Book Review: Neverwhere

Over the weekend I finished reading Neverwhere, my first Neil Gaiman book. Gaiman had for some time been on my list of authors to read, based on summaries I had read of some of his novels, and this book did not disappoint.

This book has been compared with stories such as Alice in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with a darker twist; I would say that is by-and-large accurate. Our unsuspecting hero, Richard Mayhew, an ordinary man with a boring job, finds himself faced with a choice when he comes across a young woman bleeding on the sidewalk. Richard’s act of compassion draws him (and the reader) into a fantastical sort of alternate reality called London Below, where he must help finish what he is now involved in, and find the way home.

I found Neverwhere a bit hard to get into. Although it uses a familiar format in which the main character—with whom the reader identifies—is introduced to a new world with its own set of rules (Alice, Oz, Harry Potter, The Matrix, to name a very few others that spring to mind), I found that transition cold and rather difficult all the same. Once I was introduced to all the main characters and got used to things in London Below, though, I enjoyed the book.

Gaiman is a very intelligent and creative writer. I liked the darkly humorous tone of the book, which reminded me of the sensibility of Roald Dahl books, or Terry Gilliam movies. The heroes and villains, and even the minor characters they came across in their travels, are well-drawn and interesting. I think this book would be a good candidate for re-reading; I imagine finding all sorts of new details and allusions that I missed in the first pass. Overall, a good book, and I plan to seek out more Gaiman novels in the future.

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