Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Why I Read It: Read Along (hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings)

Where I Got It: Own it.

Who I Recommend This To: Those into urban fantasy, coming into your own power stories.

Publisher: William Morrow & Company (1997)

Length: 336 pages.

I have read Neverwhere a few times over the past dozen years and each time I wish Neil Gaiman would write a sequel, or prequel, or additional book set in this world. This book still has so many mysteries to explore. Neverwhere, my first Gaiman book, showed me a different kind of fantasy, one without princess-gobbling dragons, puns, elderly wizards, or lengthy sword fights. It is urban fantasy, but more than that, it is about Richard finding his place in the world. He hungers for a top job at the office, to impress his girlfriend Jess, and be a very popular guy. But none of that is happening. In fact, one might look at Richard’s life and think it is a bit of a joke. He’s a paper-pusher, his friend makes snide jokes at his expense, and his girlfriend has his life planned out to meet her exacting standards. Poor dude.

But then one evening a bloody girl ends up on the sidewalk in front of him, begging for help. Lady Door is in desperate need of assistance. Her family has been massacred by unknown assailants for mysterious reasons. Against Jess’s wishes, Richard helps Lady Door, which leads to him loosing his London life. No one recognizes him at the office, his girlfriend breaks off the engagement, and his apartment is being rented out from under his butt, literally. He must seek out Lady Door in London Below, a twisted alternate to the London he knows. This is where Richard starts learning some hard lessons and developing some survival skills. Lady Door does her best to keep him alive. Together with the Marquis de Carabas and Hunter they make a journey to find the answers to why Door’s family was killed and who ordered it. Of course they are plagued by the nefarious duo Vandemar and Croup, villains who seem to be impervious to pain and injury.

Neverwhere isn’t my favorite Gaiman book and I would even say it is not his best work. But it has a warm place in my heart and it is worth a reread every few years. The character development only goes so far and then plot drives the rest of the book. The story, while wrapped up for the immediate needs, leaves several questions churning in the reader’s head; hence, my desire to see another book set in this world.

What I Liked: Hunter is a magnificent warrior with some of the best lines in the book; the golden toad; the underlying premise that all you wish for might not be what you really want.

What I Disliked: So many left over questions; there is a scene where a main character takes out a wild animal too easily.

6 thoughts on “Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman”

  1. This was the first Gaiman novel I read, although I had read some of his short stories last year, and I loved it. London Below had the sort of creepy Wonderland vibe to it that made for an imaginative and fun reading experience. I also liked that even the minor characters were so interesting… 😀

    1. The interesting characters, despite little character growth for most, is one of the reasons I keep coming back to this book. They are so fascinating from the beginning.

    2. I’ve seen the movie Coraline, and I may eventually read the book. The only rasoen I’m hesitant to say that I will read the book is because I’m not the biggest fan of Gaiman’s books. I’ve read several of his books, and with each one I thought that the ideas were absolutely brilliant, but the execution was just a little off. Although I did think that the shorter sections dealing with smaller gods in American Gods were more interesting than the overall novel. In some ways Gaiman’s writing may work a little better in shorter form where a cool idea can drive the story. In a novel you need more than just a cool idea for a successful story.

  2. This was my first Gaiman as well, and it hooked me on him. Certainly not his best work, but a good place to start for something quick and fun.

    umm, is that a kiddie bat’leth sitting on your book? *a little scared*

    1. Sort of cross between a Klingon bat’leh and the Alaskan ulu skinning knife.
      These days, I am mostly harmless.

      Neverwhere is definitely a fun book and I believe you are right about it being a great place to start a Neil Gaiman book quest.

    2. Straub’s quote uses “literature” and not “great literature”. If we use the slpime definition of literature as the art of written works, then Gaiman’s work qualifies as literature. Denying greatness because his prose is “bestselling fiction prose” is an odd point. Look at Charles Dickens, who wrote his novels as serial posts to magazines, which is how many authors of his day got published. I’d guess that was bestselling fiction prose back in the day. Art is in the eye of the beholder. I love Hemingway’s sparseness and gag on Joyce. Both of the those authors are long gone, but their work still lingers in our hearts and minds. Will Gaiman’s work still be a part of our lives in a 100 years?

Comments are always appreciated, so don't be shy!