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Neverwhere: The Author's Preferred Text (1996)

by Neil Gaiman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: London Below (1)

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3,824902,817 (4.16)5
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.

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Showing 1-5 of 87 (next | show all)
Fantastic. Illustrations were beautiful, descriptions and characters were all very interesting, and the entire setting and plot of the book extremely cool and well done. As a side note: not as emotionally riveting as I would like due to the writing style. ( )
  Kat_books | Nov 9, 2021 |
I knew when I bought the book that there was a chance that I'd already read the "Author's Preferred Text." I bought a version claiming something similar when I was in England with my sister. But this edition had "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back", and since the edition I'd had before was a paperback from 2005, I thought for sure there'd be something different, so I went ahead and got it.

I thought I'd prepared myself, but I still felt a tiny bit cheated when this edition was identical, textually, to mine, down to the "Special Introduction by the Author." Really? William Morrow couldn't have even asked Gaiman for an updated introduction to this edition? It's not like books haven't layered the introductions at the beginning before.

In fact, this edition wasn't even textually identical: there were some, frankly, shocking errors--missed punctuation and missing articles here and there. Coming from inside publishing, I was amazed to see these mistakes--granted, I'm in academic publishing, which isn't exactly rolling in cash, but when we do new editions we "reflow" our old files into the new format, so the text itself doesn't change. Did anyone ask Gaiman if he had a list of typos he'd liked to see fixed for this edition? Because I think all of my authors make these, and their full-time job isn't writing, it's research and teaching. It shouldn't have been that hard to make these corrections. A decent copyeditor should have caught them.

All that said, I am still happy that I have this book. It's gorgeous in every physical way: page and cover texture, fonts, silver stamped text on the cover under the jacket, the formatting on the first page of each chapter, the colors of the cover. Okay, maybe photoshopping the tunnel into the lower right corner of the cover was a bit of overkill. And I kind of resented having London Below described as "the Neverwhere" in the flap copy. Honestly, that was one of the charms of the title, the fact that it's never used in the text, and did the editor honestly think that Gaiman's readers aren't smart enough to think about what "Neverwhere" refers to?

But anyway, back to focusing on the positives: This is a beautiful book, a more durable version of my original trade paperback that I'm happy to have decorating my shelf until the day I die. But with the typos, well, I think I might keep reading and lending my original edition instead of enthroning it on my shelf of beloved paperbacks that I've had to get in hardback because I read them so much. Except when I want reminding of how the Marquis de Carabas got his coat back. ( )
  books-n-pickles | Oct 29, 2021 |
This is the first Neil Gaiman book for me even though I have had American Gods sitting on mt TBR for a while. The reason I decided to read this one first is that it was mentioned on a books podcast I listen to. I can't exactly remember what the topic of discussion was but I think it may have been books about alternative London. This book was mentioned in passing, but the idea of London under sparked something in me and I just knew that I had to read this book.

The book revolves around Richard, a young man who works in an office in the city of London. He has highly stressful job, a wife to be, and the things that make up our everyday lives. On an evening out with his fiance, Jessica, he finds a young girl who looks injured and despite the protests of Jessica he decides to help her. This single act of kindness throws his life into complete disarray as he discovers there is another London that he knew nothing about.

Gaiman manages to paint wonderful scenes and characters in this book and I found myself so enthralled by it that I read it in a day and a half. Considering that my mojo has been a bit off and that this is only the second fantasy book I have read, this is remarkable. I can't really speak much more about the book without spoiling it so I will just say this.

Go and read it. ( )
  Brian. | Jul 24, 2021 |
I tried to read Neverwhere, the first solo novel from Neil Gaiman, years ago but I had shortly beforehand watched the original TV version of the story, so I had a lot of trouble getting into the novel as it skewed so closely to what I'd so recently watched. Years passed and I'd read a number of Gaiman's other novels - Stardust, American Gods, Anansi Boys, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and more - while never returning to his first to really give it a fair shot. Now, in the wake of the success of Gaiman's adaptation of his and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, I thought I'd return to a few favorites of Gaiman's work while finally giving Neverwhere a real chance. Enough time has passed that I don't really remember a whole lot of the TV show, so it was really the perfect time to give the book I read. I went to my local bookstore and found a new version of the book - Gaiman's preferred text, now illustrated by Chris Riddell, one of Gaiman's frequent collaborators. With this new copy of the book and a copy of the audiobook - narrated by Gaiman, himself - it was time to finally read Neverwhere. Now, having finished the book, I can honestly say that I'm really mad at myself for how long it took me to read this book because it's really that damn good. (NOTE: This review will discuss elements of the story itself, Riddell's illustrations, and Gaiman's audiobook.)

Neverwhere is a pretty delightful novel. Intended to be a sort of Alice in Wonderland for adults, the novel has a very fairy tale feel as it explores life in London Below - a place that is quite literally what it sounds like: a world below London - where all those forgotten by society end up. Within the world of London Below are all sorts of people: beings who skew closer to what you might find in classical stories (vampire-esque creatures, witches, etc); odd, mostly-human characters who have a bunch of quirks; and anybody else who might fall into the category of people-forgotten-by-society-at-large (homeless people, runaway children, etc). The story, however, isn't really about London Below or its inhabitants. Rather, it's about how one regular human, Richard Mayhew, gets dragged into this world after helping a resident from London Below, the Lady Door, after she appears on a street in London Above, bloody and hurt. From there, it quickly turns into a mixture of adventure and murder mystery as Richard and Door work to figure out who is responsible for the deaths of Door's family.

As previously mentioned, I watched the Neverwhere TV series years ago and, as a result, already knew the basic plot of the novel. Thankfully, with so many years having passed between my viewing of the TV series and my reading of the novel, I'd forgotten a pretty good chunk of the plot so there were still a number of surprises to be had within this reading. I knew the basics of the plot - who the villain is, what their motivation was, etc - but some of the specifics had been lost on me so it was an utter delight to rediscover them as I made my way through the story. Much of the fun of Neverwhere is not in its destination but in the journey it takes to that ending. Sure, you care who the ultimate bad guy is and why they are doing what they're doing, but you care far more about Richard and Door and seeing them grow as people and characters. You relish all the time spent with side characters, such as the Marquis de Carabas and Hunter. You devour every bit of London Below, and all its inhabitants with a hungry fervor. Gaiman has managed to create a world that's equal parts joyous to visit and scary to think about. Spending time in the world of Neverwhere is a genuinely joyous experience.

Of greater joy, though, was immersing myself in Gaiman's prose. As anyone who's ever read one of Gaiman's books knows, the man has a gift for words. He can conjure up brilliant images of entirely made-up words with just a few sentences and he does this numerous times throughout Neverwhere, making London Below feel far more real than it ever could in a cheaply made TV show in the 1990s. Additionally, his prose is filled with little bits of humor - making this book a perfect starting point for those only familiar with Good Omens. His prose is great but so, too, is the way he paces this novel. While, like any novel of this genre, it takes a bit of time for things to really get moving as various characters and elements of the world have to be introduced and explained, once the ball gets rolling, it never really stops. Things move along just briskly enough that you never find yourself bored but not so fast that you find yourself wishing more time had been spent on something. The pacing is perfect and leaves plenty of room to explore the world of London Below, the plot of the story, and the characters themselves. Speaking of characters, Gaiman has always had a gift at crafting fully-realized characters - even for those characters who don't play a particularly large part in the story - and that is 100% true here. Neverwhere is filled with so many different characters, most of whom only appear in one or two scenes and all of whom feel like fully realized people.

So, the story itself is good, but what about this particular edition? Chris Riddell illustrates this edition of the text - Gaiman's preferred edition, which I can't comment on as it's the only version of the text I've ever read - and his illustrations are gorgeous. They're black and white sketches, basically, but they really fit the mood and atmosphere of the story perfectly. There's a brilliant mixture of realism and fantasy in the way that Riddell depicts every character he presents and his illustrations never feel childish enough to distract from the adult themes of the story nor do they feel serious enough to detract from the whimsical nature of the book. They're perfectly suited for the story and a welcome addition - and there's a whole bunch of them, too! As for Gaiman's audiobook, it's simply amazing. Gaiman, it turns out, also has a gift for reading his own novels aloud. If you only listened to this audiobook and had no idea Gaiman was also the writer, you'd think he was a professional voice actor/audiobook reader. He brings such emotion to the prose of the novel while imbuing each character with a distinct voice that feels perfectly suited to them. Listening to him read the audiobook only made the experience of reading this novel better. He's as gifted a reader as he is a writer and I'm so happy he performs the audiobooks for the majority of his published work.

All in all, Neverwhere is a delightful novel. It's a whimsical fantasy that's equal parts light-hearted and dark. It's a fully realized world that doesn't dwell on the worldbuilding at the expense of the characters or plotline. It's a plot that is driven by the needs of the characters and one that holds your interest throughout the entirety of its roughly 380-page length. It's filled with characters who are magnificently well-developed and feel wholly real. It's an utter shame it's taken me so many years to read this book as it's quickly become one of my favorites of Gaiman's. While it doesn't reach the same heights as something like American Gods or The Ocean at the End of the Lane, it's also not trying to reach them. Gaiman's said he set out to write a fantasy novel that would make adults feel the same way he felt as he read books like Alice in Wonderland as a child and I'd say he succeeded at that with flying colors. Neverwhere is an absolute must-read if you like fantasy novels, liked Good Omens (the book or the TV series), and/or are looking for a great way to get into Gaiman's novels. It's a wonderful read and you won't regret it. ( )
  thoroughlyme | Apr 23, 2021 |
In Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Richard Mayhew is yanked out of his ordinary London existence when he finds a girl bleeding in the streets. After helping her, he learns that a) her name is Door, b) she lives in London Below, a subterranean version of the city, and c) by helping her, he’s made himself invisible to London Above. What follows becomes a quest to save both Door’s life and his.

It’s a fun premise. Most of the story takes place in sewers and tunnels beneath London, where people who’ve “slipped between the cracks” use bits of magic and anachronisms from other times to survive. They can pass unremarked in the streets Above, even holding market places in public areas. But they can’t stay; they belong Below.

As much as I enjoyed the setup, however, Richard is too much of an everyman for me to root for. Forgetful, whiny, fearful (at least initially, until danger begins to embolden him)—he feels a touch too real for a fantasy book with so many extraordinary elements. Shadow, the hero of Gaiman’s American Gods, is (seemingly) nothing special either, but his weaknesses don't make him unlikeable, and his strengths are ones most of us would want ourselves.

Moreover, Gaiman’s voice in Neverwhere felt excessively whimsical… until I listened to the audiobook, and actually heard him reading the story. Then it worked. I’m not sure what the disconnect was when I could only see his prose on the page, and this was a reversal of how these things usually jibe for me—normally, I don’t like an audio rendition unless I’ve read a little of its source first. But Gaiman’s spoken narration drew me in.

So: while this was a strange reading experience for me, it proved to be an enjoyable urban fantasy. If you’re interested in reading (or listening to) a conciser version of Stephen King, Gaiman is worth a try.

(For more reviews like this one, see www.nickwisseman.com) ( )
  nickwisseman | Apr 3, 2021 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gaiman, Neilprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gaiman, NeilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McKean, DaveIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riddell, ChrisIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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)
For Lenny Henry, friend and colleague, who made it happen all the way; and Merrilee Heifetz, friend and agent, who makes everything IK.
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The night before he went to London, Richard Mayhew was not enjoying himself.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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