Author: Neil Gaiman
Rating: 4 out of 5 sewer pipes
Richard Mayhew was a man with an ordinary job, and ordinary fiancee, an ordinary life, and he was happy. Until the day when he found a girl bleeding to death on the sidewalk, and chose to help her. This simple act removes Richard from his ordinary life and throws him into the underground of London, where assassins, bodyguards, and rats rule all. So begins Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman.
As you may have read in my First Impressions post, Neverwhere begins simply enough. The reader never even gets a sense of the true genre of the story until Richard meets a strange man who takes him on a strange journey, about 50 pages into the book. However, once Richard takes the leap into the underworld, anything goes.
The characters of Neverwhere are well written in that most of them are not what they appear to be at first glance. The most appealing characters in the book are acutally the "bad guys": Smooth talking, educated Mr. Croup, and brutal, quiet Mr. Vandemar. These two characters are a lot of fun to read about, and I actually found myself looking forward to their appearances.
Neverwhere, in contrast to some of Gaiman's other works (i.e. Stardust), is not very visually appealing. It seems as if the characters are always ducking in and out of sewer grates and trudging through dirty water. Although this is to be expected, given the setting of the book, it left my imagination wanting. I found myself imagining nearly every scene as the same dark section of sewer pipe.
Another thing that began to bother me about Neverwhere is the fact that it adheres too strongly to the standard mixture of fantasy elements. There is a hero, who is destined to save the day. There is a girl, who he must protect. There is an older male, who is wise and tells them everything they need to know. There is a strong and stern sidekick, who is hiding their true nature. Many stories borrow these character archetypes, but I think Gaiman relies too heavily on them here.
With that being said, Neverwhere still presents a very imaginitive view of what happens after one walks by a "homeless" person on the street. If we would just open our eyes, as Richard Mayhew did, we would discover a whole new world of possibilities.
4 out of 5 sewer pipes!