Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book Review: Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, but it's kind of funny - his work, to me, is better 'as a whole' rather than specifically. Like, I really like certain characters, or certain settings, or certain plots, but it's difficult for me to find entire books of his that I really enjoyed from start to finish.

Neverwhere is probably the closest I've ever been to this. It's got great characters, an interesting story, an OK setting, great pacing, and realistic dialogue. Plus, it has some legitimately surprising plot twists and doesn't work out the way you think it does. It keeps you on your toes.

Briefly, the book has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with 'Neverwhere.' Have no idea where that name came from as it's not mentioned anywhere in the book. I guess it's the opposite of 'Everywhere'? Eh I think he just picked it because it sounded cool.

It's set in 'London Below,' which is an alternate London which exists underground. People who live in London Below typically can't be seen by anyone above ground, even if they are standing right in front of them.

The story is that a guy named Richard saves a girl named Door, and then inadvertently travels to London Below when he finds that no one can see him anymore. He discovers that when he saved Door, she accidentally pulled him into London Below. He also discovers that she is running for her life and that her entire family was just killed by two assassins. Can he help Door discover who has been trying to kill her and why, and can he get back to London Above? Answers: Yes, Sort of, and you'll have to read it to find out!

I recommend the book. It's a bit violent and has a small amount of language in it, but it's a good story and I liked the characters a lot, especially the Marquis DeCarabas. I listened to the audiobook, which is read by the author, and I can't imagine experiencing the book any other way. He does every voice of every character himself, and he does an extremely good job. Honestly the best book reading I've ever heard. He understands all of the characters, which is why the audio version is so fascinating. You've got to be a great author to be able to play out such a story in real time and have all your dialogue work so well and feel so natural.

The only thing I didn't like about it was that the setting wasn't quite as creative as it could have been. Everything is ragged and dirty in London Below, and there are some limited magic power-type things (this is light fantasy-not too crazy to lose anyone who fancies themselves 'normal,' but not too normal to be boring) but Gaiman doesn't go very far with it. It makes one wonder why anyone would choose to live in London Below if all you can wear is gross dirty stuff and all you can eat are rats and things like that. I think that could have been explained a bit better, or that more could have been added to show why living there would be, at least in some ways, preferable to being above ground.

I found out that the BBC has recently put on a radio play of the book, and they have a killer cast featuring two of my very favorite actors:

Yep: Benedict Cumberbach and James McAvoy. You know it's good with their stamp of approval. I wish they'd make it into a movie and put them in it.

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