“I thought I wanted a nice normal life. I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don’t want to be sane. You know??” ~~ Neil Gaiman
From Lauren’s Perspective:
I was first introduced to Neil Gaiman in a Fantasy and Horror class I took in my second year at University. I read The Graveyard Book, and was immediately in love with the unique voice that was apparent in his work. This time around, I read Neverwhere and, once more, was shown a unique voice amidst an interesting story.
I had a lot of people telling me that Neverwhere was Gaiman’s best so I was very excited to get started. And while I wasn’t disappointed, I wasn’t entirely thrilled either. The story was good without blowing my mind, the characters were interesting without giving me much to relate to, and the overall entertainment value was fun without being superb. Nothing kept me at the edge of my seat begging for more.
The plot of this novel was intriguing and easy enough to follow. A man who lives a very typical life in London, England suddenly no longer exists in his world and is transported into the London Underground. The idea behind the story was great and the message clear: Live a completely comfortable life and choose normalcy or live a completely uncomfortable life and choose adventure.
The characters in the novel were interesting enough. Richard Mayhew is the main character and the easiest to relate to. He was a guy lost in his own life, unsure of what he wanted and who he wanted to be. He lives his life by just going through the motions, never really wanting to be anywhere that he is. When he is in London Above with his fiancé Jessica, he never really shows any affection for her. And his job is simply a job, not a passion. Then he is given this chance at a new life, a scary life that is completely unknown to him, and instead of feeling any excitement, it causes him to start missing his old, boring life, although he never knows why. Through his entire foray into the London Underground he is simply working to get back to his old life despite the fact that he never really liked it to begin with. His confusion and inability to know what it is he wants out of life is something that any reader can surely understand.
The other characters left little else to add to Richard’s dynamic. Door is flighty at best, and unsure at worse. She was completely at fault for Mayhew’s upturned life and all he gets is a rather lackluster “I’m sorry”. And while she does eventually soften to him a bit, her coldness towards him left her character feeling rather unfinished in my opinion. The Marquis de Carabas is slightly more amusing but every bit as flighty as Door, and Hunter is rather similar. None of the characters seemed entirely fulfilled. It was as though they weren’t full personalities, but instead parts of a character there for one specific purpose. This was probably done to help with the question of who was good and who was evil and to keep the question fresh on the reader’s mind, that any one of them could turn at a moment’s notice. However, no matter the reason, I wasn’t able to feel any kind of connection with anyone other than Richard and this left me wishing for a little bit more.
Gaiman’s writing style is his saving grace in this particular novel. It is an easy read, which makes it enjoyable and entertaining without being too convoluted that it is impossible to follow. Amidst his intriguing story and average characters, there are words that are beautifully written and full of meaning that you can take with you when you leave his imaginary world. He writes, “So the day became one of waiting, which was, he knew, a sin: moments were to be experienced; waiting was a sin against both the time that was still to come and the moments one was currently disregarding.” It is in these types of sentences, in these masses of words, that you are lucky enough to encounter Gaiman’s true gift. He writes an intriguing story with intriguing characters, but his true talent lies in telling you life’s truths amidst these stories.
Plot – 3 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form – 5 out of 5
Characters – 3 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 4 out of 5
Overall Score – 15 out of 20
From Krista’s Perspective:
I’m not going to lie. I had some difficulty getting into this book. But I kept plodding away at it because I know Neil Gaiman is one of my best friend’s favorite authors. So I kept going with it. I don’t mean to say that it was painful to read, boring, or even ridiculous. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. Rat-talkers are not totally up my alley. Nothing against fantasy or parallel universes; this one just didn’t make me want to stand up and cheer.
Neverwhere was a slow-paced read for me but interesting enough to make me want to continue to the next page. Gaiman weaved an intricate tale combining two complicated worlds and I found myself wanting to read on just to simply see how it would all eventually piece together. One character described these two worlds and the descent into the Underworld like this, “There are two London’s. There’s London Above – that’s where you lived – and then there’s London Below – the Underside inhabited by the people who fell through the cracks in the world. Now you’re one of them.”
It is a peculiar world filled with owed favors, floating underground markets with people who exchange and barter, and mystical creatures lurking in the gaps between subway platforms. There are roof men, sewer people, noblemen living in abandoned subway stations, assassins, bodyguards, door-openers, and even angels. It became a bit overwhelming at times with the constant surplus of characters, but it always came back to Door, Richard, Hunter, and the Marquis eventually.
This is a tale of losing one’s self at the same time as sacrificing everything to help someone on their own personal journey. This book mostly follows the quest which Richard Mayhew, the main character, is unwillingly thrust into. Because of one decision he loses everything and the reader is privy to his decent into the Underworld, to his surrender to the darkness. If you look closely enough you might question if Richard’s descent into London Below after losing everything could be the perfect euphemism for one’s descent into a dismal depression. At one point Gaiman describes Richard’s “lost soul” complex as, “For a moment, upon waking, he had NO idea who he was. It was a tremendously liberating feeling, as if he were free to be whatever he wanted to be: he could be a man or a woman, a rat or a bird, a monster or a god. And then someone made a rustling noise, and he woke up the rest of the way, and in waking he found that he was Richard Mayhew, whoever that was, whatever that meant.” For anyone who has lost sight of their goals or who they are, this is a perfectly relatable concept.
So although this book bordered a little heavier on the fantasy side than I typically enjoy, it was a book that I was content spending time reading. I was able to weigh the overly exaggerated battles with giant beasts in underground tunnels against the intrigue of what had happened to Door’s parents. I was able to balance the vicious assassins’ creepily sadistic conversations against the humor of Richard adjusting to life in London Below. Am I willing to give Gaiman another shot? Definitely. His writing style is compelling, beautiful, and artistic. Do I hope there are less rat-talkers in the next Gaiman novel? Absolutely!
Plot – 3 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form – 5 out of 5
Characters – 3 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 3 out of 5
Overall Score – 14 out of 20