You can’t really go wrong with Neil Gaiman, so to say that Neverwhere (this is the author’s preferred version) is great, is pretty much a given.
When Richard Mayhew rescues what seems to be a wounded homeless girl, he suddenly finds himself sucked into an alternate underground London. This ‘under-London’ features various characters that may seem familiar if you are in any way acquainted with the capital (if you aren’t, you have wasted your life). There are black friars, a bridge enshrouded with ‘night’ (Knightsbridge, get it?), an Earl who holds court, characters like Old Bailey and Hammersmith, and an angel called Islington.
I recently finished Neverwhere and I have to say, it made me sad that it had to end at all. I really didn’t think it would be my cup of tea – it seemed a bit ‘magical’ and ‘mythological’ for my liking – but it was actually a great read. I think it was helped by the fact that it was quite dark. The main reasons why it is so good are the sheer imagination of Gaiman and some very vivid characters.
The very cool Marquis de Carabas, Lady Door, Hunter, Islington, and the psychopathic Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar are superb and linger in the memory. In fact my only gripe is the lead character Richard Mayhew. He’s just an annoying, whingeing wimp. You keep hoping he’s going to grow some balls at some point, but he never really does. Well, some tiny one but not big enough.
He’s primarily a device to progress the plot and help us see this strange world, so it’s nothing to really worry about.
This book was based on the Neverwhere TV series which initially made me mildly concerned. Books based on movies generally feel a bit shallow after all. In the introduction I felt reassured by Gaiman explaining how he decided to write the book the moment they started filming and expressing how he would change things for the book and the extra bits that got cut out. It pissed off the director apparently and he was asked to shut up about it. I haven’t seen the TV show but I’m glad I read this first. It filled me with the joy you get as a kid when you discover a world you fall in love with and characters you like go out and have cool adventures in it.
I think I’ll now go and buy the Neverwhere DVD. It won’t be as good.