Brought to you by OBS staff member Karolina
When Richard Mayhew moves from Scotland to London for work – he isn’t expecting much of a change. He’s a successful businessman, rents a flat in mid London, and has met a beautiful woman, who, despite their differences, has agreed to marry him. Little does he realise, that isn’t going to last very long. On the way to dinner with his fiance’s high-profile boss, a girl, beaten and covered in blood, falls through a wall and collapses at his feet. Ignoring his fiance’s calls, Richard picks up the bloodied girl and rushes her back to his apartment. The girl comes to the next day, and As Richard and the girl are getting to know each other, two men, Croup and Vandemar appear at his door looking for their ‘sister’ who had run away. Richard warily turns the two men away, and the girl (who introduces herself as “Door”) quickly (via a pigeon) contacts a friend, the Marquis de Carabas, to take her home. Richard meets the Marquis, after following directions delivered by a rat, and takes him back to his place and to Door. Door apologises to Richard, and she and the Marquis leave. Once they disappear, Richard’s life is thrown into upheaval. All of a sudden he has no identity. His apartment is no longer his, his phone doesn’t work, he has no job, and, strangely enough – no one really seems to notice him when he tries to search for answers. This leads him to follow Door and the Marquis to ‘London Below’, a world beneath the streets of London. He travels with Door and the Marquis in hopes to reach the Angel Islington – who may have the answer to why Door’s family were murdered and why she is being hunted by Croup and Vandemar- as well as a way for Richard to find his way home.
Will Richard be able to regain the life he once had?
“Neverwhere” started its’ life as a TV series written by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry, back in 1996. The story does not change between the TV series or the book adaptation, however, the book allowed Gaiman to expand and flesh out certain aspects of the story and characters that were missed in the TV series, as well as add scenes that were cut. There are parts of the book that read like a scene from a TV series, but this in no way deters the reader from the journey.
Gaiman’s writing style allows the reader to easily follow Richard and Door and their companions through the levels of London Below. The descriptions are simple yet vivid, and it is easy to picture what London looks like, even if the reader has not been there. London’s tube is almost a character in itself in this book; a lot of the characters having some connection to the places (Islington being a perfect example), and a lot of the action takes place there – the tube seeming to be the link between London and London Below.
The characters have their own charm to them. Richard is your bumbling, normal man who you would never expect to be a hero, Door is your mysterious young girl who is very much on the cusp of adult-hood and the Marquis de Carabas is aloof and fanciful- yet quite down to Earth and loyal, when the price is right. Croup and Vandemar are the dangerous, yet not very smart, killers after the heroes. There are many other varieties of characters that they come across along the way that bring another element to the story. All of them have their endearing qualities and are quite real in their actions and interactions.
Also Gaiman does a great job of re-imagining the ideas of a world within a world – and angels are usually a very good selling point for sci-fi fantasy books. He uses these two concepts to create a world that is known, yet unknown – beautiful and chilling all at once.
The story is not a new one, but the humour, the suspense and characters that Gaiman infuses into the story and gives life to makes it a very fun and new twist to it. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and didn’t really want the journey to end. The ending is quite an open-ended one, allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions on what happens next – or for Gaiman to write a sequel, if he chooses to do so.
Neverwhere; Author’s preferred text, is what Neil Gaiman states in his introduction, the definitive version of Neverwhere as it combines the UK text and the US text, and he has made whatever other changes he felt the story needed in this version.