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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
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Neverwhere (original 1996; edition 2005)

by Neil Gaiman

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18,12339294 (4.11)1 / 937
Member:elimatta
Title:Neverwhere
Authors:Neil Gaiman
Info:Headline Review (2005), Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:library books read
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction

Work details

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (1996)

  1. 182
    American Gods by Neil Gaiman (WilliamPascoe)
    WilliamPascoe: Phenominally brilliant fantasy .
  2. 259
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Although Neverwhere and The Hitchhiker's Guide (THHG) are different genres (the first is urban fantasy, the second comic science-fiction) I felt there was a lot of similarity between the characters of Richard Mayhew (in Neverwhere) and Arthur Dent (in THHG). Both are a kind of everyman with whom the reader can identify and both embody a certain 'Britishness'. And they're both stonkingly good books by British authors.… (more)
  3. 140
    Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (elbakerone)
  4. 101
    Un Lun Dun by China Miéville (elbakerone, ahstrick)
  5. 101
    Kraken: An Anatomy by China Miéville (fugitive)
    fugitive: Another urban fantasy vision of London.
  6. 113
    Good Omens by Terry Pratchett (Pigletto)
  7. 70
    Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (riverwillow)
    riverwillow: Both 'Neverwhere' and 'Rivers of London' (US title 'Midnight Riot') evoke a magical fairy tale London which sometimes feels more authentic then any real life guide to the city.
  8. 70
    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass and Alice's Adventures Under Ground by Lewis Carroll (sturlington)
    sturlington: Neverwhere is a lot like a grown-up's Wonderland, and the two stories have a similar, surrealistic feel.
  9. 70
    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (riverwillow)
  10. 51
    Something From The Nightside by Simon R. Green (Phantasma)
    Phantasma: The nightside novels are a little darker, but if you like the ideas presented in Neverwhere, you'll most likely enjoy the Nightside (actually, I prefer the Nightside and it's gritty dark humor).
  11. 40
    Gloriana by Michael Moorcock (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Both fantasy titles explore the seedy underbelly of London, one in Tudor times, the other more recently in London Below.
  12. 117
    The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (derelicious)
  13. 74
    Storm Front by Jim Butcher (Polenth)
  14. 30
    Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch (Jannes)
    Jannes: For all your "supernatural secrets in the London underground"-needs.
  15. 20
    Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky (Navarone)
  16. 20
    Gog by Andrew Sinclair (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: Fantasy mixing late 20th century London with fairytale, myth and menace.
  17. 42
    The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar (themephi)
  18. 20
    The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia (elbakerone, parasolofdoom)
  19. 10
    King Rat by China Miéville (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For vanishing within the shadows of the city.
  20. 21
    The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall (freddlerabbit)

(see all 42 recommendations)

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English (372)  German (5)  Dutch (2)  Finnish (2)  French (2)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (389)
Showing 1-5 of 372 (next | show all)
Neil Gaiman has created a world under London, it is hard to get to, unless you have a guide, and it is dangerous. It is filled with monsters, saints, murderers, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet (note: don't go with the girls in velvet). There is also an angel. I could tell you what the angel is doing there, but that would be a spoiler.

Richard Mayhew is on his way to dinner with his fiance when he stops to help a girl who is injured. He doesn't know she is from London Below, he doesn't even know what London Below is, but when his life in London above is erased he has to go below. In his adventures in London below he learns many things. He finds out the real reason to 'watch the gap' between the train and the platform and why to not go with the girls in velvet (almost too late he learns this). He get involved with saving the underworld, with a little help from some unlikely sources.

The people in this London below are human in that they have human qualities of loyalty, greed, cowardice and heroism. At the same time they are not quite human. Some have unique abilities and come through or disappoint in unique ways. Plenty of twists and and scary moments to keep one guessing and reading.

A delightful romp through the scary place that is Neil Gaiman's brain. ( )
  BellaFoxx | Feb 14, 2015 |
The old woman took the umbrella, gratefully, and smiled her thanks. "You've a good heart," she told him. "Sometimes that's enough to see you safe wherever you go." Then she shook her head. "But mostly, it's not."

In my opinion, Neil Gaiman is best suited to the short story form, where he can focus on a single idea and see it through to its logical end. If the idea is an original and striking one (see "Chivalry" as a prime example), the result can be wonderfully simple, funny, pointed, and at times even moving; if on the other hand it is vague and in poor taste (both apt descriptors of "The Problem of Susan"), well, at least it's over quickly. His novels, on the other hand, are elaborate patchworks of ideas that don't always coalesce. They have a tendency, sometimes, to be less than the sum of their parts.

But Neverwhere is such a glorious romp that it's difficult to make many objections to it.

It helps that it has such a good, simple premise on which Gaiman is able to hang his many bizarre inventions: that there is a city called London Below that exists in abandoned subways stations and sewer tunnels below the London we know, populated by people who have slipped between the cracks in our world.

I was concerned at first. After the eerie prologue, in which unassuming young Scotsman Richard Mayhew has a strange fortune told the night before he leaves for London, we skip forward a couple of years and are suddenly introduced, in rapid succession, to a young woman named Door, and the deadly Mr. Croup and Mr. Valdemar, who at first seem to be inhabiting a totally different book, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar giving me unpleasant flashbacks to Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. And it's in these early chapters that one most often sees Gaiman's unfortunate tendency to show off his own cleverness, in paragraphs like the following:

There are four simple ways for the observant 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 the skulls of four ravens, Mr. Croup has no obvious jewelery; fourth, Mr. Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing alike at all.

Do you see what I mean? There is no good reason behind the framework this paragraph, except to say, "Look at me! Look at how clever and whimsical and unusual I am!" It's this sort of thing that has ruined other Gaiman books and stories for me. I'm thankful he kept it to a minimum here.

To make up for it, even in the first chapter, there's this delicious description of how London came to be what it is in Richard's time:

Two thousand years before, London had been a little Celtic village on the north shore of the Thames, which the Romans had encountered, then settled in. London had grown, slowly, until, roughly a thousand years later, it met the tiny Royal City of Westminster immediately to the west, and, once London Bridge had been built, London touched the town of Southwark directly across the river; and it continued to grow, fields and woods and marshland slowly vanishing beneath the flourishing town, and it continued to expand, encountering other little villages and hamlets as it grew, like Whitechapel and Deptford to the east, Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush to the west, Camden and Islington to the north, Battersea and Lambeth across the Thames to the south, absorbing all of them, just as a pool of mercury encounters and incorporates smaller beads of mercury, leaving only their names behind.

And when Richard takes the hunted Door under his care, and finds his life becoming entangled with the world of London Below, things really get moving, and they don't really stop until the story ends.

There are so many great images and moments here: an empty, dark subway car that on the inside is furnished like the hall of a medieval castle; a house of rooms located in different times and places that are connected only by paintings; the unexpected reappearance of Richard's fiance, Jessica; a wingless angel whose approach is signaled by candles lighting themselves; and a floating market that could take place inside Big Ben or Harrod's, depending on the day.

The characters are wonderful, too. This is the third novel I've read this year featuring a canonically queer character, praise the heavens; kudos to Gaiman for creating a queer woman of color in Hunter. My favorite character by far, though, was the clever, sly, and mysterious Marquis de Carabas, who I couldn't help but keep imagining as Adrian Lester.

My major complaint, especially given the way his character develops, is that we could use more information on Angel Islington's involvement with the fall of Atlantis.

I've watched clips of the BBC serial that Gaiman developed at the same time as writing the novel, and some of the casting is wonderful—Freddie Jones as the Earl—but the production values are far inferior to the furnishings of my imagination. I'm much more interested in the later radio drama, also produced by the BBC, and featuring the cast of a lifetime in James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, David Harewood, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Christopher Lee, among others. I'd love to get my hands on it, and on Gaiman's companion novella, "How The Marquis Got His Coat Back." Apparently my adventures in London Below, like Richard Mayhew's, are just beginning. ( )
  ncgraham | Feb 9, 2015 |
This is my second book I`ve read from this author. This was a beautiful book, To the stoty to the characters!

The story takes you away to strangea and intriguing place. it`s a story about life, love, friendship, family and it it told through a fantasy world full of colorful people.

Wish that there was a sequel to this one!

4.5 stars! ( )
  dom76 | Jan 7, 2015 |
For more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.

When I found myself at a loss for something to listen to because I’d finished all of my review audiobooks, I remembered that I had a copy of Neverwhere from Audible. Neil Gaiman audiobooks are always fun, so I went ahead and listened to his beautiful accent. Neil Gaiman books are always fun, particularly on audio, and Neverwhere is not exception. However, Neverwhere is definitively my least favorite of his novels that I’ve read.

The problem lies with the protagonist. Richard Mayhew is boring and not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I don’t know that he’s necessarily stupid, but he’s the kind of person who schlumps through life and doesn’t go in for any kind of introspection. He does things because that is what a person is supposed to do. The only sign of any real personality is how he likes to collect ugly troll dolls to keep in his office. The damning evidence of his awfulness is that he’s the kind of Richard who doesn’t mind if people call him “Dick.”

Of course, character arcs are a thing, so maybe this blah man could take a journey through London Below and become a valiant hero or at least find a personality. Not really. Richard Mayhew seemed every bit as meh by the end. He’s not even an unlikable protagonist; he’s just boring. All of my suspension of disbelief issues came from moments when Richard was of any use at all in the novel’s quest. When he bungled things or got people killed being an idiot, that I believed. When he slayed an infamous monster or obtained an important object, I rolled my eyes. The fact that I don’t care one iota for Richard Mayhew was a definite problem.

Boring Richard Mayhew is brought out of his entirely mundane existence by Door, a girl he finds bleeding on the street. He helps her, and is rewarded for that by suddenly becoming invisible to everyone he knows. He’s become a resident of London Below. Richard follows Door, needing protection from her and the Marquis de Carabas and hoping for a way to return to his boring life.

The actual world is really cool and a bit silly. There’s London above, the normal London, and London Below, where rats are highly respected and magic resides. Gaiman plays with the strange name for places in London, interpreting them literally. Islington is an angel who resides at that tube stop. There are friars or shepherds, all corresponding to tube stops. It’s fun and exciting, though perhaps not quite enough to compensate for the mind-numbing Richard.

I’m still rating Neverwhere pretty highly, partially for the world building and writing, but also for Neil Gaiman’s performance. I’ve listened to four or five Neil Gaiman audiobooks, and I think this one is best-produced. There are a lot of neat sound effects. Plus, Richard is at least Scottish, which means that on audio he has a brilliant accent. This is the only way in which Richard is interesting.

Neverwhere is a fun listen, and I’m glad I had the audiobook, because I’m not certain I would have enjoyed this one without the brilliant production and narration. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Dec 16, 2014 |
It was a good book. I'm glad I have read it. Gaiman created a fantastic world. But for me something is missing to give it a higher grade. And the biggest problem I have with the book is that the characters felt a bit flat. I just didn't care much for anyone of them. A great book makes you care for the charcters, suffer with them all the way, and mourn for them if something happens. It just didn't happen with me with this book.

3 stars

Review also posted on And Now for Something Completely Different and It's a Mad Mad World ( )
  MaraBlaise | Dec 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 372 (next | show all)
Gaiman blends history and legend to fashion a traditional tale of good versus evil, replete with tarnished nobility, violence, wizardry, heroism, betrayal, monsters and even a fallen angel. The result is uneven. His conception of London Below is intriguing, but his characters are too obviously symbolic (Door, for example, possesses the ability to open anything). Also, the plot seems a patchwork quilt of stock fantasy images. Adapted from Gaiman's screenplay for a BBC series, this tale would work better with fewer words and more pictures.
added by Shortride | editPublishers Weekly (May 19, 1997)
 
The novel is consistently witty, suspenseful, and hair-raisingly imaginative in its contemporary transpositions of familiar folk and mythic materials (one can read Neverwhere as a postmodernist punk Faerie Queene). Readers who've enjoyed the fantasy work of Tim Powers and William Browning Spencer won't want to miss this one. And, yes, Virginia, there really are alligators in those sewers--and Gaiman makes you believe it.
added by Shortride | editKirkus Reviews
 
The millions who know The Sandman, the spectacularly successful graphic novel series Gaiman writes, will have a jump start over other fantasy fans at conjuring the ambience of his London Below, but by no means should those others fail to make the setting's acquaintance. It is an Oz overrun by maniacs and monsters, and it becomes a Shangri-La for Richard. Excellent escapist fare.
added by Shortride | editBooklist, Ray Olson
 
Gaiman's gift for mixing the absurd with the frightful give this novel the feeling of a bedtime story with adult sophistication. Readers will find themselves as unable to escape this tale as the characters themselves.
added by Shortride | editLibrary Journal
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gaiman, Neilprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Althoff, Gerlindesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Berggren, Hanssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Braiter, PaulinaTł.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fabry, GlennIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hohl, Tinasecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kivimäki, MikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcel, Patricksecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKean, DaveIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pék, ZoltánTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rijsewijk, Erica vansecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Villa, ElisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vojtková, LadislavaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I have never been to St. John's Wood. I dare not. I should be afraid of the innumerable night of fir trees, afraid to come upon a blood red cup and the beating of the wings of the Eagle.
--The Napoleon of Notting Hill, G. K. Chesterton
If ever though gavest hosen or shoon
Then every night and all
Sit thou down and put them on
And Christ receive thy soul

This aye night, this aye night
Every night and all
Fire and fleet and candlelight
And Christ receive thy soul

If ever thou gavest meat or drink
Then every night and all
The fire shall never make thee shrink
And Christ receive thy soul

--The Lyke Wake Dirge (traditional)
Dedication
For Lenny Henry, friend and colleague, who made it happen all the way; and Merrilee Heifetz, friend and agent, who makes everything good.
First words
The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.
She had been running for four days now, a harum-scarum tumbling flight through passages and tunnels.
Quotations
"It starts with doors."
"You've a good heart," she told him. "Sometimes that's enough to see you safe wherever you go." Then she shook her head. "But mostly, it's not."
There are four simple ways for the observant to tell Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar apart: first, Mr. Vandemar is two and a half heads taller than Mr. Croup; secnod, 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 the skulls of four ravens, Mr. Croup has no obvious jewelry; fourth, Mr. Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing at all alike.
He continued, slowly, by a process of osmosis and white knowledge (which is like white noise, only more useful)...
It was a good place, and a fine city, but there is a price to be paid for all good places, and a price that all good places have to pay.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is main work for the book Neverwhere. It should not be combined with the TV series on which it is based.
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew and his adventures through London. At the start of the story, he is a young businessman, with a normal life. All this changes, however, when he stops to help a mysterious young girl who appears before him, bleeding and weakened, as he walks with his fiancée to dinner to meet her influential boss.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060557818, Paperback)

Neverwhere's protagonist, Richard Mayhew, learns the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished. He ceases to exist in the ordinary world of London Above, and joins a quest through the dark and dangerous London Below, a shadow city of lost and forgotten people, places, and times. His companions are Door, who is trying to find out who hired the assassins who murdered her family and why; the Marquis of Carabas, a trickster who trades services for very big favors; and Hunter, a mysterious lady who guards bodies and hunts only the biggest game. London Below is a wonderfully realized shadow world, and the story plunges through it like an express passing local stations, with plenty of action and a satisfying conclusion. The story is reminiscent of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but Neil Gaiman's humor is much darker and his images sometimes truly horrific. Puns and allusions to everything from Paradise Lost to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz abound, but you can enjoy the book without getting all of them. Gaiman is definitely not just for graphic-novel fans anymore. --Nona Vero

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:47 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

After he helps a stranger on a London sidewalk, Richard Mayhew discovers an alternate city beneath London, and must fight to survive if he is to return to the London he knew.

(summary from another edition)

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