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Under the streets of London there's a world most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet.

"Neverwhere" is the London of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Strange destinies lie in wait in London below - a world that seems eerily familiar. But a world that is utterly bizarre, peopled by unearthly characters such as the Angel called Islington, the girl named Door, and the Earl who holds Court on a tube train.

Now a single act of kindness has catapulted young businessman Richard Mayhew out of his safe and predictable life - and into the realms of "Neverwhere." Richard is about to find out more than he ever wanted to know about this other London. Which is a pity. Because Richard just wants to go home...

370 pages, Paperback

First published September 16, 1996

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Neil Gaiman

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 26,907 reviews
Profile Image for Steve.
128 reviews97 followers
July 18, 2013
I didn't enjoy this book as much as I should have. I kept distracting myself with the thought, "Why the hell haven't I read more of Neil Gaiman's books?" Then I would have to tell myself to shut up, because I'm reading one right now, and I can return to berating myself later.

Neil Gaiman really understands fantasy. He understands that it isn't elves dancing in a forest and drunk dwarves mining for gold with improbably well maintained beards. No, fantasy is a reflection of reality, but fantastic. It isn't an alternate reality, but reality through the lens of imagination, and possibly some mind altering substances.

Not only does he capture the essence of fantasy perfectly, but he does so with the trickiness and charming language that seems to be uniquely in the realm of British humorists. He rarely describes anything in a completely straightforward manner, instead choosing to almost fool the reader into visualizing his delightful (or, when appropriate, very undelightful) characters and events.

I couldn't help but to be completely charmed by and immersed into London Below, right up until the point when some jackass started to wonder, "Why the hell haven't I read more of Neil Gaiman's books?"

==============
So, a few years later, and a lot of people seem to like this review, still. I've decided to abuse the popularity of this review to attempt to steer fans of Neverwhere towards a few other books that I think they will enjoy. Despite the theme of the review being "Read more Neil Gaiman", the books listed below are actually by different authors, since I think I've already made it clear that you should read more Neil Gaiman. So, aside from all of those, here are a few other recommendations:

1. Bridge of Birds, by Barry Hughart - An epic, hilarious mythological adventure.

2.Wool, by Hugh Howey - A pretty dark and serious tale of people living underground on a ruined world.

3. The Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson - A globetrotting adventure set among a lovingly researched historical backdrop.

4. Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow - A nerd finds himself suddenly and unexpectedly being stalked by his own government, and doesn't think it's so cool.
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 312 books397k followers
November 8, 2013
Okay, so people have been telling me to read Neil Gaiman for ages. They assume I've read American Gods because the premise is similar to the Percy Jackson series. Well, I still haven't read American Gods, but I did pick up Neverwhere in the Heathrow airport and read it on the way back home. I enjoyed it a lot. Great fantasy, wonderful sense of humor. I can understand why Gaiman is so popular. I'll have to look up his other books.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,368 reviews9,435 followers
November 19, 2017
I won this in a Goodreads/Firstreads Giveaway! Yay!

Look at these pictures! Sorry for the darkness. We were in the sunlight but it canceled us out.

Anyhoo! I am in love with the looks of this little book! It doesn't have a dust jacket! It's one of my fav hardbacks! I love them without the dust jackets. I have added a picture of the front and back. I have also added a picture of just one of the many illustrations through-out the book and the inside book flap that isn't really a flap but they made it look like one! Now if I can just love the book! =D







OMG! I sat here trying to think where I new Chris Riddell that did the illustrations through-out this book. As soon as I started and saw the picture of the older Richard Mayhew it freaking hit me! The picture looked like a grown up picture of Twig from The Edge Chronicles that Chris Riddell did the illustrations on =D I loved those books too.

Anyway, this was a dark little book but it also had hope for a man that was hopeless.

Richard Mayhew is living a life that is boring in my opinion. He goes to work doing boring work. He has a fiance, Jessica, that announces they are getting married and pretty much tells him everything to do, what to wear, etc. She's so beautiful that he just does it and he's a sort of a push over but I like him.

Once day a girl pops out of a door when Richard and Jessica are hurrying to a dinner with one of Jessica's clients. Richard stops to help the girl who is bleeding and pretty much blows Jessica off. Yay! Richard takes the girl named, Door, to his home and lets her rest as she doesn't want to be taken to a hospital.

Turns out these creepy dudes named Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are after her. Suddenly Richard is dragged into the world of London Below. It's a very dark story in London Below. Richard is stuck there trying to help Door and some others. When he tried to go back home once, he didn't exist so he was stuck down below.

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.


But over time, helping these people/creatures, Richard finds a meaning to his life. When he goes back to London Above, he realizes it's not where he belongs.

I loved the characters in this book, even the evil ones were written terrifically. I love, love, loved that Richard finally found his place in the world. He really is a good guy =)

Happy Reading!

Mel ♥

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
376 reviews2,795 followers
June 6, 2022
Overwhelmingly Delightful, Witty, and Funny

Richard is leading an average life, walking to an important dinner with his fiancée Jessica, when he finds a bleeding young woman on the sidewalk. He scoops her up and tends to her, much to the chagrin of Jessica. The young woman is named Door, and she changes Richard’s life forever. He is transformed into two worlds: London Above (his normal world) and London Below.

I haven’t been this excited about a book since His Dark Materials. This is one where I kept saying, “Oh, I’ll just read one more paragraph.” Then, I couldn’t put it down for another hour.

The best fantasy has good storytelling, and it also rumbles something in your soul. Neverwhere was fast paced and spellbinding. When Richard meets Door, his world is transformed. He sees things that he never saw before. He went to places that he wouldn’t otherwise go. His mundane, routine, ordinary, boring life gets turned on its head. Have you ever met someone who transformed your life? Years ago, I met a photographer, and we would be travelling in the car on a road that I had travelled every day. The objects whizzed by in a blur. He would then suddenly pull the car over to the shoulder and jump out, camera in hand, and produce the most stunning photographs. It was interesting just to travel with him, to see how he viewed the world, to reveal the beauty hidden in plain sight. However, that isn’t exactly the world that Gaiman is painting. Richard isn’t Jasmine in Aladdin going on a magic carpet ride while “A Whole New World” plays softly in the background. The world that Richard discovers isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. To fully see, Richard had to see the grime and ugliness. Does he prefer only seeing one world or is it worth the imperfection and unpleasantness to really see?

Another thing that I loved was when Door said that her friends don’t have phones. Then, she gives a list of complicated instructions to Richard that included spinning around three times anticlockwise. This was one of my favorite parts of the novel. These days, people don’t want to put in any work. The expectation is that everything should be effortless. Anger flares if you don’t answer someone’s text in 3.5 seconds. And as Thomas Paine says, “What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly.”

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Profile Image for emma.
1,783 reviews42.8k followers
January 31, 2023
As the song goes, “Do you believe in magic, in a [Neil Gaiman book]?”

And the answer is yes.

https://emmareadstoomuch.wordpress.co...

Well, the answer for me is yes. I can’t comment on your answer. But like, if your answer is no...what is wrong with you? Read a damn Neil Gaiman book, you cretin. Allow yourself that happiness.

Anyway.

The fact that this is Neil Gaiman’s first novel makes me want to throw up and die. How do you write a first novel like this? It is beautiful, it is creative, it is magical, it has lovely prose. The world is clear and well-constructed. It is action-packed and well-characterized (seriously, all the characters are so lovable). Also, IT PULLED ME OUT OF A READING SLUMP. A READING SLUMP, I SAID.

It is, in short, an on-paper perfect book. (Paper pun intended.) (Directly stealing my own description of another Neil Gaiman book - Coraline - only semi-intended.) (But if Neil Gaiman would stop writing perfect books it’d be avoidable, so.)

That’s really all there is to say. This book is perfect and it’s a debut and there is absolutely no justice or sense in this world.

But fingers crossed there’s a little bit of Neil Gaiman-style magic in it.

Bottom line: Is Neil Gaiman well on his way to being on my favorite authors list?? Stay tuned!! (But yes. He is.)

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pre-review

i goddamn love neil gaiman.

review to come

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currently-reading updates

no, i'm not just picking up an increasing number of books and marking them as currently reading in order to distract myself from the fact that i haven't finished a book in forever and i'm definitely in a reading slump. why do you ask?
Profile Image for Nataliya.
713 reviews11.3k followers
January 24, 2015
Neverwhere was my first real introduction to the world of urban fantasy - a clever take on Alice in Wonderland, one can say, set in the semi-magical, unsubtly dangerous, and quite fantastically warped world of 'London Below'.
"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."


Neverwhere is one of my all-time favorite books. It has just the right amount of wild imagination (inexplicably somehow still grounded in firm reality), a healthy dose of absurdity and strangeness, remarkably colorful larger-than-life characters, unforgettable setting that is more of a character than a simple backdrop, and, of course, sufficient amount of lovely dry humor.

Besides, there is that certain 'something' in Neil Gaiman's writing that keeps bringing me back to his works - that cleverness, I guess, that boldness in his approach to writing, that apt descriptiveness that burns scenes into your mind without becoming boringly detailed or repetitive, and the bit of mesmerizing darkness he harbors in all of his works, regardless of the theme or target audience.



In Neverwhere Gaiman uses the old technique of taking a person belonging to the 'regular' world and throwing them into the midst of a fantastical reality, using the protagonist as our eyes into this world - think of "Alice in Wonderland" or "The Wizard of Oz" or its younger siblings like Miéville's "Un Lun Dun".

Richard Mayhew is a timid and perfectly average London guy who suffers from a noticeable lack of figurative backbone - and the only time in his life he does show some of that ill-fated backbone, combined with some very real compassion, he gets himself into trouble that is waaaay over his head. Let Richard tell you about it himself:
"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."
"


Just like London Above, London Below is a melting pot - except for this one is for relics and discards and misfits of all kinds of times and legends and beliefs and tales. It is a place for those who fell between the cracks - think of those you usually do not notice even if you walk past them on the street, like the homeless, for instance; they are already invisible to us. It is also a place for those who spent too much time in the company of the supernatural, and for those who don't fit in our world.

You can view it as a colorful tapestry - or more aptly, as a dirty filthy rag made of mismatched and threadbare bits and pieces that once were something grand and even now create a mesmerizing albeit puzzling effect through their sheer strangeness and unexpected combination.

And it is a place that has teeth and is ready to bite. It is harsh and cruel, full of menacing dangers lurking around every corner. Friends can quickly turn into foes, and promising a favor is a serious thing that can get you far in this world. It takes skill to survive here.

And Richard is very much NOT prepared for that.
"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."


London Below is a place populated with creatures that have enough color and flair to them to easily stand out against the drab background of life and their surroundings. Of course I'm talking about Marquis here, the not-so-honest and yet brave and loyal (for a reasonable price of a favor) Marquis de Carabas, the guy who you would ultimately want covering your back in a sticky situation (as long as you can overlook the fact that he may have had something to do with creating the said sticky situation in the first place!)
"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."


With characters like Marquis, or the enigmatic single-minded Hunter, or pretty much anyone Richard comes in contact with in this weird mixture of rooftops and sewers and underground tunnels, London Below is a confusing blur to Richard's tired and overwhelmed senses. Some things don't make sense. Others make way too much sense, are way too literal (Earl's Court or Knightsbridge, for instance). He is so out of place here, it's almost painful to read, as you wince and cringe at his pathetic attempts to clutch to what he continues to view as safety and sanity. And no, this sanity does not normally involve girls named Door or a charming scoundrel Marquis de Carabas, or Angel Islington, or outwordly hired thugs Croup and Vandemar, or Rat Speakers, or Beast of London, or the real Old Bailey, or the nonexistent British Museum underground station where Earl's Court can get you if you so please.
"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."


But eventually Richard may, just may, start discovering something about himself that is a bit more adjusted in the world that has slipped through the cracks than "real" London. In other words, Richard Mayhew just may have gone native. Unlike Dorothy and her Toto, he may not want to just live happily ever after in his version of Kansas.
"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.
"
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,588 reviews153k followers
June 15, 2021
Richard Mayhew had a perfectly ordinary life, thank you very much.

He had a job that he didn't quite hate, a fairly decent apartment and a lovely fiancee (despite what his friends thought). One night, he and his fiance stumble upon a broken, bleeding girl. The strangest thing? His fiance couldn't quite see the girl - or more like once she noticed the bleeding girl, his fiance would just as quickly un-notice her.

Shrugging that off, Richard takes the girl back to his apartment (at her insistence) and tends to her wounds. She leaves in the company of a marquis for the Under-London. A few short days later, much to his horror, people start to react to Richard the same way. Their glances slide off him, they cannot hold conversations - it's like he has disappeared.

When his landlord shows Richard's apartment to a prospective buyer - with Richard still in there - Richard knows that he has to go to the Under-London as well. Door (the injured girl from before) takes pity on Richard and allows him to join her crew - though much to his dismay, this new world is filled with sewer people, terrifying women and the worst possible creatures and things.

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 really enjoyed how much of a reluctant adventurer our main character is. Finally, a character who reacts the way I would on a quest! That being said, there were so many intriguing side characters that it's almost disappointing to follow the only normal human. I would have loved to hear this story from the perspective of Door or the marquis.

Gaiman does a fantastic job of weaving in fantasy elements into his novel - equal amounts of horror and delight - I was absolutely fascinated! How does he even come up with such ideas?

I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don't want to be sane.


Audiobook Comments
Read by the author - which is always a plus, especially when done by Neil Gaiman. He always reads so well! I swear, this man could read anything and I'd give it a listen.

The 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge - A book that is also a stage play or musical

(Aside: Door's whole family has the special ability to open doors at any time, anywhere...and what does her dad name her? Door. Are you serious??)

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
Profile Image for Kat Kennedy.
475 reviews16k followers
May 27, 2010
I first started reading this book and honestly wanted to just chuck it in the bin. I said very mean things about the protagonist under my breath.

Surely, I said, a Protagonist means that they are pro and totally into furthering the story. Surely, Protagonist is the similar to Proactive and Productive.

I was wrong. The word Protagonist, in its basic form is not similar to proactive. It simply, from the Greek plays, means the principle character or the first speaking character.

However, I maintain that the kind of protagonist that most people want to read about is one that actually bloody does something!

History/Language lesson over.

Neverwhere is a book that TRIES to be clever and magical. In many senses it utterly manages to be magical and creative and fun. It fails, however, to be clever. There are so many lines in this book intending to be dry wit and just come off dry stupid.

Allow an example:

There are four simple ways for the observant to tell Mr Coup and Mr Vandemar apart: first, Mr Vandemar is two and a half heads taller than Mr Croup; second, Mr Croup has eyes of a faded, china blue while Mr Vandemar's eyes are brown; third, while Mr Vandemar fashioned the rings he wears on his right hand out of the skulls of four ravens, Mr Croup has no obvious jewellery; fourth, Mr Croup likes words, while Mr Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing at all alike.

Oh! I see what you did there! *Kat laughs, slapping her knee with her hand in amusement*

No, not really. If he'd left out these lame little lines I think I probably would have enjoyed this novel a whole lot more.

Just about every other character in this story is awesome except for the protagonist. Give me a story about Marquis de Carabas and I will read it in a second. Honestly, fantastic character right there. Tell me I have to read another whiny missive about Richard Mayhew and I will likely stick hot pokers into my eyes first.

I get it. I really do. It's a journey. He has to LEARN and GROW and CHANGE. But he takes a REALLY long time to do it and he only ever grows to be slightly less pansy, soft and annoying. The total character growth comes to equal someone who doesn't just sit idly by and let people take stuff from him.

Let me give you an example. He met a girl who was unconscious in the streets and bleeding to death. He takes her home. This causes his fiancee to break up with him. He then goes through a lengthy process to get the girl back where she came from. Once he does this he then loses his job, his apartment and all his money. He then goes to find the girl for a) an explanation and b) help. Without her help he will probably die as another side effect of having met her is that he has two psychopathic killers on his tail.

She simply apologizes and walks away, abandoning him. So what does he do? Does he chase her down and gently remind her that she owes him a favor? Does he barter and trade what he can, whilst trying to lure the killers into a trap so that he can some how defend himself? No. I will now transcribe from the book EXACTLY what he does.

Richard leaned against a wall, and listened to their footsteps, echoing away, and to the rush of the water running past on its way to the pumping station of East London, and the sewage works. "Shit," he said. And then, to his surprise, for the first time since his father died, alone in the dark, Richard Mayhew began to cry.

He decides to stay there and die. That's right, folks. He just stays there waiting to die.

Boo-fucking-hoo.

Ya know, I don't accept this crap from a female character - nor do I accept it from a man. How the hell am I suppose to sympathize with someone who so blithely lets everything he has slip through his fingers because he can't speak up and demand explanations or some kind of help? This level of pitiful doesn't help the audience empathize - it makes them think your protagonist is an idiot.

The plot is pretty good - despite everything being painfully obvious and predictable at the end.

The world building is fantastic. It's probably the best thing about this book. It's really creative and fascinating and interesting.

Over all, it was an alright read. It wasn't great. I labored through until the last half where it began to pick up and markedly improve. Thus only three stars. Had the first half been more like the last half then it would have earned four.

Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
733 reviews3,392 followers
January 1, 2023
Be careful if one falls into the house with the Door

Because she could be more than you would expect
It´s a typical male problem, an attractive young woman called Door comes into one's life and suddenly, one has no more other thoughts in mind. In this case, one even has sudden problems with everything else, so the only option is to

Go underground
This worldbuilding is some of the best Gaiman ever imagined, I would subjectively call it my favorite until the one day big reread may teach me better. But the wonders, dangers, and terrors lurking down there are just amazing and it shows what

Dark urban fantasy should look like
In the hands of a very talented author. The problem with many other genre clones is that they can´t reach such levels of speech, character construction, worldbuilding, plot interactivity, wit, and especially fascinating antagonists like

Croup and Vandemar
They´re one of the best antagonist pairs I´ve ever seen. Not just because of the suspense, they create as soon as they appear, but their abilities combined with perfectly finetuned dialogues make them sometimes cooler than the protagonist. Honestly, it´s not just that I am into the bad girls, and boys on a just platonic level, but I kept looking forward to them hopefully soon reappearing.

Best reading experience with UK expertise
With more exact knowledge about the places mentioned, the culture, and the tradition, this must be an even better read. I can even forgive the fact that very probably Gaiman helped trigger the mentioned avalanche of urban fantasy detective dark noir YA works that copy this concept until readers´ madness sets in.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.ph...
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,845 reviews16.3k followers
January 5, 2020
Neverwhere!

Upon beginning a review of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman my first thoughts were to write that even a bad Gaiman novel was better than most other authors best work.

But this is unfair, Neverwhere is not a “bad” novel at all.

Compared to Stardust or Anansi Boys, or especially the masterpiece American Gods, it lacks the epic presence and may even be categorized as one of Gaiman’s lesser works.

What is present, though, is Gaiman’s phenomenal writing, his brilliant and original imagination and his ability to simply tell a good story. This was entertaining and the literary ground is ripe for more Neverwhere adventures if he ever decided to return, and he has hinted that he may. Croup and Vandemar are two of his best characters.

For Gaiman fans, but would not be the best to begin a tour of his impressive canon.

description
Profile Image for Kevin Ansbro.
Author 5 books1,338 followers
December 6, 2022
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"There are two Londons. There’s London above – and then there’s London below."

This book was recommended to me by genial Goodreads friend, Matthew Quann, whose effusive review sealed the deal.
I was initially reticent…
Having read Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I felt that his writing was a bit 'young' for my own personal taste and decided that, though delightful, his books weren’t for this beyond-middle-aged sourpuss.
Despite my misgivings, I dived in and was immediately beguiled – the story returning me to a childhood of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz (as was Gaiman's intent).
Our antihero, Richard Mayhew, is a total wuss who fails to meet the high standards set for him by his high-maintenance fiancée, Jessica. But Richard, though annoying, is generous of spirit and one day skips an important business dinner to aid a blood-and-mud-caked girl who collapses at his feet on a London pavement.
He is soon drawn into a lamplit, subterranean world of sewer-dwellers, rat-munchers and pantomime villains. Oh, and there's a marquis and an angel thrown in for good measure!
I enjoyed this more than I did The Ocean at the End of the Lane; it had a bit more grit and spite about it - even a swear word or two and an instance of bosom fondling (Neil Gaiman, you naughty schoolboy!).
But there is a childlike simplicity to his writing, and I can't escape the feeling that it's all a bit too YA for me. Neil strikes me as one of those men who has bypassed puberty on the way to adulthood. His undoubted secret superpowers are his wonderfully fertile imagination and an unsurpassed ability to connect with his inner child.

The book is wonderfully Dickensian in parts and Gaiman elicited a lot of knowing nods and smiles from me with his in-jokes and observations of the London Underground.
Neverwhere is as adult-lite as I expected it to be, but was also a fantastical, wonderfully escapist read. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but doubt I'll read any more of his.

Thank you, Matthew.
(You can see his review here): https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

& Apatt Seriniyom's splendid review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Swrp.
561 reviews86 followers
February 13, 2022
Neil Gaiman `s Neverwhere is an Urban Fantasy "fairytale" without any fairies, but with an angel. A very well-written and interesting book with unique characters and concepts, and covering most of the city of London (Above and Below).

The language in this book is so much English, in the complete essence.

Neverwhere is the story of an ordinary guy called Richard Mayhew, who ends up going on an extraordinary adventure. An adventure not on to the mountains or on the seas, but right below the same city he lives in! Gaiman takes you on a journey which is amazingly imaginative and unusually vivid.
Profile Image for MischaS_.
785 reviews1,331 followers
January 21, 2020
The first half was so slow, and I was even thinking about DNFing which was horrifying to me, this is Neil Gaiman's book we're talking about! Plus I also found it was too easy to guess who the bad guys really were. These two things were the main drawbacks to the book for me.

But this book has some of the best characters ever. Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar are just the best partners in crime ever! I just need a book on the two of them. And Marquis de Carabas was another great character. Fantastic, fantastic.
However, I did not care much for Door or Richard. Not one single bit and since they were the main characters that seem a bit problematic, right?

“I already killed you once today, what does it take to teach some people?”

“Sir. Might I with due respect remind you that Mister Vandemar and myself burned down the City of Troy? We brought the Black Plague to Flanders. We have assassinated a dozen kings, five popes, half a hundred heroes and two accredited gods. Our last commission before this was the torturing to death of an entire monastery in sixteenth-century Tuscany. We are utterly professional.”

But I pushed myself through the book, and thankfully, mostly because of the great side characters, I managed to enjoy the story.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,477 reviews29.7k followers
January 17, 2019
yet another book that has been sitting on my bookshelf for ages and im so glad i finally made time to read it. if i remember correctly, my interest was first piqued when someone had posted some fan art for this and i just thought it looked so. cool. and i knew it was a world that i really, really wanted to dive into. so it makes me a little sad that i didnt enjoy this as much as i thought i would. but its definitely a case of it being my fault and not the books.

i just dont think urban fantasy is my kind of genre. i tend to like my fantasy and realistic fiction to be separate, so stories that fuse the two fail to keep my interest - as was the case with this. but i will admit, i actually thought the world of london below was very cleverly done. i will forever praise gaimans creativity for the humour and appropriateness used when creating and mirroring london above. as someone very familiar with the city, it was fun to see such a unique, but recognisable, feel to the world.

overall, this is by no means a bad book. its well written, has a lot of interesting characters, and the world building is superb. my mediocre rating just comes down to personal preference and enjoyment. but i would still recommend this to everyone!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for R.K. Gold.
Author 13 books10.1k followers
May 12, 2018
Wow that was fantastic!

I listened to the audiobook because my brother recommended it to me. Neil narrates it himself, which I thought was really cool.

When I think of Urban fantasies this is now the first book that will pop into my head. Neil built this incredible world below London, that weaved in and out of our reality seamlessly. I think he benefited from calling on existing infrastructures like the London Underground to give a sort of map, but he worked it into the story beautifully. There were no info dumps, everything was concise and hung tight to the plot.

It also benefited having chapters follow different characters like the Marquis and the cutthroats Croup and Vandemar because I saw how vast London Below was and learned certain rules of bartering I probably wouldn't have learned without those chapters.

The story is plot-driven, following the quest of Door, and Richard tags along once he is accidentally brought into this world. Richard starts as a fly on the wall for the reader to see London Below but as the story unfolds he becomes an active participant in the quest.

That's why the story is never boring. It's an active story. The team is never waiting for their quest to find them they're actively seeking answers and all their accomplishments are earned.

My final note might give away the ending. I'm sensitive to giving away spoilers so if it bothers you stop reading here.
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By the end of the book, we become Richard trying to open a door to London Below. We want to re-enter too.
Profile Image for Petrik.
654 reviews39.8k followers
July 9, 2017
3.5/5 Stars

Whether you’ve read his book or not, there is a high chance that you have heard of the name Neil Gaiman if you’re a reader and most people probably loved his works. Let’s just say I finally knew why. I knew about him since 2009 from watching the movie Coraline which I loved and turns out it was based on a book written by him and that movie shocked the crap out of me cause it so imaginative and scary at times, I thought it would be a family movie. Fast forward 8 years later and here I am finally reading his first solo book. This is my first try at reafing Neil Gaiman’s work and my first try at the genre ‘Urban Fantasy’.

The plot in my opinion is good but it’s really not something great, it’s just there to move the story along which is completely fine for me but I just wish it’s something more special considering the praises Neil got. This is one of the rare cases where the blurb of the book only give the basic plot of the first 2 chapter without ruining your reading experience so if you want to know what the basic premise of the book is about you can start there.

What fascinates me the most about this book is instead the world that Neil created. The world of London Below is highly imaginative, it twisted our real world London and makes it into something resembling Hell. Consisting of bizarre characters, creatures and combined with Neil Gaiman’s storytelling skill, it made the setting a really unique place to visit (not literally.)

Here’s a fantastic artwork done by Marc Simonetti to show a comparison of the London Above (our world) and London Below (alternative world).



There’s a lot of good character here but other than the main character, Richard, there’s too little development for any of them. It’s understandable though since this is a short book and there’s not enough room for improvement other than the main character. I loved the character development of Richard, it’s amusing to see how he changed from his first appearance until the last part of the book and a plus also to the main villains Croup & Vandemar which provided their scary nature while sometimes being funny at the same time with their banter towards each other.

There’s quite an annoying problem when I’m reading this though but this could be just me. There’s a lot of places mentioned in the book which doesn’t contained any description at all! I know it’s because the setting are based on our real world but for me who never goes to London and know about it only from movies and the TV series Sherlock Holmes (THE NEW SEASON IS COMING OUT IN 3 DAYS BTW), I have to Google Image almost every places mentioned in the book otherwise I can’t imagine what the setting of the story even look like. The only places I didn’t Google are Trafalgar Square, London Bridge and Big Ben. (Btw, are all Urban Fantasy the same case as this?)

By the end of this book, I can’t help but feel I wanted a sequel and I'm looking forward to read more of Neil's work. I’ll recommend this book to anyone looking for a fast Urban Fantasy read with unique writing style. I’ll leave this review with my favorite quote in the book, which probably you won’t understand the meaning behind them but once you read this book, you’ll know why I really love this quote.

“I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don't want to be sane.”
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
651 reviews827 followers
May 18, 2022
“You've a good heart. Sometimes that's enough to see you safe wherever you go. But mostly, it's not.”

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Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is an immersive experience in a dark and fantastical place called London Below. Our protagonist, Richard Mayhew, steps out of his daily life by helping a girl who is bleeding on the sidewalk. With this action, his old life in London Above (the world we know) ends. This old life exists side by side (or above) his new one; however, former colleagues and friends in this world no longer see/recognize him. The descriptions of London Below and some of the characters are amazing. Sometimes, though, I felt Richard was just along for the ride, and that actually made it slow going during some big parts of the story, but that changes. There is also a very solid and satisfying conclusion here. I enjoyed Neverwhere, but I didn’t feel as connected to it as I wanted to be until the protagonist became more involved in his own fate. 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,878 reviews22.6k followers
March 8, 2020
Final review: After a multilevel process of reading, commenting and then rereading (see my various updates below), here is the final summation of all my thoughts and feelings about Neverwhere: 4 stars! And read the illustrated version!
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Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Neverwhere is a novel that improved dramatically for me on reread, which actually was a surprise to me. I originally read it about six years ago when, in an odd twist worthy of London Below, it mysteriously appeared one day on my clunky Kindle 2, without my having ordered it. About a month later it just as mysteriously disappeared again (luckily I had finished it just in time). I was fascinated by the marvelous and imaginative setting of Neverwhere and London Below, but only mildly entertained by the plot, which ― other than the beginning and the end ― I found quite forgettable.

Still, when I was offered the chance to read a 2016 edition of Neverwhere with the “author’s preferred text” and illustrations by Chris Riddell, whose illustrations make Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle so memorable, I jumped at the chance. It was a wise decision on my part.

Richard Mayhew, the “everyman” character whose impulsive kindness toward a wounded stranger on the street upends his life so dramatically, was a more sympathetic character for me in this reread. He becomes virtually invisible to normal Londoners, like the homeless whose ranks he physically and symbolically joins. Richard takes a chance, following the path of Door, the young girl he saved, down into London Below, a Byzantine setting with a bewildering assortment of fantastically strange characters. The plot is equally disorienting, a labyrinthine quest that takes Richard and his group from one place or contact to another, as Door tries to find out who killed her entire family, and why, and Richard hopes that somehow he’ll be able to regain his normal life in London Above. They’re relentlessly pursued by Croup and Vandemar, a pair of gleefully horrible assassins, whose employer is shrouded in secrecy.

Both the plot and the characters gained clarity and cohesiveness for me on my second read, freeing me to appreciate Gaiman’s wry humor and the intricacies of the story and its setting. I smiled at the family of Lord Portico (despite their tragic fate), who all have portal-related names and the ability to open doors and locks at will. And I understood better the nature of the capricious Marquis de Carabas:
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.

Riddell’s whimsical pencil drawings add greatly to the story. Along with the full page illustrations at the beginning of most chapters, there are countless sketches that wrap around and through the text. Rats peek around the corners of paragraphs; lovely, vampire-ish Velvets eye you from the tops and sides of the pages. It’s entrancing.
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This illustrated edition of Neverwhere also includes Gaiman’s aptly named 2014 short story “How the Marquis Got His Coat Back,” which should be read after the novel. In it we learn more about the Marquis’ family, and meet some characters that were only briefly referenced in Neverwhere, like the sinister shepherds of Shepherd’s Bush.

If you’re going to read any edition of Neverwhere, I strongly recommend this illustrated edition, whether you’re already a fan of London Below and its inhabitants, or are considering checking it out for the first time. Despite some weaknesses in the story, it’s well worth your time to experience this fantastical world, especially as envisioned by Chris Riddell.

Update #2: I'm upping my rating to 4 stars on reread. Neil Gaiman's mix of dark fantasy, whimsy and wry humor is really appealing, and the plot worked far better for me the second time around. Chris Riddell's pencil illustrations wrap their way in and around the text - they're very cool. I liked Richard, the main character, as Everyman, the way London Beneath worked both as a symbol for the homeless and as an amalgamation of different times and places.

Full review to come.

Update #1: So the joke's on me. Even though I only mildly liked this Neil Gaiman fantasy novel the first time I read it several years ago, when it showed up on a $1.99 Kindle sale a couple of months ago I decided to buy it (major splurge there) and try reading it again. Because maybe I read it wrong the first time?

Not four weeks later a publicist emailed me and offered me this new enhanced hardback edition with illustrations by Chris Riddell for review. I LOVED Riddell's illustrations in The Sleeper and the Spindle, so I said yes, and now it's in my hands. So I could have saved my two bucks, but all things considered I think I've definitely come out ahead. :)

We'll see if the reread + Riddell's wonderful pencil drawing illustrations change my initial 3 star rating here.

Initial review: Neil Gaiman's fantasy about a dark, magical London underworld, which exists side by side with our world, left me with mixed feels. The setting is marvelous and fantastical, and Gaiman does a great job creating it. The plot, though, about an ordinary working man who extends compassion to an injured stranger and, as a result, unexpectedly finds himself up to his neck in this strange and dangerous magical world, was forgettable, at least for me.

I read this four or five years ago and, other than the beginning and the end and a couple of cool settings (especially Knight's Bridge/Nightsbridge), I hardly remember anything about this novel. Still, it's Gaiman, and a lot of people love this book.

Interesting personal story: the reason I originally read Neverwhere is because it mysteriously appeared on my Kindle one day, without my having ordered it. About a month later it just as mysteriously disappeared again. Apparently the ebook is magical too!

I received a copy of the 2016 illustrated version of this book from the publisher for review. Thank you!!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.5k followers
April 26, 2022
Neverwhere (London Below, The World of Neverwhere #1), Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is the companion novelization written by English author Neil Gaiman of the television serial Neverwhere, by Gaiman and Lenny Henry. First Publication date: 16 September 1996.

Under the streets of London there's a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

At the start of the story, he is a young businessman, recently moved from Scotland and with a normal life ahead. This breaks, however, when he stops to help a mysterious young girl who appears before him, bleeding and weakened, as he walks with his fiance to dinner to meet her influential boss.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش نسخه اصلی: روز سی و یکم ماه ژوئن سال2019میلادی

عنوان: ناکجا؛ نویسنده: نیل گیمن؛ مترجم: مهدی بنواری؛ تصویرگر: کریس ریدل؛ ویراستار فرزاد فربد؛ تهران: انتشارات پریان، سال‏‫1397؛ در418ص؛ شابک9786007058619؛‬ موضوع: داستانهای نوجوانان از نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده20م

در «ناکجا»: «ریچارد مایو»، تاجری جوان، میخواهد درباره ی «لندن دیگر» پژوهش کند، و بداند؛ سرنوشتی باور نکردنی در انتظار او در اینجا، در زیر شهر بومی خود، در شهر «ناکجا» در انتظارش است؛ «نیل گیمن» این دنیای باورنکردنی را، در زیر شهر «لندن» آفریدند، تا شهر «لندن» آشنای همگان را در هم بپیچد؛ شاید ایشان از زیرساختهای موجود، همانند «زیرزمین لندن»، برای ارائه ی نوعی نقشه سود برده باشند، اما ایشان اینکار را به زیبایی انجام داده اند؛ ...؛ برگردان فارسی کتاب هم منتشر شد

نقل از متن: (آقای «کروپ» گفت: بعید می‌دونم؛ راستش رو بگم مطلقاً بعید می‌دونم؛ آقای «کروپ» دستش را به میان موهای لختش دواند و ادامه داد: نه دوست گرامی من! منظورم به صورت استعاریه - بیشتر شبیه اون پرنده‌هایی که با خودشون به اعماق معادن می‌بردن.؛ آقای «وندمار» سر تکان داد؛ دو زاری‌اش داشت بالاخره می‌افتاد: بله، قناری! آقای «راس» دیگر شباهتی به قناری‌ها نداشت؛ عظیم‌ الجثه بود، تقریباً هم‌ هیکل آقای «وندمار»، و بی‌نهایت شلخته و کاملاً بی‌مو؛ خیلی هم کم‌حرف بود؛ هر چند، با هر جان کندنی که بود، به هر دویشان رسانده بود، که از کُشتن خوشش می‌آید، و در اینکار مهارت دارد، و آقای «کروپ» و آقای «وندمار» هم خوششان آمد؛ همان‌طور که «چنگیز خان» ممکن بود از لاف و گزاف مغول جوانی که اولین روستایش را غارت کرده، یا اولین یورتش را آتش زده، خوشش آآمده باشد؛ ولی در نهایت قناری بود، هیچ‌وقت هم از این قصه بویی نمی‌برد؛ بنابراین آقای «راس» با تی‌شرت چرک‌مُرده و شلوار جین آبی کبره‌ بسته‌اش جلو افتاد، و «کروپ» و «وندمار» با لباس‌های سیاه رسمی و چشمگیرشان دنبالش راه افتادند؛ برای تشخیص آقای «کروپ» و آقای «وندمار» از هم، چهار راه ساده وجود داشت؛ ا��ل این‌که آقای «وندمار» دو و نیم سر و گردن از آقای «کروپ» قد بلندتر است؛ دوم این‌که چشم‌های آقای «کروپ» آبی خاکستری مات هستند، در حالی‌که چشمان آقای «وندمار» قهوه‌ ای است؛ سوم این‌که آقای «وندمار» انگشتری‌هایی را که به انگشتان دست راستش کرده، از جمجمهٔ چهار زاغ ساخته، ولی آقای «کروپ» آرایه‌ای ندارد، که به چشم بیاید؛ چهارم این‌که آقای «کروپ» عاشق کلمات است، در حالی‌که آقای «وندمار» همیشه گرسنه است؛ گذشته از این‌ها این دو نفر هیچ شباهتی به هم نداشتند؛ از توی تاریکی نقب خش‌وخشی بلند شد؛ چاقوی آقای «وندمار» در دستش بود؛ بعد دیگر در دستش نبود و ده متر آن‌ور��ر آرام توی زمین می‌لرزید؛ به‌ سمت چاقو رفت؛ دسته‌اش را گرفت و بَرش داشت؛ موشی خاکستری روی تیغه به سیخ کشیده شده بود؛ جان که از بدنش درمی‌رفت دهانش با ناتوانی باز و بسته می‌شد؛ آقای «وندمار» جمجمه ی موش را بین شست و سبابه گرفت و خرد کرد؛ آقای «کروپ» گفت: یک موش از توی دیوار کم شد؛ خودش به مزه‌ای که پرانده بود، خندید؛ آقای «وندمار» جوابی نداد؛ موش، دیوار، گوش؛ گرفتی؟؛ آقای «وندمار» موش را از تیغه بیرون کشید و با ملاحظه از سرش شروع کرد و گاز زد؛ آقای «کروپ» موش را از دست او قاپید و گفت: بس کن! آقای «وندمار» قیافه گرفت و چاقو را کنار گذاشت؛ آقای «کروپ» دلجویانه فس‌فس‌کنان گفت: بی‌خیال؛ چیزی که زیاده موش؛ خب؛ بریم؛ کلی کار داریم؛ کلی آدم هست که باید ناقص کنیم.)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 14/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 05/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,079 reviews17.2k followers
June 24, 2019
“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.”

This book feels like pure magic. And wow, looks like I'm getting the Gaiman hype.

Neverwhere follows the story of Richard Mayhew, a pile of anxiety who becomes immersed in the world of Door, an injured girl whose life he saves. But I think this is a more universal story than that - Gaiman is trying to impart a message about life being more meaningful when you risk things for happiness.
“I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don't want to be sane.”

Gaiman is an expert at worldbuilding that’s clever but not overwhelming. The reader is thrown into his world in the same way the characters are - no infodump, no exposition. The worldbuilding here is, while sadly no longer as original as it was in 1995, quite entertaining – I especially loved the concept of a hidden market spread by rumor. And a series of plot reveals and developed characters help the book gain a sense of true authenticity.

Maybe my favorite thing about this book is the excellent comedic irony. Something I’ve consistently loved about Gaiman is his villain writing – his villains tend to be humorous characters in their own right. While it’s a little thing, it helps to give his books their sense of timelessness and blurring of the boundaries between children and adult literature.

But honestly? The main strength is the writing. This was the first Gaiman book I read in physical copy, and I think his writing may just translate better for me on paper than on audio because I liked this so much more after I switched from audio - and that’s even though I love his voice!! The lack of references within the writing give a sense of timelessness and ambiguity that feels perfect for the story. Maybe there's not much special about the story, but his writing is so much fun and so good.

Okay, quick shoutout to racism in the 1990s - the line “giggled like a Japenese girl” is racist as hell and should’ve been cut in the new versions, and I’ve read multiple articles on the racist implications of using “caramel-colored” or other food metaphors as a skin description, so that was cringey. There is also a character whose death, while handled really honourably, is super tropey. REAL SPOILERS AHEAD: The only reason that shit like this didn't bother me more was the fact that this was pubbed in 1995, but damn, would really like that cut.

Overall, though, I found this book supremely entertaining. With developed characters, interesting worldbuilding, a timeless feel, and such excellent writing, this is one I’d highly recommend.

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Profile Image for Fabian.
933 reviews1,526 followers
December 13, 2018
The mean guy inside of me is completely against my giving this book a four-out-of-five instead of a three star rating, but the good guy/casual reader wins out! Hey. C'mon, gimme a break. This is Neil Gaiman: He's not one of Stephen King's favorites for nothing!

Incredibly short, seemingly dippy sentences make up this whimsical phantasmagoria-- more Hollywood script/ graphic novel than novel outright. Gaiman mixes and mashes myths & monsters all for this tight, devious yarn. It must be said that the constant name dropping (we see angels, references to Atlantis...um, Charlaine Harris doppelgangers??) becomes insipid: Gaiman takes over already-told stories instead of making brand spanking new ones. All this said, the puppetmaster does well with the toys he himself has brandished, placing them in ridiculous situations as outlandish & incredible as those found at Hogwarts or Oz. This & 'Stardust' are equally lit that is just above average & right below great.
Profile Image for Brian.
672 reviews314 followers
February 18, 2016
I read Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" recently, and loved it. So when I saw "Neverwhere" on the cheap shelf at the local bookstore I picked it up. For a book that is only 370 pages I thought it would never end. It was Gaiman's first solo novel, so I will cut him some slack, but this text is just simply not that satisfying. The high praise for it mystifies me.
"Neverwhere" is an imaginative novel, with some interesting character ideas and plot devices. But it is not a well written novel. It verges on boring, and the characters are flat and for the most part go nowhere. It is almost like Gaiman wanted credit for the clever idea, but then did not know how to do anything with it. The last 100 or so pages are very weak structurally and the plot is contrived and the ending telegraphed from a mile away. The story is supposed to be a character arc where we see a man become who he was meant to be, but the internal life of all of the characters is so flat and undeveloped, that when the "high" points for the characters come you don't care.
In short, "Neverwhere" would have been an intriguing graphic novel. In fact, that is what Neil Gaiman has written, just without the pictures. As a standalone text, it fails.
Skip this one. Read "American Gods" instead.
Profile Image for James.
132 reviews15 followers
October 23, 2007
Picture Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Really good books right? Now imagine if someone took the first book and mad libbed characters, settings, monsters, etc, so that you were left with the exact same story except instead of travelling the galaxy with your crazy friend and the most powerful man in the universe, you were travelling in haunted British sewers with a nerd's wet dream of a Xena warrior princess rival and a Gothic princess who can unlock doors (sigh). I don't think there is much of a coincidence either because Gaiman wrote the Hitchhiker's companion in the early 80s, as well as conducted interviews with Adams while he was alive (not to mention took writing tips from him). The only saving grace for me with this book was the fact that there someone actually made a miniseries on the BBC of it that is actually so bad that it makes the book look half way decent. Between all the cliche characters, cheesy narration, and formulaic plot, its just not worth your money or a read, especially when Hitch Hiker exists already. I've said it before, stick to American Gods and The Sandman when it comes to Gaiman.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,094 reviews3,836 followers
April 1, 2019
If American Gods (see my review HERE) is Gaiman’s love letter to his adopted country, this is his homage to the capital city of his natal land.

It’s an enjoyable, steampunkish romp about “people who fall through the cracks” of society - literally in this case. It is dark but fun, and never priggish or preachy. The world-building is impressive, as is the huge array of brilliantly drawn secondary characters (and there's nothing wrong with the main ones).

Richard Mayhew reminds me a little of Arthur Dent in The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy from 18 years earlier (see my reviews HERE). He’s a well-meaning, “sartorially dyslexic” everyman, in baffled awe at the strange world and stranger people he encounters when he finds himself in London Below. It’s full of “tiny spurs of old time” as well as a touch of the original Labyrinth of Greek mythology. But whereas poor Arthur got “a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea”, Richard is offered some “which tasted more or less exactly like tea”.

Richard’s unexpected, un-sought-for quests lead to personal transformation, as he finds courage he didn’t know he had, makes decisions about right, wrong, and revenge, and considers who to trust and who might be worthy of love.

There was lots to enjoy, but ultimately I found it a little predictable, mainly because there was a veritable armoury of Chekov’s Guns, all but one of which were fired. It’s at the adult end of YA, so that may be a factor.


Image: Steampunk London by Eric Malacchina (Source.)

Landmark Bingo

Many famous London landmarks are mentioned, with historical and architectural affection. Some are places, and a few are transmuted into people/creatures. I’m sure you could turn this into a game, or if you watch the 1996 TV series (I haven’t), of which this is a novelisation, perhaps a drinking game. The few obvious omissions might have been held back for a sequel?

Another sort of bingo would be all the nods to other books (I’m sure I missed many), including Ian Fleming, perhaps:
People tell you so much more when they know you’re just about to be dead.

Other Londons

London Above has changed in the quarter century since Gaiman wrote this, but even the colourful, revamped, foodie-haven of Borough Market, is dull compared with the Floating Market of London Below. That has stalls selling “lovely fresh dreams, first-class nightmares”, “weapons”, and “useless piles of shit”. Then again, maybe Gaiman was just ahead of the recycling curve.

One prompt to read this was the suggestion of parallels with the more Dickensian aspects of the Gormenghast books (see my review HERE), especially the Undertown of Titus Alone (see my review HERE).

However, the mechanics of dual/parallel versions of a city, whose inhabitants can’t quite notice each other is more like China Mieville’s brilliant The City & The City of 2009 (see my review HERE).

In Gaiman’s world, London isn’t the only city with an Above and a Below, and although both Londons have a similar geographical position, the Below version is less fixed in period:
There are little bubbles of old time in London, where places stay the same… There’s a lot of time in London and it has to go somewhere.


Image: Chris Riddell's "Rat people in the Vaulted Chamber" (Source.)

Quotes

• “White knowledge (which is like white noise, only more informative).”

• “The kind of suits that might have been made by a tailor two hundred years ago who had a modern suit described to him.”

• “We have a damsel to undistress.”

• “He pondered Mr Croup’s last statement with the intensity of an anatomist dissecting his one true love.”

• “Strands of mist hung like livid ghosts on the air.”

• “The whole mechanism looked rather like a combined television and video player might look, if it had been invented and built three hundred years ago by Sir Isaac Newton. Which was, more or less, exactly what it was.”

• “Someone who had managed, somehow, to believe several dozen impossible things in the last twenty-four hours, without ever having a proper breakfast.” Outdoing Alice by a factor of three!

• “Listening the sob of the saxophone, and to the sound of money landing on a coat.”

• "An elderly man with a pinched, humourless mouth and a painted face, looked like he had fled from a life as an all-round entertainer near the bottom of the bill on the Victorian music halls a hundred years before."

• “A voice like rancid butter.” Mr Croup
• “[His] voice was a night wind blowing over a desert of bones.” Mr Vandemar

• “An aggressively emerald-coloured liquid.”

• “Soho, where the tawdry and the chic sit side by site, to the benefit of both.”


I read the expanded “author’s preferred text” edition. It includes an indulgent but oddly charming full-page description of an abandoned hospital. Here’s part of it:

"There was broken glass there, as well, broken glass in abundance. There were also several mattresses. For no easily explicable reasons, some of these mattresses had at some point been set on fire. No one knew why; no one cared. Grass grew up through the springs. An entire ecology had evolved around the ornamental fountain in the centre of the well, which had for a long time been neither particularly ornamental nor a fountain. A cracked and leaking water-pipe nearby had, with the aid of some rainwater, transformed it into a breeding ground for a number of little frogs who plopped about cheerfully, rejoicing in their freedom from any non-airborne natural predators. Crows and blackbirds and even occasional seagulls, on the other hand, regarded the place as a cat-free delicatessen with a special on frogs. Slugs sprawled indolently under the springs of the burnt mattresses; snails left slim trails across the broken glass. Large black beetles scuttled industriously over the smashed grey plastic telephones and mysteriously mutilated Barbie dolls."
Profile Image for Scarlet.
187 reviews1,146 followers
June 9, 2013
Dear Book,

Why did you get over so soon?? Why did you get over at all?? :(

I could have spent many more hours exploring those underground tunnels in the company of those wonderful people, and reveling in the amazing things that some of them - especially marquis de Carabas - had to say.

I could have spent many more days reading and re-reading those delightfully formed sentences, laughing at the intelligent absurdity of it even when not-so-scary villains were doing not-so-pretty things.

I could have spent many more rainy Sundays cooped up in my room and dreaming about rat-speakers and angels, midnight markets and doors, the London Above and the London Below.

But no matter how much I tried to prolong it (and trust me, I did), the inevitable happened.

I made it past the last page.

And I miss you. So very much :'(

Why are you a standalone, book? Why don't you have a sequel?

I loved you before I even started - maybe the words 'Neil Gaiman' on your cover had something to do with that?? Three chapters later and I was unimpressed with your protagonist. Richard Mayhew was such a... such a... damsel in distress - except he wasn't a damsel (Come to think of it, what is the opposite of damsel???) Anyway, I mentally pegged you as a 4-star then but somewhere in those dank tunnels, you charmed me, book. You made me fall in love with you. You won me over with your ready wit and imagination and your lovely, lovely sense of humor.

Thank you for coming into my life even if it was for a brief while. Thank you for taking me to that wonderful world. Maybe I'll fall through the cracks and go there someday. Or maybe I'll just revisit it in my dreams - safer that way.

Love you. Miss you.


Your slightly insane reader,

Scarlet.


P.s. Please tell Neil Gaiman to never, ever stop writing.
Profile Image for Carmen.
2,047 reviews1,802 followers
March 29, 2016
Richard had noticed that events were cowards: they didn't occur singly, but instead they would run in packs and leap out at him all at once.

This is a very well-written and predictable book by Neil Gaiman.

Richard is an office drone.

Of course he is.

And he's dating a go-getting, beautiful woman who doesn't love him for what he is, but sees "potential" and dreams about the man she can turn him into. You know the type. Scarlett Johansson from DON JON.

And he's miserable, but pretends he's happy because... she's beautiful, I guess? Our first clue that he's a moron.

And he's an orphan.

Of course he is.

One day, which seemed just like every other ordinary day, he and Girlfriend are walking to an important dinner with Important People whom Girlfriend really really wants to impress, when Richard stumbles upon a filthy, skinny young woman in rags who is bleeding profusely.

Girlfriend is not sympathetic but Richard shows mercy

Of course he does

...and takes her back to his apartment where he tends to her wounds.

She is not from this world, but from another world, a darker and more dangerous world, hidden right beneath London's surface....

Of course. I know where this is going...

And she's some sort of princess or something....

Of course...
...


I am unsure if I have simply read too many books.

Too many books, or too many books by the talented Mr. Gaiman, but either way I saw 99% of the plot coming from 10 miles off.

Gaiman was constantly trying to shock me and surprise me. I was neither shocked nor surprised.

And I'm starting to think that Gaiman has just one plot, a plot that he uses over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again in each novel/story.

I've gotten used to his preferences. Like hidden worlds full of sinister and quirky characters. Orphans. Evil bad guys who talk and dress as if they are Victorian gentleman and are always referred to in some respectful way.


I'm not slamming Gaiman. He's an excellent storyteller - excellent. The book was fun, quick, and had great world-building. If only I hadn't seen all the characters before. If only I hadn't heard all the details of the plot before. I was disappointed in how little Gaiman was able to surprise me or interest me here.


PLUSES:

- If it's your first Gaiman book, you'll probably be blown away.

- Wonderful rat characters who are cute and charming.

- Amazing world-building.

- On-point dialogue, fun characters, a breezy, action-adventure movie type feel with that special Gaiman dark-but-not-really-dark feel thrown in.

- Is able to maintain a "dark fairytale" feel while included things like the word "fuck" and used condom wrappers.

- Good ideas that he works into his writing, such as:

When he had first arrived, he had found London huge, odd, fundamentally incomprehensible, with only the Tube map, that elegant multicolored topographical display of underground railway lines and stations, giving it any semblance of order. Gradually he realized that the Tube map was a handy fiction that made life easier but bore no resemblance to the reality of the shape of the city above. It was like belonging to a political party, he thought once, proudly, and then, having tried to explain the resemblance between the Tube map and politics, at a party, to a cluster of bewildered strangers, he had decided in the future to leave political comment to others.

Or what about this:

He continued, slowly, by a process of osmosis and white knowledge (which is like white noise, only more useful), to comprehend the city,...

Isn't that interesting? It's such an interesting idea.

- Sometimes Gaiman is genuinely funny, usually when he's discussing sex.

The thin girl was gulping down one of Richard's bananas in what was, Richard reflected, the least erotic display of banana-eating he had ever seen.

Or how about this, this cracked me up:

A late-night couple, who had been slowly walking along the Embankment toward them, holding hands, sat down in the middle of the bench, between Richard and Anaestheisa, and commenced to kiss each other, passionately. "Excuse me," said Richard to them. The man had his hand inside the woman's sweater and was moving it around enthusiastically, a lone traveler discovering an unexplored continent. "I want my life back," Richard told the couple.

"I love you," said the man to the woman.

"But your wife - "she said, licking the side of his face.

"Fuck her," said the man.

"Don' wanna fuck HER," said the woman, and she giggled, drunkenly. "Wanna fuck YOU..." She put a hand on his crotch and giggled some more.


I found this very funny.



MINUSES:

- Pathetic man-child hero who is supposed to go from zero to hero, but instead goes from zero to perhaps a zero-point-five. Starts off as a worthless noodle, ends up being a worthless potato. Slightly harder, more nutritious, but basically still brainless and not worth much.

- The book is very predictable.

- The book, being a "dark fairy tale" like the majority of Gaiman's books, can be a little cutesy and trite at times.

- Gaiman often tries too hard. I found his evil Victorian gentleman villains to be a LITTLE too dramatic and over-the-top for my tastes. It's just...

It was too consistent, to steady and inexorable a walk to be described as a stroll: Death walked like Mr. Vandemar.

Oh, yes. He walked like death. Uh-huh. Please make some attempt to control yourself, Mr. Gaiman. I can handle the sharp teeth and long black coats and eating pigeons and all that other crap, but there has to be some end to the hyperbole, surely?

- Not only does he try too hard in the writing (occasionally) but some of the jokes are just... COME ON. We have De Carabas stealing candy from a baby at one point. LITERALLY. Stealing candy from a baby. Isn't that a bit much? I think it's a bit much. There's no other reason to do it than to show what kind of man De Carabas is.

This is the kind of thing I'm dealing with here.

Or "Mind the Gap." You know, that sign by the train that says, "Mind the gap"? And in this book the "gap" is actually this wraith-like thing that comes out of that space and tries to kill you or eat you or something.

You know. Like Alice in Wonderland jokes. There's a lot of Alice in Wonderland type jokes in here.

You should see how Gaiman takes paragraphs (PARAGRAPHS) to lovingly and carefully set up a "the penny has dropped" joke. It's... Well... Not too funny, IMO.

Or what about when Gaiman has Richard go up to Jessica, and - to prove that he knows her - say,

"You're Jessica Bartram. You're a marketing executive at Stocktons. You're twenty-six. Your birthday is April the 23rd, and in the throes of extreme passion you have a tendency to hum the Monkees song "I'm a Believer"...."

Listen, I see what Gaiman is trying to do. He thinks that a woman who hums "I'm a Believer" when she's having sex is funny. But the whole idea is ludicrous. If you are "in the throes of extreme passion" you should be unable to hum anything. Or, ideally, be unable to even form coherent thought. The whole idea is ridiculous to the point where it wasn't funny to me.

You think THAT'S ridiculous in a book about beasts living in sewers and angels and vampires and etc.?

Yes.

Okay. Weirdo.

- The ending. I mean, SO PREDICTABLE. The

But perhaps what upsets me most about the ending is that he's supposed to be transformed from a man-child or a pasty untested office drone or a slave to the Matrix or what-have-you into a strong, capable, competent man and I just DID NOT BUY this. I'm not buying it. Not to mention that I'm still EXTREMELY angry with Richard for Fucking hell, it was like he didn't even... I mean, fuck. He should have DONE SOMETHING. He just accepted like it was nothing. Am I supposed to be OKAY with this shit? Am I supposed to be okay that he didn't fight for her? No, I'm not okay with this. Fuck that.

- Oh, and he's a moron. Richard is a huge moron throughout the book. And he never gets any smarter. To my intense dismay. I find it hard to respect or admire someone so stupid.

...

Tl;dr - In conclusion: An excellent story wonderfully told by a master storyteller.

Unfortunately, due to me having read too many books or perhaps too many books by this particular author, I was not as impressed as I had hoped to be.

Still, a great dark fairy tale with rich and deep worldbuilding and fascinating ideas.
Profile Image for Madeline.
766 reviews46.9k followers
October 23, 2012
God damn it, Goodreads, when are you going to let me use half-star ratings? You had enough time to make those hideous green "want to read" tabs next to every damn book in my newsfeed; could you please throw me a bone and stop confining me to full stars? I demand half stars, Goodreads. Particularly for this review, because three stars seems unfairly low, and four stars is a bit much.

Neverwhere is early Gaiman (published in 1996), and it shows. You can see him working on the formula that would make American Gods, Anansi Boys, and Coraline successes - unassuming Everyman gets sucked into a magical, dangerous new world and had to navigate through the insanity - but not quite getting it right. This reads sort of like a first draft of his later, more well-crafted books.

The story takes place in modern-day London, and our Everyman is Richard Mayhew, who discovers a girl bleeding on the street one night. He takes her to his apartment and patches her up, and almost immediately a sinister pair of not-quite-men appear at Richard's apartment looking for the girl. The girl's name is Door, and the rest of her family was murdered. Door has the ability to open things that are locked (hence her name), and is being hunted because of this ability. Richard tags along with her, not entirely willingly, into London Below, which is a classic Gaiman world of magic and terror. And, in true Gaiman fashion, the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

It's a good story, the characters and worldbuilding are magnificent, and it's full of Gaiman's signature reminders that magical worlds are actually fucking terrifying, as well as plenty of his unexpectedly funny bits, like this exchange:

"The door was opened by a sleepy-looking footman, wearing a powdered, crooked wig and scarlet livery. He looked at the motley rabble on his doorstep with an expression that indicated that they had not been worth getting out of bed for.
'Can I help you?' said the footman. Richard had been told to fuck off and die with more warmth and good humor."

But throughout the book, even as I was being alternately thrilled and horrified by the story, there was a palpable feeling that something was missing. The villains, while terrifying, were somehow not as threatening as they should have been; I saw several of the big plot twists coming a mile away ; and somehow the big quest never felt important or developed enough. It was something involving a key - I read the book a few days ago, and already the details of the mission are slipping away - but I never felt like I really understood the importance of it all, and it just functioned as a way for the characters to keep hanging out and struggling against evil together. By the end of the book, the entire quest just felt like one big MacGuffin, and I was left feeling slightly deflated.

None of this should suggest, of course, that this book isn't good. Because lest we forget, Average-Quality Gaiman is still Really Really Good Gaiman. Even after all the mild disappointments I listed, I still found myself invested in the world of London Below, and wishing that I could read more about it. Ultimately, the book functions as a good introduction to Gaiman and why we love him, but it doesn't hold up to his later works.
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