Friday, December 24, 2010

Neverwhere

Richard Meyhew has a good, respectable life with a good job and a fiancée. It's a typical, boring existence that he doesn't really feel any satisfaction in. His whole world is thrown into turmoil when he kindly helps a bleeding homeless girl despite the protestations of his callous and cold fiancée who would rather continue on to their important meeting than help a fellow human being. He brings the girl to his apartment and she introduces herself as Door. He then encounters two very frightening men, Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup, who are searching for the girl, claiming to be her concerned family. Richard continues to protect the girl and she soon leaves his life as abruptly as she entered it. The next day, he tries to go through his daily routine as usual and finds that everyone ignores him. It's as if he doesn't exist at all. His desk at work is empty and his apartment was being sold as he was in it. His only course of action is to find Door and try to get his life back. He has no idea that his journey will take him to London Below, a hidden, dark part of London that people who live above never see. It's populated by the forgotten people of Above, royalty, merchants, angels, assassins, and creatures we had all hoped were just the stuff of nightmares. Richard has to come to terms with this other world and find the hero within himself to survive.

I don't really know why it took me so long to start reading this book. It's been sitting on my shelf for over a year. I guess I figured I could always get to it later. I've read and love most of Neil Gaiman's other works and this one was no different. This is the typical story of a normal, boring guy of the modern age being thrown into a supernatural world he knows nothing about and his struggle to become a hero or die. It's a situation seen very commonly in urban fantasy, but he makes the genre his own. I became completely caught up in this world within our own. I loved that the setting was familiar, such as Harrods, with fantastical goings on. In this case, Harrods served as the place for The Floating Market, a moving bazaar for the inhabitants of London Below to sell their wares unseen by normal people. The book really sparked my interest in London's more mundane places. The writing is incredibly descriptive and elegantly written. The language flows seamlessly and just sucks you in. Sometimes I would completely lose track of time while reading. The world feels complete, but the book just couldn't encompass the whole thing. We just see what the individual characters see and some other glimpses from conversations, but it's still shrouded in mystery at the end of the novel. To me, this is a strength of the novel that it can be expanded upon and the novel is just a small slice of the larger picture.

I truly loved or loved to hate all of the characters without exception. All of them had their own complete stories. I never knew if the secondary characters where on Door and Richard's side or not until the very end. My favorite character was Richard because he started out as a boring businessman with no sense of adventure and grew into so much more because of his exposure to this other dark and savage world. He thought his life was pretty wonderful at the beginning, but he later realizes that his fiancée is a cold person who wishes he were someone else and his job just makes him into a mindless corporate automaton. I really enjoyed following his hero journey throughout the novel.

Neverwhere is a richly imagined urban fantasy that takes the familiar and makes it distorted and dark. I highly recommend it to just about anyone.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

1 comment:

Dave said...

"I really enjoyed following his hero journey throughout the novel"; for hero's journey see http://www.clickok.co.uk/index4.html