Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

(Why review a book that's been out so long, you ask? When so many other people have read it? Well, as I see it, as you are browsing your local bookstore or Kindle store or whatnot, you have thousands of options for books to buy. Maybe a book will catch your eye out of the blue and you'll buy it, but most of the time, you look for the books that have been recommended to you. By friends, magazines, book bloggers. That's all well and good for new books that are all over the blog circuit, but what about those older books that you missed out on? How will you ever know that they're there if no one tells you? So that's where I come in. If there's an older book that I find absolutely fantastic, I'll be your nagging "You have to read this!" friend, there to illuminate some gems that you might have missed the first time around. And now, to the fun stuff...)

TITLE: Neverwhere
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
PAGES: 400
FORMAT: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0380789016
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 9/10

Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart -- and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed -- a dark subculture flourish in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city -- a world far stranger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known...Richard Mayhew is a young businessman with a good heart and a dull job. When he stops one day to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk, his life is forever altered, for he finds himself propelled into an alternate reality that exists in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations below the city. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere.

Neverwhere is a fantastic example of urban fantasy, a dark Alice in Wonderland with all the black humor, sarcasm, and whimsy that Gaiman is known so well for. The bumbling-boy-follows-competent-magical-girl-into-danger-and-gives-up-former-love-interest-for-said-girl plot is straight out of Stardust, but the wildly different world in Neverwhere keeps it fresh. The characters keep you reading, even when it doesn't seem that all that much is going on. Confused, resistant Richard is the perfect guide into Gaiman's world, surrounded by the feisty Door, hilariously dandyish Marquis de Carabas, and the darkly humorous duo of Messers Croup and Vandemar. London Below itself is as real and fleshed out as real London, a clever extension of the Underground train system that builds a fantasy out of what already is. One can almost imagine going to Earl's Court station and finding the Earl eating grapes in his car.

The plot begins slowly and seems a little too packed into the last half, but what the beginning lacks in pace, it makes up in wonder. The reader walks with Richard as he finds the injured girl and unwittingly steps into a place both chaotic and unimaginable, a place where rats speak, doors open between impossible places, and people who exist only below gather in London's hotspots for a market trading magic, trinkets, and a lot of good curry. Then the story picks up as Richard finds himself jumping train cars, fighting monsters, and dodging murderous madmen, all leading to a final battle that finally shows Richard who he really is, and an exciting twist that left me gasping. It's a thrilling read and there's just something so silly and fanciful about even the dark parts that just couldn't be anything but Gaiman.

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