      I too did think that maybe he was meant to be so mundane for the sake of making his adventure so exceptionally wonderful hahah And yes! I feel like living in London while reading this would make it even more fantastic. I had the opportunity to finally visit London for the first time over the summer and everything was quite fresh in my mind too while I read it. 😀

      Thank you so much for reading, I really appreciate it! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  • I read this one so long ago my memories are a bit vague, but I recall really enjoying it. I think it may have been my first Neil Gaimen book. Several years ago I attended a live presentation by Gaimen, very interesting and entertaining person. Hearing him read from his own books was quite a treat, especially given the setting, which was sunset in the open air pavilion of Wolf Trap in Northern Virginia. Now everytime I read anything he’s written I can’t help but imagine it in his voice in a similar setting. 🙂

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    • My first Neil Gaiman NOVEL (excluding comics) was American Gods and I enjoyed it too but had issues with the pacing with it. I just really love his writing style but I feel like his stories have some kind of structure issue for now. I still got a couple more to try hahah

      Wow, I envy those who live in the UK or USA who get the chance to see these authors so often. Out here in Quebec, Canada, the chances of that are close to zero… Unless I go on a roadtrip to Vancouver, BC or maybe Toronto hahah

      But I’ve heard Neil Gaiman in interviews and I can only imagine how cool stories told in his voice must be awesome!

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  • I love Neverwhere, but well, it’s not flawless. Probably the first solid urban fantasy I’ve read, that perhaps made me like it even more. And it was the same edition 🙂

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  • Brilliant review, Lashaan! Neil Gaiman’s work is always so praised but I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet. Sounds like there were certainly some great ideas in this book however I’m sorry to hear that it didn’t quite work for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Hm, interesting, I was hoping to eventually check this out but I’m not so sure now – especially since it’s the first book in a series as well makes me more reluctant to commit. I hadn’t realised this was a novelisation of a BBC tv mini-series and I now seem to have vague memories of it being advertised back in the day. Great (and honest) review Lashaan, I do want to read some Neil Gaiman one day but unsure if it’ll be this title!

    Liked by 1 person

  • It’s been a long, long time since I read Neverwhere, and memory of it has turned hazy at best, but what I remember is that I found it delightfully strange: I guess that was my first Urban Fantasy read before I became aware of this hybrid genre, and this book probably gave birth to my fondness for UF. Maybe I should revisit it, just for the sake of memory… 🙂
    Thank you for reminding me and for sharing this!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can definitely see it as an introduction to UF, it merits that kind of praise for sure. I just can’t say that it’s some of the best UF you can find today. I could only recommend revisiting it to remind you of what made you enjoy it though. It’s Neil Gaiman after all. He doesn’t disappoint hahah Thanks for reading, Maddalena! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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