Series: London Below, The World of Neverwhere #1.
Writer(s): Neil Gaiman.
Format: Mass Market Paperback.
Release Date: November 1st, 1998 (first published September 16th, 1996).
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.
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.
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.
This is a novelization of the TV mini-series Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry.