Neverwhere (Author’s Preferred Edition) by Neil Gaiman
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.
Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.
I’ve had a bit of a hit-or-miss relationship with the Gaiman books I’ve read previously. I liked the movie version of Stardust better than the book; Good Omens was fun but I prefer Sir Pratchett’s solo work to the team-up; I tried reading Anansi Boys before learning that it’s technically a sequel – or at least spiritual successor – to American Gods, which I still haven’t tried due to mixed feelings about Anansi Boys.
So when my sci-fi/fantasy book club announced that for May we’d be reading Neverwhere, I was a little bit nervous. I haven’t liked a lot of the novels we’ve read so far, although that’s given me a lot to say about them, at least.
Unfortunately, Neverwhere was another strike for me.
I understand exactly what Gaiman did with his narrative style – slow and dreamlike, so everything that happened felt like a dream. It fit the story quite well. However, it is a style I dislike, and one that I constantly struggle with. It made the action seem languid and drawn out, pretty uninteresting, actually, even at moments that were supposed to be high in tension. On top of that, there was a preponderance of similes and metaphors. Far too many in my opinion, with, on average, one a page. Minimum.
On top of that, I didn’t connect to any of the characters. There wasn’t enough there for me to grab onto, and what there was didn’t particularly appeal to me. If I’d found a character I really liked, I might’ve been able to overlook the narrative and the (lack of) plot, but that didn’t happen.
I did enjoy the scenes with Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar – they were very entertaining from the get-go, and I liked the ‘Altogether Different Prologue’ featuring them, talked at the tail end of this version of Neverwhere. They were always good for a laugh – and a bit of ‘did-I-really-just-read-that-gore’, not that I minded that part.
I also appreciated the setting. Gaiman was wonderfully descriptive and the hints of otherness – and humans-turned-others – was great. At my book club, one of our librarian moderators said a friend of hers who’d read the book described it as ‘fae but not’, and I have to agree. These aren’t your traditional fair folk populating London Below, but they are fae.
There wasn’t enough in Neverwhere to make me like it, unfortunately, but I do seem to be in the minority so don’t let my opinion stop you from giving it a try.
2 out of 5 stars.