I read American Gods, and was unimpressed. Then I started to listen to the BBC dramatization of Neverwhere (with the omnipresent Benedict Cumberbatch as the omnipresent Mr. Crouch) and enjoyed the first couple of episodes … but I just can't get into audiobooks, and somehow never managed to listen to the rest.
So when somebody on Goodreads started talking up Neverwhere, I figured I really should check out the book. On paper and everything.
I'm glad I did. Gaiman's London Below is definitely reminiscent of China Miéville's various versions of London—particularly King Rat, which Neverwhere preceeded by a year—and there are thematic similarities, and I'm beginning to think that Gaiman may actually be as good as people keep telling me he is! [Though surely not as stellar as His Chinaness.]
Neverwhere is, in many ways, a standard quest fantasy. Richard Mayhew is nothing more than a twice-lifesize Bilbo Baggins. He even returns from his quest with riches and a sword (both, of a sort). There were a couple of times I was howling at the book "this is what comes of a lack of a classical education!" (view spoiler)[(particularly, I would have been a lot more suspicious of a lady named Lamia) (hide spoiler)], but really that was a good thing.
Like his later American Gods, Neverwhere borrows heavily from much older mythology. Unlike American Gods, Gaiman doesn't hit you over the head with it; it's woven seamlessly into a story of a magical London coexisting with the one we know.
I was struck by one wonderful line: "He had gone beyond the world of metaphor and simile into the place of things that are, and it was changing him." Miéville also wrote the wonderful Embassytown, which is all about the very opposite. Miéville's Ariekei can only talk about what is, and are striving, through simile, to reach metaphor. I love the sense that it's a two-way street.
I loved the science-fiction twist on shamanic traditions, but it's ultimately a little weak.
In the first place, allowing shamans to enter the spirit world as easily as entering a virtual-reality cheapens the experience — now almost anybody can be a shaman, but there appears to be practically no regulation of a profession that is at least as potentially dangerous as that of Doctor.
Then there's the reactions of the public. It's one thing to expect the public to be distrustful of the shamans, and I have no problem believing that shamans would be blamed for all sorts of ills — but to have a family call in the priest for last rites, then watch the shaman save their family members life, and immediately turn on her just doesnt ring true.
First things, first: If you belong to any of the Abrahamic religions, this book is seriously heretical. Please, demand that it be banned: there's noth...moreFirst things, first: If you belong to any of the Abrahamic religions, this book is seriously heretical. Please, demand that it be banned: there's nothing quite like a good book banning to drive up interest in a book!
I was pointed to this book by one of my GoodReads friends, who was admittedly trying to drum up interest in his friend's book, but it was well worth the time.
Set in the context of the eternal war between God and Satan, this is a humorous (though not outright comedic) romp through the seven (well, now only four, but that's another story) levels of Hell. Along the way, we learn that not all Angels are good, not all Demons are evil, Lucifer may be really bad-ass - but so is God (view spoiler)[when she has to be (hide spoiler)].
The astute reader will no doubt figure out who our hero Joe is, long before Joe does himself, but Joe is deep in denial. It takes the impending apocalypse to start him questioning his role in Creation, the purposes of Angels, Demons, and even neighbors.
Biblical purists will be annoyed at an Archangel's use of the colloquial "Revelations" to refer to what they like to call The Book of Revelation, but, hey, they won't be reading this book anyway!
I always considered myself a biblically knowledgeable person, but I had to resort to Wikipedia to check some of Marie Browne's mythologic references, and I've got to say she knows her stuff. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)