Apatt's Reviews > Neverwhere

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
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it was amazing
bookshelves: fantasy

“There are four simple ways for the observant to tell Mr. Croup 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 jewelery; fourth, Mr. Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing at all alike.”



Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are two of the most vividly imagined villains I have ever encountered in fiction. Google their names and you will find numerous fan arts of the two of them, with surprising variations on how they are visualized by the artists.
“We are,” said Mr. Croup, “after all, famed across the entirety of creation for our skill in the excrutiatory arts.”
Neverwhere is full of memorable characters, when you read a book in the fantasy field (urban fantasy in this case) it is usually the world building and the plot that drive the narrative, but Gaiman is not your average author, even within his fantastical setting we are still very much invested in the characters.

Neverwhere is basically the story of mild-mannered office worker Richard Mayhew who proves the old adage “no good deed goes unpunished” by helping out a girl he finds bleeding on the pavement. The girl is called “Door”, a member of a noble family from “London Below” a parallel dimension of the normal London (called London Above by the “Below” people). She is on the run from Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar who are intent on putting an end to her as they have already done to the rest of her family. Richard takes her to his flat, treats her injuries and allows her to recuperate there.

Hunter, Door and Richard by Fuelreaver

Unfortunately, soon after Door returns to London Below Richard find that he had suddenly become an “unperson”, unseen, unknown and forgotten by the people of our world. To get his life back he must enter the strange world of London Below and help Door to find the person who hired assassins to murder her family and their reasons for doing so. Tremendous fantasy adventure ensues.

Neverwhere is a wonderful read, a colorful, fantastical romp with a heart. If you are a denizen of “London Above” you will find extra enjoyment from the odd characters based on different London locations, such as the Earl who holds his Court in a magical London underground tube train car, the beautiful Angel Islington, the formidable Seven Sisters, a nice old man called Old Bailey etc. Gaiman manages to make interesting characters out of them all.

The full main cast, click on image for full size (sorry I don't know who to credit just yet!)

Better still, are the central characters, Richard Mayhew is your average nice everyman character the readers can easily identify with, but he is quite dynamic in how his bizarre adventures change him over the course of the novel. If he seems ineffectual to begin with, by the end of the book I was rooting for him to succeed and prosper. Door is lovable, her female bodyguard Hunter is incredibly badass and her roguish right-hand man, The Marquis de Carabas, would be an anti-hero if he was the hero of the story.

The narrative is rather episodic which detracts from the momentum of the main story arc a little, but every episode is a delight. Some element of humour is present in almost every scene and most of the dialogue. The climax is suitably thrilling and the epilogue, though a little predictable, should leave most readers feeling warm and fuzzy.

Neverwhere actually started life as a BBC TV series in 1996, written by Gaiman and comedian Lenny Henry. The script was later novelized by Gaiman and published alongside the broadcast of the TV series. It was also adapted as a graphic novel/ comic book series and a radio drama in 2013. I wish I could keep up with all these adaptations, I will have to seek them out somehow. In the meantime, I am delighted by the book and highly recommend it.
_____________________________

Update Feb 18, 2017: Neil Gaiman's Next book will be a sequel to Neverwhere


Comic book cover

Quotes:

“Do all the machines just give you things like that?” asked Richard. “Oh yes,” said the old man. “They listen to the earl, y’see. He rules the Underground. The bit with the trains. He’s lord of the Central, the Circle, the Jubilee, the Victorious, the Bakerloo—well, all of them except the Underside Line.”

“Remember what I told you about the shepherds of Shepherd’s Bush?”

“He tried to apologize to her in French, which he did not speak, gave up, and began to apologize in English, then tried to apologize in French for having to apologize in English, until he noticed that Jessica was about as English as it was possible for any one person to be.”

“Is there anything, really, to be scared of?”
“Only the night on the bridge,” she said.
“The kind in armor?”
“The kind that comes when day is over.”
And then they set foot on Night’s Bridge and Richard began to understand darkness.

“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.”


Wonderful fan art by Segundus

Peter Capaldi as Angel Islington in the 1996 BBC series
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Reading Progress

August 29, 2011 – Shelved
November 14, 2016 – Started Reading
November 20, 2016 – Shelved as: fantasy
November 20, 2016 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)

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message 1: by Lyn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lyn Nailed it. Great review


message 2: by Joe (new)

Joe Valdez Terrific review, Apatt. I'm really not a fan of faerie tales but have appreciated Gaiman's work where I've encountered it. Your review makes me consider giving him another chance.


PorshaJo Great review! I love this one and hope to revisit it again soon.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Awesome review, Apatt, thank you! A character-rich story - my kind of read. This is on my list, must get to it soon.
A girl named Door between the Above and Below - inspired!!


Michael Fine job. Seeing the origins in the mid-90s I guess that means he beats Aaronovich for a secret underground London as well as Mieville's version in Kraken. Colorful bad guys seem to be a trademark with Gaiman. I'd read more of those Thomas Hardy's you favor if he had some as nefarious. :-)


Matthew Quann Delightful review Apatt! I'll definitely be reading this in the future. I love Gaiman but have yet to read this classic.


message 7: by Apatt (last edited Nov 20, 2016 06:47PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Apatt I went to bed and woke up to the above comments! Thank you so much!
(((o(*゚▽゚*)o)))

Michael, the two thugs in China Mieville's Kraken are very similar to Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar!

Anne, if you love a bit of whimsy in your fantasy adventures this should suit you!

Joe, yes, give Gaiman several chances! Though, American Gods is more complex and badass.

Thank you, Lyn, Paul, PorshaJo and Matthew!


message 8: by Derek (last edited Nov 21, 2016 02:27AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Derek Paul wrote: "Awesome review! This was my first Gaiman I read and loved it (besides his Sandman comics)! It will always have a special place in my heart!"

This was my second, and American Gods almost put me off. Not that there was anything wrong with AG (other than lack of originality), just that it wasn't nearly as good as I'd been expecting. Neverwhere (which I first caught as the BBC Radio drama) made up for it.

Great artwork selections, too (though I think that first Richard looks far too much like he belongs in London Below—he might look like that now, but certainly not when the story starts!)

"The Marquis de Carabas, would be an anti-hero if he was the hero of the story." And he is the (anti-)hero of a story: How the Marquis Got His Coat Back

Wonderful review, Apatt.


Lata I spent many a commute to work listening to this book. I dare say it was the best part of those work days.


Apatt Derek wrote: "Paul wrote: "Awesome review! This was my first Gaiman I read and loved it (besides his Sandman comics)! It will always have a special place in my heart!"

This was my second, and [book:American God..."


I like Anansi Boys better than American Gods, though I enjoyed AG also.
Still, Capaldi as Angel Islington eh? Who'd have thunk?
Cheers, Derek!


Apatt Lata wrote: "I spent many a commute to work listening to this book. I dare say it was the best part of those work days."

Thanks, Lata. Did Gaiman, narrate the audiobook himself? He's very good at that.


message 12: by Lata (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lata Apatt wrote: "Lata wrote: "I spent many a commute to work listening to this book. I dare say it was the best part of those work days."

Thanks, Lata. Did Gaiman, narrate the audiobook himself? He's very good at ..."


The audio I have is Gaiman narrating. I know there's a full cast version, too, but I've never heard that.


Cecily Nice review, but Malcolm Tucker/The Doctor looks SO wrong in that picture.


message 14: by Apatt (last edited Nov 22, 2016 06:00PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Apatt Cecily wrote: "Nice review, but Malcolm Tucker/The Doctor looks SO wrong in that picture."

But he looks so sweet and appropriately angelic!

(view spoiler)


message 15: by Cecily (last edited Nov 22, 2016 11:36PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Cecily Ha! But (view spoiler), there's an evil glint in those eyes. A hint of Tucker to come.


message 16: by Apatt (last edited Nov 22, 2016 11:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Apatt Cecily wrote: "Ha! But [spoilers removed], there's an evil glint in those eyes. A hint of Tucker to come."

Oh dear, something something something ヾ( ̄ω ̄; )


message 17: by Lila (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lila I also googled C&V and some of the artworks are very good. In passing, I went to his Norse Mythology presentation and he said he's writing the sequel of Neverwhere: The Seven Sisters!


message 18: by Kevin (last edited Nov 19, 2017 05:16AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kevin Ansbro Hi Apatt. Your splendid review - and then Matthew Quann's recommendation - caused me to take a second bite at Gaiman's cherry.
Eww, not sure that metaphor quite worked. : (

I liked it (much more than I thought I would), but not as much as you guys.

Wonderful, wonderful review though!


Apatt Kevin wrote: "Hi Apatt. Your spledid review _ and then Matthew Quann's recommendation - caused me to take a second bite at Gaiman's cherry.
Eww, not sure that metaphor quite worked. : (

I liked it (much more th..."


Well, you liked it more than you thought you would, that's something! 😎


Kevin Ansbro Apatt wrote: "Kevin wrote: "Hi Apatt. Your spledid review _ and then Matthew Quann's recommendation - caused me to take a second bite at Gaiman's cherry.
Eww, not sure that metaphor quite worked. : (

I liked it..."


Thank you, Apatt.
I added a link to your most-excellent review. I am in your thrall.


Cecily Coming back to this review after reading the book, and now I really appreciate it - and the fan art you've included. You're spot on about Croup and Vandemar being vivid villains.


Apatt Cecily wrote: "You're spot on about Croup and Vandemar being vivid villains."

Makes a change from just being spotty 😊


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