Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

“Richard wrote a diary entry in his head.

Dear Diary, he began. On Friday I had a job, a fiancée, a home, and a life that made sense. (Well, as much as any life makes sense). Then I found an injured girl bleeding on the pavement, and I tried to be a Good Samaritan. Now I’ve got no fiancée, no home, no job, and I’m walking around a couple of hundred feet under the streets of London with the projected life expectancy of a suicidal fruitfly”

I’m a bit disappointed… everyone seems to love it. I am obviously a very, very strange human being, because I don’t think this book is fantastic. I really wish I did, because I was so, so excited about getting stuck into it and the premise is phenomenal. I also really like Neil Gaiman as a person, I find him so interesting. I was hoping that Stardust was perhaps just not his best book. I can’t fault the mind behind this, I just… didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.

I actually started reading this mid-December, but I began on the day that the Sydney seige happened. Like many people, I was really upset by it, and just didn’t feel like reading. Then I had a flare up of my chronic illness. I think I kind of associated the book itself with bad things, which was totally unfair, but that’s kind of how the brain works sometimes. I think I was only four chapters in when I put it down the first time.

The other day I decided to pick up a non-fiction book about London, which mainly focuses on what goes on underneath the city. I thought, hey, what better book to read with that than Neverwhere? Well… I read Neverwhere in a day, but the other one will take a while. But yeah, definitely cool in conjunction!

I feel like Neverwhere was basically The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but underground and with magic. Richard was pretty similar to Arthur Dent, in that he’s no hero, he’d prefer to be at home and he just wants to get his life back, even though it was a bit boring. I feel like he wasn’t as thoroughly fleshed out as Arthur though, which made it more difficult for me to connect with him. Door was also as uninteresting as Trillian… I really didn’t feel much for her either way. We spent far less time with Anaesthesia and I felt more involved with her!

I feel bad saying it, but I was far more interested in what Vandemar and Croup were doing. They were horribly despicable, but very interesting as villains. I especially liked the way they talked, a perfect mixture of somewhat funny but also really threatening. The mental images of what they were doing thoroughly grossed me out. Gaiman definitely has a great mind for the macabre, which is absolutely perfect for this book.

I also really liked the Marquis De Carabras, who was really fascinating. If Gaiman wrote a book about him, I’d read it in a heartbeat. He was the very best kind of swashbuckling, magical awesomeness. He totally blew Richard out of the water, which made me a bit frustrated that he wasn’t the main character instead.

The writing style is really good, with fantastic descriptions of London, both above and below. I just wish I could have connected more to the two central characters, rather than the side characters. Perhaps the hype just got to me, but I feel let down. I liked the climax of the book, but it was fairly obvious from around halfway through that things were not as they seemed. I wish I’d just lowered my expectations, because this isn’t a bad book at all- it’s just not what I’d hoped it was going to be.

I think I might listen to the BBC production at some point, as it has a cast of actors that I really like, but I’ll wait a while before doing that!

3.5/5 Stars

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7 thoughts on “Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

  1. I read this book a while ago, and while I liked Door, I remember being distinctly unimpressed by Richard. That said, the point at the beginning of the book where he ends up being a ‘non-person’ absolutely terrified me- it’s a very modern fear. The Marquis is the best, obviously. I think Gaiman is better at writing over-the-top characters, which means when he gets to protaganist-land he gets a bit lost and they end up a little bland… Have you read American Gods? A little more hard-going than Neverwhere, but I think it’s his best book.

    • I agree, the non-person thing was scary, especially when I think that in a big city it is possible for people to never notice you went missing if you have no close friends or family!
      Richard is completely bland, it’s frustrating, but yep, the Marquis is awesome!
      I haven’t read American Gods, I do have a copy of it and I’ve heard good things, I’ll definitely give it a shot somewhen!

      • The main character also suffers a little from bland-syndrome, but the book really is a joy to read! 🙂

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