Monday, December 11, 2006

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is not a book I expected to enjoy. However, it was the selection for December for the Not So Grown Up Bookclub, and because Neil Gaiman's name pops frequently, I decided to read it.

The premise is this: Richard Mayhew, an ordinary man with a good job and an overbearing, beautiful fiancee, lives in London. One day, on the brink of yet another screw-up with his fiancee, he rescues a girl who appears from nowhere and is hurt. The girl, Door, returns from whence she came, but Richard wakes up the next day to find that he has essentially ceased to exist in London Above. He makes his way unknowingly to London Below, which exists in the subways and sewers of London and is populated by those who have fallen through the cracks of society.

London Below is a land where rats are revered and is filled with murderers, Hunters, and angel, a Beast, people with magical powers, and a various assortment of other characters. The story details Richard's efforts to return in full to London Above and regain his life, and his conclusions when he does get his life back, even better than before.

Unlike other fantasy worlds which are close enough to our own but with no relation to anything that actually exists in the world we know now, Neverwhere exists half in our known world, and half below. There are frequent references to things we're all familiar with: the Thames, the Underground and it's various stations, St. Paul's Cathedral. The references to things known makes references to things unknown infinitely more possible.

The book is at times funny, and at times repulsive (vegetarians beware of the diet of Mr. Vandemar!), but always engaging. I feel the urge to re-read it to get all the allusions more clearly the second time around...and that's always a sign of a worthy read for me. Plus, I'll be looking out when I next ride the London Underground.

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