Return of the Rogue Readers discussion

Neverwhere (London Below, #1)
This topic is about Neverwhere
Here we talk about read books. > Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Jordan (last edited Mar 13, 2016 09:51AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jordan | 240 comments Mod
This was the second time I read Neverwhere. The first time I read it was around 2000 and I enjoyed it just as much this time around.

My first read through I was fascinated with the idea of a mystical mirror city that existed below and beyond the London above. I liked the idea that there was something magical just beyond the day-to-day grind, something you might see out of the corner of your eye and dismiss as a trick of light. Now that I think about it, that element has been present in many of my favorite stories. Otherland by Tad Williams, The Matrix, Peter Pan, The Dark Tower books, Harry Potter, etc. It gives me hope that maybe someday I will get my invitation to the worlds other than these.

The story itself was great to visit again. It had been enough time that I forgot most of the details, but as I got back into it I felt like I was visiting old friends. Some of them were insane friends, or unpleasant friends, but it was good to see them again.

This book also reminded me why Neil Gaiman has such a solid following of female readers. His books always have a balance between male and female characters. There are strong characters of either gender, something that's pretty rare in fiction. They are balanced between male and female, also between good and evil. The characters don't fall cleanly into any of the cookie-cutter tropes that litter fiction.

Of all the characters I was most interested in hearing more about The Marquis de Carabas. I would read a book about his other adventures and how he got the pronounced reputation that he had. This line from the Wikipedia article struck me. The Marquis "was inspired by Puss in Boots. Gaiman stated this as the starting point for the character, and imagining "Who would own a cat like this?"

message 2: by Danielle (last edited Mar 14, 2016 05:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Danielle | 69 comments This was my first time reading Neverwhere. In fact, it was my first Neil Gaiman book. I was more than pleasantly surprised! I had a feeling I would like this book, but I had no idea that I would enjoy it so much! So much to say!

He is an excellent writer and I enjoyed his writing style so much that I have already started reading more of his work. He incorporated so many of the things that I enjoy in a book. He was poetic at times, humorous, ironic, and even threw in a pun or two for giggles. So many good things in one story.

There was an element of magic to the story that kept you on your toes. It was introduced in such a way that was a bit unpredictable and you never really knew what was about to happen. It was subtle enough that it made me feel like it is completely possible that this world and magic could really exist. It was fun and exciting.

I agree with all of your comments, Jordan. Some of which, I would have brought up myself, but to save on repetitiveness in the reviews I'll limit myself. Maybe... ;)

I loved that Gaiman kept the playing field level between the male and female characters. I understand that in many stories, a weak (female) character is necessary for the story line, but it is all too common. As you put it, a strong female character is rare in fiction. It was refreshing to see it more equalized in this book. I also have to point out that I respected the fact that he didn't overshadow these female characters with any unnecessary 'love stories' that many writers feel is needed to make the feminine characters more 'realistic'.

I completely agree with you about the Marquis de Carabas. He was a fantastic character. I love how he was complex enough that you didn't know which side he was on for most of the story. I feel like there were many characters in this book that fell into this category. So many characters that left me wanting to know more. Hunter was a great one as well. I feel like there was a lot of depth there that wasn't explored nearly enough. I would definitely read a book about her. I would even like to know more about Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup. As creepy as they were, they hinted at their past exploits so many times that it made me curious. Door's family, and their story, would also be a good one. One thing I really, really liked about this book was that all of the characters had a depth that could only be lightly touched on in one story.

This book, and these characters, were so interesting and complex that it left me wanting more, but not in a way that was unsatisfactory. It was deeply layered but very well organized.

As a side note, I was really impressed with Gaiman's audiobook performance. All of the characters were easily distinguishable.

Ok, I'll stop for now!

I am curious on everyone's opinion on their least favorite character(s) and why.

message 3: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy Wong (amywong_marsu) | 47 comments Hello! Sorry for the late reply! I really enjoyed this book. It was my first Neil Gaiman book and I thought it was cool! It feels like this book could have been written in the last 10 years when all of the YA supernatural books were big but I saw that it's actually almost as old as me.

I liked Door the most because she had cool powers but didnt seem broken or too strong. Hunter was cool and she would have been my favorite but she turned out to be a bitch and thats not cool in my book lol.

Jordan, I agree about the Marquis de Carabas being interesting and the quote about Puss in Boots is funny!

My version is also the Preferred Version.

message 4: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy Wong (amywong_marsu) | 47 comments Danielle you make a good point about depth of the characters being more than the book can get into. I would read another book set in this world tomorrow if there was one. I didn't like hunter because she betrayed everyone but I get why you might like her. She was a tough chica!

Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar were super creepy but they worked just right in their roles. Do they show up in any other stories by Neal Gaiman?

Both of you guys listened to the audiobooks? I listened to a sample of it to see how it sounded and he does have a soothing voice. Maybe I will have to break my vow to only read with my eyes not my ears lol.

message 5: by Danielle (last edited Mar 14, 2016 06:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Danielle | 69 comments Amy, I am glad you enjoyed the book!

You made some good points about the betrayal from Hunter, however we did see her make a slight change at the end. I feel like she had set out with a goal and was determined to reach it. I don't think she planned on hurting people in the process, and in the end she seemed to feel bad about it. I wouldn't necessarily call her evil. That is why I felt that a story about her would be interesting. Why was she the way she was? What was going through her mind when she made the deal to betray Door? What caused her to start caring about people other than herself in the end? I think there is a lot left to explore with her character.

Betrayal was a common theme in this book. I mean, if we're going to talk about that, what about Islington? "But, he's a frickin' angel!" haha Poor Richard couldn't get over that one.

As for the audiobook question, give it a try, maybe you'll enjoy them. I like to listen to the audiobook while doing my daily tasks and then start where I left off at night with a real book. It gives me the best of both worlds.

Jordan | 240 comments Mod
Danielle: I'm glad you enjoyed this. I too immediately read another Gaiman book directly after finishing Neverwhere. I read Good Omens and, of course, enjoyed it very much.

The subtlety of the magical side of this tale was part of what created the atmosphere I mentioned above. The idea that our little Ohio version of London Below might lurk just below the surface of Ruff Kreek or behind one of the vacant store fronts of the mall.

I agree with both of you about the depth of the characters. To both of you, if you could convince Neil Gaiman to write another book that was a sort of origin story which character would you most want to read about?

Amy: I don't believe Messrs. Croup and Vandemar appeared in any other books, but I have not read everything Gaiman has written. If I come across them again I will be delighted and I will let you know.

You ought to give audiobooks a chance. Especially so since you liked the sample you heard. Audible is an overpriced bastard (like an Apple product) but there are other *ahem* sources. To answer your question I listen to audiobooks almost exclusively because I can enjoy them while exercising, driving, etc. That doesn't mean that you have to choose an audiobook for your turn though. If I can participate, I will. If not, don't sweat it. I'm glad you participated and welcome to the club!

message 7: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy Wong (amywong_marsu) | 47 comments Danielle to you thin she redeemed herself? I dont think she did. I think she was dying and barely did anything useful even then. One of her last sentences or maybe her last was to make fun of Richard because he killed the beast. Seems like she was just in it for herself and pissed that she failed.

Islington was the great betrayer in this story and I thought it was the Marquis until the moment we learned it was Islington! Even after he died I thought he was still up to something or that Croup and Vandemar killed him because they were tired of taking his orders.

message 8: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy Wong (amywong_marsu) | 47 comments Oh! I just saw that you replied too. Sorry Jordan lol!

I see where you both come from about how this world could be in our world just that we don't know how to get there. My family is from Hong Kong and once when I was a little girl we went there to visit. Have you ever heard of the Kowloon Walled City? We never went inside but I saw it from a distance. It's probably as close to a real life London Below as you can get. They might even talk to rats! lol

Danielle | 69 comments While I would be excited to discover an alternate world full of magic and mystery, some days Ruff Creek Above is terrifying and mysterious in and of itself.

It would really be difficult to choose which character I'd most like to hear more about. They all had something that I wanted to know more about. As I mentioned before, the Marquis de Carabas was an excellent character. He was probably the most complex and mysterious so I think his story would be a very interesting read. Hunter is definitely a front runner with her complexity. Did I read that she was cursed with her task? Or am I remembering that incorrectly?

Amy, I don't know if we can say that she necessarily redeemed herself, but I think that she realized her mistake and regretted her decision. Not only that, she did protect Richard and Door from many things before they got to the beast. Granted, her motives were selfish, but I like to give credit where credit is due. :)

Jordan | 240 comments Mod
I am with Amy on this one. I don't think Hunter ever redeemed herself. I think her actions were purely self-motivated and the only reason she kept Door safe was because it was part of the deal to get The Spear of Destiny (or whatever it was.) The only reason she kept Richard alive is because Door wanted it and it would have been obvious that she intentionally failed to act if he were to have fallen to his death. I am going to have to reread her final scenes. I don't recall her doing any regretting beyond wishing it was she who slayed the beast. In fact, I felt that her lack of morality and general shittiness contributed to the feminist aspect of her character. Not in a militant feminist sense (where women are sacred and men are shite) but in the general equality sense. Her character was flawed and (imho) definitely not a good person, but she was far from the useless, fainting damsel character we see so often. I didn't like her and I wouldn't want to be her friend, but that's because she was such an asshole. The fact that she was an attractive female was mentioned on more than one occasion, but it was irrelevant to *who* she was. Good or bad person, she was a great character

Danielle | 69 comments I had never heard of the Kowloon Walled City and had to use our old, mostly reliable, friend 'Google'. Very interesting! I see that several people have written about their experiences there. I will read more about it. Thanks for sharing!

Danielle | 69 comments Jordan, I agree that her motives were most definitely selfish. I don't deny that. I wouldn't trust her if put into any situation with her. I just got the sense that she was starting to regain a bit of her humanity at the end. I felt that she was a character that exhibited a more diverse personality in the sense that she was balancing on that line found separating evil from good. I didn't see her completely molded to either side. It very well could be that I interpreted it that way. I, too, feel the need to revisit those scenes now. I agree, good or bad, she was a great character.

Jordan | 240 comments Mod
I gave a relisten to the part of the book starting with Hunter fighting the beast for the first time. I still don't think she did anything noteworthy. She was already dying, already done, and she drew the beast to her to give Richard the chance to spear it. She knew she was dead and saw one last chance for a shred of honor. Is that not in itself a selfish act?

Garret (garretldavis) | 93 comments I'm clearly late to the party, but have enjoyed the discussion thus far. This is my second time through this novel and I think I fell in love with it even more than I did almost twenty years ago. To answer one lingering question that's come up: there is another story set in this world called "How the Marquis got his Coat Back." I have not read it and the only place I have found it with a limited search is the US hardback reissue of Neverwhere that has that story tacked on the end. This version is out of print, but can still be found online from places like Amazon. I'm hoping Gaiman will add it to a short story collection, but time will tell.

Something interesting to note about this novel is that it is itself an adaptation of a BBC miniseries that Gaiman was hired to write (which I do own and is quite good despite its age and at-the-time technological limitations); Gaiman wanted more than what could be shown in that format, which is how the novel was written. They do run very close together, but the novel is superior in execution.

As for my own favorite character, the Marquis is mine because of his depth and really just how fun he was to watch in action with his attitude and general flair. He, like all of the characters and as has been pointed out, has so much story behind what we are given in this novel that it feels almost a crime that we are only given this short visit into that world. Even characters like Old Bailey would be fascinating in a connected collection of stories to read about; not a single character is wasted in the telling of this story.

For Amy and Danielle, with this being your first adventure into the mind of Neil Gaiman, welcome to the beautiful bedlam of magic he can create. In my experience and opinion, if you come back to him, you'll never leave disappointed for the trip you'll take.

Danielle | 69 comments Garrett, welcome to the Neverwhere party. I am glad that you were able to enjoy the book a second time around. I agree that all of the characters had something interesting to add to the story. From my limited experience with the author, I am finding Gaiman to be a genius at character creation.

Jordan, Hunter was most definitely selfish. Perhaps it was my 'try to see the best in people' mentality that projected any semi-redeeming qualities onto her character. haha In any case, as you said, she was a great character. I do think there is a depth there, whether good or bad, that would make for a fun read. :)

The only characters I don't particularly care to read more about would be Richard and Jessica. Jessica was a horrible human being that was almost a non-character and Richard was more obnoxious than anything for much of the book. Even though he was the main character, he was the least interesting in my opinion.

message 16: by Danielle (last edited Mar 16, 2016 08:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Danielle | 69 comments

Ask and you shall receive! "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back" is in this story collection.

Garret (garretldavis) | 93 comments First, that's awesome, Danielle! I'll definitely pick up that collection. Second, about this talk of Hunter. I agree that she was selfish and, personally, I saw no redemption of her flaws at the end of the story. Even at the end when she told Richard he was now the Warrior, I felt like she was almost mocking him for killing the Beast of London rather than applauding his actions. Or, if not mocking, being condescending at the very least just as everyone else had treated him throughout the novel.

I also agree that Jess (Jessica!) and Richard were probably the worst characters in the story, but I would like to know how much Richard changed during his future untold life as a citizen of London Below. Did he just continue to follow Door around, did they become lovers, does he embrace becoming the Warrior, or is he ambushed by the Velvets and killed within weeks of returning? In this regard, I find a returning strength and weakness in Gaiman's writing that I absolutely love and hate in almost everything he's written: I always want more after I've finished reading.

message 18: by Danielle (last edited Mar 18, 2016 06:19PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Danielle | 69 comments If I had to assume a future for Richard, he probably followed Door around until either being killed or getting lost.

Jordan | 240 comments Mod
Garret, we agree about Hunter. Richard seemed to be gaining a little independence at the end. I like to think the scene where he leaves his friends in the pub to wander the streets is symbolic of leaving old Richard behind. He makes numerous references to his old life and to 'knowing' how this all turns out. They would all do this, then they would all do that. He'd bang the new girl, they'd get married, get an apartment or whatever it was...etc. I think Neil Gaiman was trying to show us that Richard had grown, he had leveled up a few times, and he wasn't the same boring follower we met in the beginning.

I think it would have been cheap and unrealistic to have him suddenly assume the mantle of The Warrior, it wouldn't be natural for Richard Mayhew, but he definitely did not spend his life like a lost puppy.

Garret (garretldavis) | 93 comments Jordan, it had to have been intentionally symbolic. The novel starts in the same way with him at a pub leaving a group and life behind him to start anew, and it was a direct reflection at the end of the same. In my own version of unseen futures for his life, I do see him taking that mantle and becoming someone that not just exists in London Below as his first adventure, but lives there as the real deal. This is, in my opinion, almost a different coming of age story set in a place of wonders where if you don't change and get weird and hard, you won't make it. From the beginning to the end, we see Richard make various changes, and if I was writing the sequel, you better believe he'd toughen up. He may never be a rough-as-stone soldier as we know, but he would change to become the Warrior as true to form as he can be. I don't think he'd travel the world hunting for sport like Hunter, but perhaps that's why he was dubbed differently, right?

message 21: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy Wong (amywong_marsu) | 47 comments Garret I dont think the book started out just like that. I think Richard was on his way to dinner with Jess and her boss. Or might have been since he screwed up the reservation lol. Maybe I misunderstood it but it seemed like they were not direct reflections. Its pretty similar and close enough though right? lol

I dont think Richard ever became a great figure in that world but maybe he did. He does know a lot about London Above that most characters dont know. Anesthesia was introduced to london Below as a little kid and she didnt remember much of the above. Richard could be like a guide or something.

Jordan | 240 comments Mod
Good points, Amy! Do you think Richard would lead expeditions from London Below to London Above?

Garret (garretldavis) | 93 comments Amy, in my edition there was a prologue that started just that way.

message 24: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy Wong (amywong_marsu) | 47 comments Garret you are right! I went back and checked and I guess I just spaced on that first page lol

back to top