Thursday, September 3, 2009

Closing Thoughts: Neverwhere

# of pages: 337
Total pages read: 1880
Average pages/book: 376

You like how I added that last one in there? I love averages.

Speaking of average, let's talk about Neverwhere!

I'm kidding, it's actually far above average, but that was just an awesome transition and I couldn't waste it.

As I think I said before, this isn't my first Neil Gaiman book, as I've read and enjoyed Stardust, and I also remembered recently that I've read his 1602 Marvel Comics graphic novel. The similarity I see in all three of these is that they're great ideas formed into good stories with decent characters that are always interesting and enjoyable, but somehow I always feel like there could have been more there.

I liked Neverwhere, and once I got near the end of Richard's journey to get back to the Angel I found myself unable to put the book down until it was finished, leading to yet another 3:30 a.m. bedtime. (Books are bad for sleep, by the way) I particularly loved the villains (not loved the villains in that "lovable bad guy" way but in the "wow, these are fantastic villains, I hate them" way that I find so appealing in adventure stories) and thought the final confrontation scene was fantastic. The book also did a great job of avoiding the "being weird for weirdness' sake" trap that can be so tempting when a particularly colorful imagination gets hold of an untouched fantasy world, for which I was very grateful. Parts of this story were downright creepy without betraying the generally fun mood that ran throughout the majority of the narrative. It felt as though I was in on a joke that the poor unfortunate protagonist just couldn't quite grasp, and that's always fun.

For me, however, this was probably the only strike against the novel. After awhile, I found myself thinking, Yes, I get it. He's awkward and out of place and the others all pity him for it. There were probably thirty or so variations of the phrase "as if speaking to a child" and, while it fit the story, it got a bit old to read over and over again. There also seemed to be an inconsistency to Richard's willingness to believe the unbelievable. On one page he's accepted that the best way to survive was to accept things at face value, but then a few pages later he's throwing a tantrum because there are no such things as angels. I just felt it would have been stronger for him to just move one way or the other rather than waffling for the first half of the book.

That's a really minor complaint, though. This is a fun read and a good story, and while not every element comes to a satisfying payoff, and there's at least one major plot element that still doesn't seem to make any sense, I'd recommend this book to anybody who's not scared away by language.

Oh, right, a brief synopsis for posterity (and, potentially, for the curious): Richard Mayhew thinks he leads a perfectly happy life in modern-day London, England. He's satisfied with his job, he enjoys his fiance and their social situation, and as far as he can tell he's definitely on the up and up. Then he meets Door, a young woman from London Below, an entire society that exists invisible to those who live above but exists in the tunnels and trains below the city. Door is being chased by some underworld assassins when she opens a magic door to "someone who can help." That someone ends up being Richard, who takes the girl back to his apartment, helps her clean her wound, and delivers a message for her to a curious marquis who lives in some sort of illogical dream-world. When Door leaves with the marquis, Richard believes that everything is back to normal, and for the most part it is, with the tiny exception of the fact that he no longer exists. His apartment is being rented out to strangers, no one at work has ever heard of him, his bank card is rejected by the loveless ATM machine, taxis refuse to stop for him. Richard has "fallen through the cracks" and is now a part of the bizarre and magical world of London Below of Door and the marquis. And, because this is how these stories work, the only way to get his old life back is to go on a dangerous quest that will tie his destiny with Door's and, ultimately, all of creation's, and if he gets to the end he may no longer recognize the man he is.

Which, of course, may not necessarily be a bad thing.


  1. I think I might want to read this one...eventually...once I'm through with all the other books that I have to read...