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Neverwhere (London Below, #1)
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Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere > Neverwhere: Chapters 11-15

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Nataliya | 378 comments Richard and Hunter chat about what they want out of this whole surreal experience - and no surprise: Hunter is obsessed with hunting. She hopes to kill the Beast of London.

The infamous London smog makes a brief cameo (it made me fondly remember Mieville's 'Un Lun Dun' in which the Smog is the creepy villain), and it leads us to this lovely quasi-explanation of some of the oddities of London Below:

"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."

The trio reaches the Black Friars on the quest to retrieve the key for Islington. Hunter and Door easily complete the first two tasks, only to realize with horror that it means that final and the most gruesome task - the mystical Ordeal which nobody has yet survived in thousands of years - falls to Richard. And Richard finally begins to grow into the role of the hero.

"Richard Mayhew, the Upworlder, came toward them through the fog, walking beside the abbot. Richard looked different, somehow . . . Hunter scrutinized him, trying to work out what had changed. His center of balance had moved lower, become more centered. No... it was more than that. He looked less boyish. He looked as if he had begun to grow up."

Now, as far as the Ordeal goes, I find it more terrifying each time I read 'Neverwhere'. To be honest, the first time through I found it a tad underwhelming, but the gravity of it has increased since. The terrifying confusion of doubting your own sanity, of realizing that you are a helplessly deluded nothing, to know that the only way out is to end it all - it is a scary possibility indeed. And in an unexpected bit of Chekhov's gun, it's a little bead belonging to Anaesthesia, an 'expendable' little rat-speaker perished a long time ago in the horror's of Night's Bridge, that saves Richard's sanity and life. Rest in peace, Anaesthesia. I'll try imagining that you are not dead, that you beat the odds and survived and now are running a little fiefdom of your own.

"We have lost the key," said the abbot to himself, as much as to any of them. "God help us all."

The image of Atlantis sinking below the ocean haunts Islington's dream, bringing back all the stuff I've read about Atlantis as a kid (having been a weird kid, I was obsessed with the legend of Atlantis for a a few months when grouping up, which is an eternity when you are nine). Not surprisingly to a careful reader, Islington turns out to be the one who had hired Croup and Vandemar in the first place.

Door, Hunter and Richard are on their way to the Floating Market (more interesting tidbits about London Below: nobody can lie about the Market's location, and who is responsible for its location and information about it?), while Old Bailey has a favor to repay as Marquis' lifeless body drifts through London sewers.

Hammersmith makes a silver key for Door as Old Bailey repays the favor by bringing Marquis back to life. Meanwhile, the trio secure a shifty guide - hello, Lamia! - to take them to Angel Islington via Down Street, which is exactly what it sounds like: a street that leads down. And more down. And down some more.

Hunter, a fearless and fearsome badass, saves Richard's life - again. Richard promptly tries to lose that life to Lamia, only to be rescued again, this time by just-back-from-the-dead Marquis. And that's when Hunter breaks my heart by revealing that she's the traitor that Croup and Vandemar have taunted them about.

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I find it enjoyable seeing Richard develop much more into his own person, trying slowly to become less of a pushover and learning to come to terms with the never ending dark weirdness into which he was thrown against his wishes.

Hunter's betrayal hurt - I came to really love her awesome fierceness.

And Marquis - I'd happily read a book all about him.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments I love how rounded Richard's character is. He's just completed this immense ordeal, successfully, which nobody has done before, and yet, he's still sometimes like a little child - for instance, the bit at the market where he puffs up and deflates in quick succession. Also, there's a bit later on, where he completely freezes up due to being afraid of heights.

And how about how easily he falls for Lamia's charms. You just want to shake your head at how poor old Richard steps into every possible trap with eyes wide open...


Nataliya | 378 comments Yes, Richard forever retains quite a bit of childishness, doesn't he? He finds it hard to take charge, he is frequently resigned to just drift along, and in this overwhelming world of strangeness he accidentally finds himself in he continues to cling to his desperate desire to get back to his old safe predictable life at all costs.

That's why I love the last chapter of this book, when Richard.... But wait, I'll save that for our last thread!


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Yes, but that's what makes him lovable besides being exasperating...

Something else: I must admit that i had been with Door in not suspecting the roles that Hunter and de Carabas ended up playing...


Nataliya | 378 comments And, since I could not wait any longer and just * had to * finish the book, here's the last thread: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


Nataliya | 378 comments Traveller wrote: "Yes, but that's what makes him lovable besides being exasperating...

Something else: I must admit that i had been with Door in not suspecting the roles that Hunter and de Carabas ended up playing..."


Hunter definitely fooled me. Marquis was really being set up as the dodgy one; I just assumed that he'd redeem himself with a grand gesture of some sort. I really liked Hunter with all her non-nonsense gruffness and hints at the quite complicated backstory. Her betrayal was quite sad.

Carabas and his elaborate system of favors - well, the dodgy Marquis warms my heart every time I read this book.


message 7: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Hunter hasn't betrayed anyone. I'm not sure what the problem is here (ie, I can't remember, and have been trying to stay in the "here and now" on this reread), but I'm pretty sure she's being honest when she says she absolutely can't go into London Above.


message 8: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (last edited Jan 19, 2015 04:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Hunter hasn't betrayed anyone, at least by her own lights. She's certainly a better bodyguard than the fellow she defeated in the audition: and apparently working for the same ultimate boss. Now, she's got her payment, and she's a free-agent. Actually, the only thing that I felt she was unreasonable about was not explaining Lamia to Richard. But maybe that was something she was no more able to do than to go into London Above with Door.

De Carabas fooled me too, I thought he was setting up for betrayal, and when he met Croup & Vandamar I was sure of it. But then he's not at all surprised when Vandamar is waiting for him only 35 minutes (I think that's right) into the "one hour" head start they promised, and it's obvious that none of this is a surprise—so he's obviously playing some very deep game. One that makes dying worthwhile...

In my review, I commented about Lamia. If Richard had the education that was expected of even my slightly older brother-in-law (also named Richard), he simply couldn't have taken the word of anybody named Lamia! Gaiman's aiming this one directly at the older British readers (or the D&D players like me), who are going to understand how naive Richard is.


message 9: by Nataliya (last edited Jan 20, 2015 05:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nataliya | 378 comments Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "Hunter hasn't betrayed anyone, at least by her own lights. She's certainly a better bodyguard than the fellow she defeated in the audition: and apparently working for the same ultimate boss. Now, ..."

Technically you are right; Hunter never betrayed anyone and simply fulfilled her contract with the 'bad guys'. But given that she spends all that time with our group and becomes such a valuable part of it makes the revelation of her double agent identity feel like a betrayal. Her promise to protect Door was nothing but a ruse. And her motivations to do so - the spear, for crying out loud - ring so cold and heartless that it's hard to feel any sympathy for her (well, at least until later in the book).

As for Lamia - poor Richard with his lack of classical education! Of course it's easier for him to believe that he is suddenly so strangely irresistible to a very alluring woman than to suspect that there are any ulterior motives on her part.


message 10: by Derek, Miéville fan-boi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Nataliya wrote: "… he is suddenly so strangely irresistible to a very alluring woman than to suspect that there are any ulterior motives on her part."

What? Guys do that???


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Ha, with the whole run-up to Lamia seducing Richard, i was intrigued by how alluring her scents were to Richard - which i found a bit strange later on, when it is revealed how cold and lifeless she is - you would think she would be scentless, so one wonders how she manages to exude a scent of musk and flowers...


Nataliya | 378 comments Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "Nataliya wrote: "… he is suddenly so strangely irresistible to a very alluring woman than to suspect that there are any ulterior motives on her part."

What? Guys do that???"


I know! Unbelievable, right? ;)


Nataliya | 378 comments Traveller wrote: "Ha, with the whole run-up to Lamia seducing Richard, i was intrigued by how alluring her scents were to Richard - which i found a bit strange later on, when it is revealed how cold and lifeless she..."

I assumed the alluring scent was merely an adaptation aimed at silly easily seduced people like Richard. Evolution is a miraculous process...


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