If anyone has read my previous Neil Gaiman review for The Graveyard Book then you will already know that he’s one of my favourite authors. For me, Gaiman’s work is special, but it isn’t just his talent for creating worlds which he fills with beyond brilliant characters which causes me to state this. Almost anyone is capable of creating a world or a character in their head, of course some are better than others, but my point is you don’t have to be a writer to do this. In my opinion, there are too many books (especially which fall somewhere in the fantasy genre spectrum) which rely on mere character and landscape. Don’t get me wrong! These things are vital, but there’s something which separates these writers from the great genre writers, that’s the ability to tell a story. Neil Gaiman is a great story teller. I’m not sure if being a storyteller is something you can learn, arguably it’s not innate, but I think from a very young age you have the ability or not and Gaiman is one of the blessed.
‘You’ve a good heart. Sometimes that’s enough to see you safe wherever you go. But mostly, it’s not.’
The majority of us familiar with Gaiman’s work will probably agree that American Gods was his masterpiece. Undoubtedly it’s an absolute monument of a fantasy novel, but even though it’s the most impressive book by Gaiman, I’d argue the winner of Gaiman’s most enjoyable read is Neverwhere.
The novel follows a young man called Richard Mayhew, whose life is anything, but out of the ordinary. He’s a young businessman living in a flat in London, engaged to an overbearing fiance and his future is pretty much already decided. Yes, I guess that doesn’t seem too terrible, but can you imagine a life with no surprises, a life which seems so rooted and unchangeable that you just have to concede to the monotonous cycle which is all too easy to become entangled in? Well when we first meet him, that’s Richard’s life. However, this all changes when an act of kindness sees Richard discover a world below the London he knows that never before could he have imagined. From that moment forth Richard will never look at London the same, not even the rats.
Neverwhere is superbly written, Gaiman is able to create a world which is magical, bizarre and terrifying, but still captures the undeniable grimness that London emanates. The characters he’s created do more than just fill this world, they are this world! They are magical, bizarre, terrifying, and I believe in some way pay homage to the wonderfully diverse mixture of people which inhabit the London we are familiar with. I have to give a particular mention to the Marquis de Carabas, who is one of my favourite characters from any story, period. Like I said in the opening paragraph, it takes more than a well crafted world with brilliant characters to inhabit it to make a great book. Gaiman takes these elements and tells a story which you can’t escape from, these are the best kind of stories.
If you haven’t read any Gaiman before then I think Neverwhere is the perfect book of his to begin with. Throw yourself into the labyrinth of sewers, doorways and tube stations of London Below. Visit the Black Friars, dare to cross the Night’s Bridge, but don’t stay too long, for you might find yourself fading from this world entirely.
BB Rating: 4.5
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