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Neverwhere (London Below, #1)
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Neil Gaiman: Neverwhere > Neverwhere: Chapters 16-20

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Nataliya | 378 comments And now the story finally reaches it's resolution, the end of the journey.

First Door, Croup and Vandemar and then Richard, Marquis and Hunter wander in the great labyrinth below London. I have to say, I find the entire concept of such a place/time completely fascinating:

"The labyrinth itself was a place of pure madness. It was built of lost fragments of London Above: alleys and roads and corridors and sewers that had fallen through the cracks over the millennia, and entered the world of the lost and the forgotten. The two men and the girl walked over cobbles, and through mud, and through dung of various kinds, and over rotting wooden boards. They walked through daylight and night, through gaslit streets, and sodium-lit streets, and streets lit with burning rushes and links. It was an ever-changing place: and each path divided and circled and doubled back on itself."

Richard Mayhew is slowly getting deeper and deeper into this maddeningly strange universe hidden right alongside the mundane world that he still thinks he belongs to:

"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."

Our trio gets cornered by the Beast of London, and Hunter loses her life in the fight - but not before, in her last moments and longing for redemption, she ensures that she guides Richard to victory. And so a Richard becomes the Warrior - even though even he feels that it's not his victory.

Door, Richard and Marquis are held captive by Islington and its thugs, and Door seems to have succumbed to the threats and opens the door we can only assume leads to Heaven:

"Door," called Richard. "Don't do it. Don't set it free. We don't matter."
"Actually," said the marquis, "I matter very much. But I have to agree. Don't do it."


... except it's a daring ploy by her as she manages to banish Islington and its cronies somewhere very far in space and time, thwarting all Islington's plans. We also learn that Portico, Door's father, had been planning unification of the scattered societies and communities of London Below, and Door plans to carry on his work. Plus, she has a sister to find. Richard, however, is firm in his decision to leave all the madness behind and return to his old life or predictability and sanity. And so he does. No place like home, right?

Except it's not so. Very soon Richard comes to the painful realization that the time in London Below has changed him forever, and there's no meaning left in his empty life in London Above. And so, in the moment of decisive desperation, to my most sincere cheering, he uses Hunter's knife to carve a doorway to the world Below and call out to his friends he left behind. His call is heard, and my heart leaps with joy at one of my favorite closing passages of any book:

"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."


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And so the journey ends, and I know that had it been me, I'd have taken it in a heartbeat.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments I'm not quite at the end yet, so averting my eyes for now from Nataliya's post, but i wanted to mention how frustrated i feel about not having Hunter fight Croup and Vandermar. I was hoping against hope that she would kill the beast AND then pursue them and possibly dispose of them too. Bah.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Okay, but here's the thing: How did Door know in advance that Islington was a fraud? I mean, if she knew he was a fraud - which was why she had the fake key made to a place opposite of where the "key to heaven" went, then, why did she want to go back to Islington in the first place? I can't help feeling confused... have I missed something somewhere?


Nataliya | 378 comments I assumed that it was not as much of a knowledge but a precaution - not against Islington but against thieves and/or Croup and Vandemar. Had she been captured, the natural assumption would have been that the key she has on her person is indeed valuable, and few would have been concerned with the seemingly inconsequential Upworlder.
Plus, who knows, maybe she anticipated the need for a hard bargain with Islington and just wanted to ensure some advantage? After all, it seems that the world of London Below thrives on trickery.


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Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Okay. I also can't help feeling Islington usurping "heaven" etc., seems just a bit slightly far-fetched, but okay it -is- fantasy, i suppose, and has its own rules....but... why did Islington have to kill almost all of Door's entire family? I understand him killing the father if the later wouldn't co-operate, but why the mother and the brother?


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Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Nataliya wrote: "I assumed that it was not as much of a knowledge but a precaution - not against Islington but against thieves and/or Croup and Vandemar. Had she been captured, the natural assumption would have bee..."

I agree. Richard does, after all, still have the real key, so if they'd reached Islington without his already revealing his true nature, she'd probably have done exactly what he wanted. Unfortunately, he's one of those guys whose report cards said "doesn't play well with others." We don't know what actually caused the drowning of Atlantis, but it's heavily hinted that Islington, at least indirectly, caused it.

“But mil­lions of peo­ple were killed,” said Door.
Is­ling­ton clasped its hands in front of its chest, as if it were pos­ing for a Christ­mas card. “These things hap­pen,” it ex­plained, rea­son­ably.


And when the marquis says “Of course they do,” the angel screams “They de­served it.”

So, it just wouldn't have occurred to him that you can catch more flies with honey... Islington is like the ultimate narcissist, and I think that's exactly the same deal with him storming Heaven and killing Door's family. “Now you want her to open a door for you so you can sin­gle-hand­edly in­vade Heaven? You’re not much of a judge of char­ac­ter, are you?” I think that applies not just to his judgement of Door. He really thinks he can just waltz back into Heaven and take over. If he thinks about God's reaction at all, he probably thinks it'll be assumed that since the conditions of his release: “A key. A door. An opener of the door” had been met, then he obviously deserved his release. And remember, “Lu­cifer was an idiot.” Islington is soooo much smarter than that.

Islington killed the rest of the family because they just didn't matter, and like any narcissist, he's completely forgotten that that plan almost came to a disastrous (for him) end, as Croup and Vandermar were originally supposed to kill Door, and her sister was going to be the door-opener. It's only luck that he didn't end with the whole family dead, except the one family member who couldn't open his door... or is it?

Remember that, despite the fact that there's barely any reference to religion here, we are talking about one of God's angels, and God's plan for him. I think there's a very strong thread of predestination running through all this, which brings me back to my thoughts earlier about Hunter. Hunter's task, whether she ever knew it or not, was not to protect Door, but to protect Richard. As she points out she saved his life many times, the first before she ever joined Door. Richard was needed to get the key, and while his part ended there, apparently the architect of this plan is not so dismissive of his tools as Islington. So Hunter got to fulfill her dream—I don't think she's sorry to die, as long as she died matching herself against the Beast; Richard fulfilled his part; the marquis pays off his debt; Croup & Vandemar get their just desserts; and Islington... well, Islington is still alive—you can't kill an angel that easily—but he's very far away and even though not actually in his cavern, I have to assume that he is still actually imprisoned: after all, Door didn't use the right key!

I loved that quote from the marquis: "Actually, ... I matter very much." I'd hope that I could come up with such a great line if I was ever faced with such a situation!


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Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Traveller wrote: " I was hoping against hope that she would kill the beast ..."

I don't think I ever expected that she would. After all, Richard's been dreaming of killing it almost since the beginning of the book.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "Traveller wrote: " I was hoping against hope that she would kill the beast ..."

I don't think I ever expected that she would. After all, Richard's been dreaming of killing it almost since the begi..."


True, true - yes that part was definitely foreshadowed, but I suppose I thought he'd help her do it (he with the spear, as in the dream) and she with the knife, and then it would have been such fun to see her fighting Croup and Vandemar, which would have been a lot more spectacular to me than them being sucked into a hole.

I mean, she could have died in that fight, (against croup and Vandermar) but I suppose then the immense irony of Richard killing the beast instead of Hunter might have been a bit harder to achieve. Harder, but perhaps not impossible?

She could maybe have been glad to die because now she isn't the uber hunter anymore?


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Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "Nataliya wrote: "I assumed that it was not as much of a knowledge but a precaution - not against Islington but against thieves and/or Croup and Vandemar. Had she been captured, the natural assumpti..."

Er... yeah, there are a lot of assumptions there, it seems. I mean, *cough* we don't even know what exactly Gaiman means by 'heaven' and the exact nature of this kind of angel (maybe I'm simply not up to speed enough with my Christian mythology there; but I mean, in the Christian tradition - if the Christian tradition is what Gaiman simply assumes that the reader is assuming is the setting for his angel and heaven).

Okay, Christians cannot even agree amongst themselves as to the exact nature of destiny and pre-destination. One lot says that the omniscient God pre-ordained the world and decided what was going to happen to it even before he created it, and being omniscient, of course knew what was going to happen even if he? (they, it? - i always struggle to see deity in a gendered context, since gender is for procreation, and i struggle to see a monotheist deity procreating) gave humans 'free will'.

But if humans really received free will, then the course of the world is not pre-ordained and pre-destined, because then free will would not really be free will, would it?
To me 'fate' and 'destiny' is something that fits in much better in the Classical Greek worldview.
Although i accede that a lot of Christians will talk about "God's plan for you" but then they are completely missing the point about that humans supposedly have free will - and that is the one thing that is supposed to distinguish humans from angels - is that humans have free will and angels don't.

So, now i am wondering, if this novel is set within a Christian universe, what it is that Richard was destined to do and why him? (I've had some similar problems while watching the series Lost)

In any case, it also still does not make at all sense to me that Islington would want to kill Door's entire family. If Islington really did it simply because he was dumb, narcissist and stupid, well then - if he is so lacking in intelligence, but he is on par with Lucifer, then that would imply that Lucifer was dumb, yet Lucifer was a worthy opponent for God - and what does that say about God, then? Just wondering.


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Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments I get that Islington might have wanted to kill Door's father because he wanted to unite all the fiefdoms. ...but that -still- doesn't quite explain why he also had Door's mother and brother killed.

Maybe an elaborate ruse to make Door try to take revenge? That somehow seems pretty convoluted to me...


Nataliya | 378 comments Traveller wrote: "I get that Islington might have wanted to kill Door's father because he wanted to unite all the fiefdoms. ...but that -still- doesn't quite explain why he also had Door's mother and brother killed..."

Well, we are talking about a creature who, as it is heavily implied, played a key part in destroying Atlantis - because "they deserved it." Islington probably is not too squeamish about random murders of a few innocent people. Maybe they refused to collaborate before they were killed. Or maybe it was a concession to Croup and Vandemar since it's pretty clear they feel cheated if they don't get to commit a senseless murder or two. All I'm saying is I don't think Islington would have needed a compelling reason for murder.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Nataliya wrote: "Traveller wrote: "I get that Islington might have wanted to kill Door's father because he wanted to unite all the fiefdoms. ...but that -still- doesn't quite explain why he also had Door's mother ..."

Okay. I can see that maybe it could have been a concession to Croup and Vandermar wanting to have their "fun". Charming gentlemen, those two. The three of them, actually.:P


Nataliya | 378 comments Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "Hunter's task, whether she ever knew it or not, was not to protect Door, but to protect Richard. As she points out she saved his life many times, the first before she ever joined Door."

So what you're saying is that Hunter actually turned out to be a much better bodyguard than it seems at the first glance?

As for Islington still being imprisoned - you are so right. I've never thought of it as such, but you are so right - Door never opened its prison door, and so the conditions for its 'release' have never been met. Now, I wonder if it's imprisonment was supposed to tie it to London Below, and whether it means that by Door banishing it elsewhere, it now is beyond the point of influencing anything in the world of Neverwhere, or whether it even matters.


Nataliya | 378 comments Traveller wrote: "Okay. I can see that maybe it could have been a concession to Croup and Vandermar wanting to have their "fun". Charming gentlemen, those two. The three of them, actually.:P "

Speaking of Croup and Vandemar - I found it fascinating how in the end, when Croup was sucked into the void, Vandemar just chose to go along with him. "It made some sort of sense, Richard thought: they were a team, after all." is it really that Vandemar could not function without his 'teammate', of maybe there's more to it - being obviously not human, maybe they were connected in more than one way? Makes me think of Goss and Subby and their nature...


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Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Traveller wrote: "Although i accede that a lot of Christians will talk about "God's plan for you" but then they are completely missing the point about that humans supposedly have free will - and that is the one thing that is supposed to distinguish humans from angels - is that humans have free will and angels don't...."

Tut, tut. An appalling ignorance of theology :-) Not all Christian sects believe in predestination at all, but the Calvinists insist that our lives are both predestined AND that we have free will. "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." So, my Christian upbringing was definitely in the non-predestination camp, which is why I used the term "God's plan": we believed that God had a plan, and it was the faithful's task to figure out how to implement it. So, perhaps there's no predestination here, and it's just a plan, but certainly everything seems to have fulfilled that plan. Richard did fulfill the conditions to win the key (and somehow seems to be the one who must do it); the Black Friars knew that one day somebody would; Richard also killed the Beast—which he at least subconsciously knew he was going to have to fight; and the door, the key and the door-opener came together as Islington expected.

As to "why" Richard has to be the one to get the Key, I have no idea—only that he does seem to be the one who has to do it. That, admittedly, is based on the rather indirect clue that Hunter—who has no reason whatsoever to do so—repeatedly saves his life.

As for comparing Islington to Lucifer, I'd have to say that based on the record, Islington can't be nearly as smart as Lucifer.


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "Traveller wrote: "Although i accede that a lot of Christians will talk about "God's plan for you" but then they are completely missing the point about that humans supposedly have free will - and th..."

Ah,.... okay... I guess. Nobody ever said that religion is supposed to make any sense, huh?


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Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Nataliya wrote: "Now, I wonder if it's imprisonment was supposed to tie it to London Below, and whether it means that by Door banishing it elsewhere, it now is beyond the point of influencing anything in the world of Neverwhere, or whether it even matters. "

Well of course it matters (and I have the same questions)! That #$%^ Gaiman has left lots of room for a sequel, but given the time that's passed I guess we're not going to get all those answers.


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Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Traveller wrote: "Nobody ever said that religion is supposed to make any sense, huh? "

Exactly! There are even those who object to people suggesting their religion is, in any way, rational, as it is supposed to be an exercise of faith.


Nataliya | 378 comments Derek (Guilty of thoughtcrime) wrote: "Well of course it matters (and I have the same questions)! That #$%^ Gaiman has left lots of room for a sequel, but given the time that's passed I guess we're not going to get all those answers."

I hope one day Gaiman decides to write something else set in the world of London Below, but given that's it's been 19 years since the publication of 'Neverwhere' it does seem unlikely. However, maybe it's for the better - we will always have our imaginations to speculate on everything we want to know more about in this world, and we'll never be disappointed if Gaiman's take on things does not correspond to what we would want to see ;)


Magdelanye | 173 comments finally got into this..i just had to leave aside the fact i had read it before and stop trying to remember ( i remembered the trolls, curiously,on richards desk and how glad he was to see them again) At any rate, I let that go, and let myself just enjoy
thanks folks for stimulating me to make this reread


Nataliya | 378 comments You're welcome, Magdelanye!


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Thanks for hosting this wonderful discussion for us Nataliya, and thanks to all the other participants who helped to enrich Neverwhere for me. :)
It was great!


Allen (allenblair) | 227 comments Derek, you've inspired me to research Calvinists a bit, as that belief structure apparently filtered down to today's Baptist church faith ... My childhood church (actually a denomination known as Freewill Baptist) preached that you have the "free will" to decide whether to follow God's plan or not, that you have a choice to be "saved by faith" and follow God's plan or not, which admittedly is a bit guilt-driven in that either you followed God or were sinful/evil. Anywho, I've always thought that kind of belief system inevitably leads to inner struggles, like Richard had with his fate of being drawn unwillingly into London Below, like Arthur Dent and whether or not the earth was really destroyed :) or like the Arthurian legend.

Never quite thought of it that way until now, but in this reread I paid more attention to Islington parts and up until the end I think everyone had a really free choice in what to do ... The interesting thing to consider is that whether Islington is Excalibur - the only one without a real choice. Is he the only one the story really "revolves" around? He's smart, but his narcissism blinds him to the fact that he has no free will? That maybe Islington's like people in the real, above world, smart sheep who think they have free will, making plans, but in the end they're just trapped into one outcome or another by the choices of others.

Gaiman doesn't really answer us, as you all have said, but now I'm wondering if he answers in some of his other novels. Like American Gods?

Thanks for the reread threads ... free will to delve deeper this time. :)


Allen (allenblair) | 227 comments Was stream of conscious posting earlier, and so you all probably did this before me, but I looked up a little Gaiman history ... his family has a Scientology background (1960s-70s). He also had this to say in a 1989 interview:

About his personal views, Gaiman has stated, "I think we can say that God exists in the DC Universe. I would not stand up and beat the drum for the existence of God in this universe. I don't know, I think there's probably a 50/50 chance. It doesn't really matter to me."

Sounds a bit like Richard, at first ...


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Derek (derek_broughton) | 761 comments Allen wrote: "The interesting thing to consider is that whether Islington is Excalibur - the only one without a real choice. "

That's a good point. I certainly can't answer it, but I would guess in a Christian faith that believes in Free Will, having your free will removed would be pretty much the ultimate punishment.

I hadn't realized that "Freewill Baptist" was actually a denomination. One of my choirs practices at the "Freewill Baptist" church down the road, and I thought that was just the name of the specific church, as Catholic & Anglican churches would bear the name of a saint.


Allen (allenblair) | 227 comments Yes, true punishment ... or true gift if you're "on the right path" already, which circles back to the angels not having free will (?) earlier in the thread.

Derek, not to digress too far, but around here there are Freewill Baptist, Old Regular Baptist, United Baptist, Enterprise Baptist, just to name a few - all a separate denomination because they're managed differently as collectives (like the Southern Baptist Convention, similar to a diocese for Catholic/Episcopals). Most people treat it as just "a name above the door" since generally the faith is the same. But sometimes there are minute differences, and divisions.


Saski (sissah) | 266 comments My religious studies prof said Baptists multiply by division. Probably an old joke...


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Allen wrote: "Was stream of conscious posting earlier, and so you all probably did this before me, but I looked up a little Gaiman history ... his family has a Scientology background (1960s-70s). He also had thi..."

That's very interesting, thanks, Allen. There's a possibility that I might not disagree with him too much, really....


Allen (allenblair) | 227 comments Soometimes truth is funny Ruth :)


Traveller (moontravlr) | 1838 comments Talking of churches and sects an' things, i found this quite sad: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/11/us/...


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