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370 pages, Paperback
First published September 16, 1996
Richard wrote a diary entry in his head.
Dear Diary, he began. On Friday I had a job, a fiancee, 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 fiancee, no home, no job, and I'm walking around a couple hundred feet under the streets of London with the projected life expectancy of a suicidal mayfly.
"Young man," he said, "understand this: there are two Londons. There's London Above - that's where you lived - and then there's London Below - the Underside - inhabited by the people who fell through the cracks in the world. Now you're one of them. Good night."
"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."Unwittinly having thwarted an assassination attempt on a young girl named Door and having helped her because, let's face it, he's basically a decent guy, Richard suddenly finds himself in the London Below - a place for those who no longer belong to the regular 'London Above', a place for those who have slipped through the cracks of ordinary reality. It is a place that exists outside of our conventions of time and space, touching our reality but not quite overlapping it.
"There are little pockets of old time in London, where things and places stay the same, like bubbles in amber,” she explained. “There’s a lot of time in London, and it has to go somewhere—it doesn’t all get used up at once."
“I may still be hung over,” sighed Richard. “That almost made sense.""
"His life so far, he decided, had prepared him perfectly for a job in Securities, for shopping at the supermarket, for watching soccer on the television on the weekends, for turning up the thermostat if he got cold. It had magnificently failed to prepare him for a life as an un-person on the roofs and in the sewers of London, for a life in the cold and the wet and the dark."
"He..." Richard began. "The marquis. Well, you know, to be honest, he seems a little bit dodgy to me."
Door stopped. The steps dead-ended in a rough brick wall. "Mm," she agreed. "He's a little bit dodgy in the same way that rats are a little bit covered in fur."
"Richard did not believe in angels, he never had. He was damned if he was going to start now. Still, it was much easier not to believe in something when it was not actually looking directly at you and saying your name."
"Metaphors failed him, then. He had gone beyond the world of metaphor and simile into the place of things that *are*, and it was changing him."After all, haven't we all at some point asked a question about what is the meaning of all that we are doing? Haven't we always wondered whether there ay be something else we may be better suited to be and do? Haven't we wanted to escape somewhere... well... else? Different? Isn't that some of the reasons we wan t to immerse ourselves into worlds of fantasy at least for a short while?
"Work. Home. The pub. Meeting girls. Living in the city. Life. Is that all there is?"Usually, however, the point is to return home, enriched by experiences of the outwordliness, and, of course, gain some appreciation for the life we used to take for granted before. Because, of course, no matter how much we want to, we will never escape the real life. Or can we? After reading this book, I know I would want to, had I been in Richard's place. But I cannot, and so I appreciate my mundane uneventful life - but what if I didn't have to? Who knows...
"The marquis de Carabas raised an eyebrow. "Well?" he said, irritably. "Are you coming?"
Richard stared at him for a heartbeat.
Then Richard nodded, without trusting himself to speak, and stood up. And they walked away together through the hole in the wall, back into the darkness, leaving nothing behind them; not even the doorway."
I want to go home. Then he mentally underlined the last sentence three times, rewrote it in huge letters in red ink, and circled it before putting a number of exclamation marks next to it in his mental margin.
I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don't want to be sane.
The Marquis de Carabas was not a good man, and he knew himself well enough to be perfectly certain that he was not a brave man. He had long since decided that the world, Above or Below, was a place that wished to be deceived, and, to this end, he had named himself from a lie in a fairy tale, and created himself — his clothes, his manner, his carriage — as a grand joke.Districts and areas in London become weird characters or morph into something sinister. Hammersmith is a jeweler; Old Bailey (the London Central Criminal Court building) a feather-covered old man who lives on the rooftops; Earl’s Court is really an earl’s court, though an odd one indeed; Knightsbridge (an area of West London named after a crossing of the River Westbourne, now relegated to an underground river) becomes Night’s Bridge, a darkness-shrouded crossing that takes a terrible toll on those who pass. Blackfriars (an area in central London) is the home of the Black Friars, like Brother Sable and Brother Fuliginous. Most interesting to me was the real-world counterpart of the Angel Islington: The Angel, Islington is a historic landmark area (originally an inn called the Angel Hotel) on the corner of Islington High Street and Pentonville Road in Islington, an area of London. (The building is now a bank, but the Angel name has been adopted by an adjacent pub.) This web page is a Google map that links actual London locations to their references in Neverwhere, a fun exercise for those who’ve read this book.
“The Marquis sighed. "I thought it was just a legend," he said. "Like the alligators in the sewers of New York City."
Old Bailey nodded, sagely: "What, the big white buggers? They're down there. I had a friend lost a head to one of them."
A moment of silence.
"It was OK," gurned Old Bailey with a grin that was most terrible to behold. "He had another.”
“I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don't want to be sane.”