Book of the Month: “Neverwhere”

I’ve recently been converted to Gaimanism (@AlwaysUpAndDown assures me that I’m a Gaimaniac now), and after devouring Coraline, I decided to try out Neverwhere, mostly because I like dark and creepy things. Gaiman likes to write dark and creepy things. It’s perhaps an author/reader partnership made in heaven. Or, err…the other place. Or no place at all depending on your belief system. Whatever. 14497

Gaiman doesn’t disappoint when it comes to dark and creepy either. Neverwhere, which is also a BBC television series and radio play, follows the story of one Richard Mayhew, who meets Door, a citizen of London Below. Soon Mayhew is pulled into the world underneath London Above, and into Door’s adventures.

Door’s family was murdered, and she is relentlessly pursued by a Mr. Croup and a Mr. Vandemar. Richard first meets Door when she tries to escape the two cutthroats in London Above, and it is his Good Samaritan act that leads him to having his existence erased from London Above. Once he enters London Below, he encounters a great many creatures and entities that are completely foreign to him, as he vows to help Door complete her quest to solve the mystery of her family’s murder and restore peace to London Below.

It’s a sort-of fairytale that oozes the dark and mysterious, and the fantastical world that Gaiman weaves for us is not complicated like a Tolkien or Martin secondary world, rather, the true mastery of the story lies in the connections it has to our primary world. It’s the pang of recognition I got every time I rode the Tube to Angel Station, knowing that it had just been mentioned on the previous page of the novel. It’s the unique charm the book has by taking the familiar–the Tube stations, Harrods, the museums–and turning them into something new and exciting for us to experience. Almost every chapter, I’d encounter a landmark that I had just walked past, or, in one rather peculiar coincidence, the moment when I read about Shepherd’s Bush in London Below as I sat at Shepherd’s Bush in London Above.

Yeah, it was kinda trippy.

I highly recommend this book if you’ve enjoyed Tim Burton films, Stephen King books, or if you’ve enjoyed other Gaiman works (he’s even penned a Doctor Who episode or two). His writing is simple, clear, and addictive. If you have a commute on the Tube or other mass transit, it’s a perfect readalong for the commute. If you commute by car, allow me to recommend the BBC4 Radio play, which has such actors as Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy, Christopher Lee, and Natalie Dormer reading parts. You can purchase the audiobook from the BBC broadcast in the iTunes store.

Need more Gaiman? Well, head over to this lovely blog, My Infernal Imagination, and read about Neil Gaiman’s “Fragile Things.”

Happy reading, my friends.

-The Collectress