Book Review: Neverwhere

Posted: July 13, 2015 by J.A. Prentice in Uncategorized
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From now on, when I try to define “Urban Fantasy,” I shall most likely think of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. It embodies the genre as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings embodies traditional fantasy. Reality and the fantastic are interwoven flawlessly, creating a brilliant and remarkable tapestry of words. Neverwhere is a stunningly good book: complex without being convoluted, bizarre without being nonsensical.
My only concern is that my review won’t be able to properly convey how much you all need to read this book.
For the benefit of our readers, this is a completely SPOILER-FREE review.
The book manages to be both funny and suspenseful. Full of engaging, distinctive characters, it had my full attention at all times and I found myself unable to put it down. The Marquis de Carabas is a particularly great character. He reminded me a great deal of the early William Hartnell Doctor- a morally dubious and mysterious man who doesn’t have any time for fools. The book is full of such interesting characters: Misters Croup and Vandemar, Hunter, Islington, and many other such colourful figures.
The world of London Below is a fascinating one. It’s dangerous enough to convey a sense of real danger for the characters and fantastic enough to command the reader’s attention. It also provides interesting commentary on the problems of “London Above” and other major cities in our modern society. Taking the issue of people “falling through the cracks” and become “invisible” and making it into a literal occurence was a stroke of genius on Gaiman’s part, giving both a compelling allegory and a fascinating fantasy concept.
While I sometimes have an issue with the concept of a reluctant protagonist pushed into a fantasy world who only wants to go home, in the case of Richard Mayhew it seemed perfectly understandable. London Below is not merely some incredible adventure; it’s a very dangerous and hostile place, full of as many terrifying things as exciting ones. While main character Richard Mayhew is very much the “everyman” archetype, he’s a well-developed, three-dimensional everyman, not just a cardboard cutout.
Now we get into the more technical side of things.
Gaiman’s style is similar to that of his writing partner on Good Omens, the late and remarkable Sir Terry Pratchett. He has a distinct narrative voice that incorporates humour and adds to the storytelling, evident in passages such as the following: “There are four simple ways to tell Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar apart: first, Mr Vandemar is two and a half heads taller than Mr Croup; second, Mr Croup has eyes of a faded, china blue, while Mr Vandemar’s eyes are brown; third, while Mr Vandemar fashioned the rings he wears on his right hand out of raven skulls, Mr Croup has no obvious jewelry; fourth, Mr Croup likes words, while Mr Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing alike.”
Gaiman also has some very vivid descriptions, like this description of London: “It was a city of red brick and white stone, red buses and large black taxis (which were often, to Richard’s initial puzzlement gold, or green, or maroon), bright red postboxes, and green grassy parks and cemeteries.” I also rather like this stunning depiction of the early morning: “There was still an hour until dawn, but the sky was beginning to lighten, turning a stark, leaden colour. Strands of mist hung like livid ghosts in the air.” There are countless examples of excellent craftsmanship here, but I feel I ought to stop before I end up quoting half the book.
In short, Neverwhere is a fantastic novel, brimming with imagination, full of great characters, and incredibly well-written. It’s most definitely a recommended read.
5 Stars out of 5

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Comments
  1. […] Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman Review by J.A. Prentice […]

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  2. […] Street.”It’s very Diagon Alley/Neverwhere. (Editor’s Note: J.A. Prentice did a review of Neverwhere.) JC: Was gonna say, this is my favorite diagon alley JA: It has this weird science […]

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