Neverwhere Read Along, Week Three

For the final week of the Neverwhere group read, Carl has decided to ask readers for our free-form thoughts on the book and its conclusion rather than a series of questions and answers.

As I’ve said before, I was aware of who Neil Gaiman was before I stumbled across a paperback copy of Neverwhere many years ago.   Friends had recommended his Sandman comics to me and he wrote a couple of episodes for the final season of Babylon Five.   And while I hadn’t read Sandman yet (the price point of entry was a bit high for me and my local library wasn’t circulating graphic novels at the time.  This has since changed and I’ve got Sandman on my list of things I need to read the entire run of before I shuffle off this mortal coil), it was Neverwhere that provided me with a more affordable and accessible entry point into the world of Gaiman’s writing.  So for that alone, I’m grateful because it’s Neverwhere that introduced me to one of my favorite authors.

As I said in last week’s read-along, one of the things I love about Gaiman (and Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Stephen King, Joss Whedon etc.) is the way in which he makes language come together.   Gaiman has this way of finding the exact right combination of words to describe something the realities and unrealities of the universes he creates.  Again, it’s one of those things that looks so easy when you’re reading it and just allowing the words to wash over you but is actually really hard to emulate.  I think it’s one reason that Adams’ books took so long for him to write and why Gaiman isn’t necessarily churning out a book or more a year like some writers do these days.*  I’d love to include some favorite quotes here, but that would likely end up being huge passages or essentially the entire novel.   Instead, I recommend you just go out and read it for yourself!

*I’m not saying you can’t produce more than a novel a year and have it be good.   For example, Michael Connelly publishes at least two, if not three novels a year and, for the most part, they’re all good.   On the other end, you’ve got James Patterson whose books are pretty much a formula.  Seeing them, I’m always reminded of an old episode of  The Avengers where Steed and Mrs. Peel are investigating a romance writer.  At one point, you see that the author doesn’t really write the new books anymore but puts punch card with various plot elements into a computer and out churns a new book.   I often think this is exactly how Patterson does it!

And while I love the way Gaiman uses words, it wouldn’t mean much if he didn’t have characters we care about.  In many ways, Neverwhere feels like a fairy tale-at least as they were originally written and intended.  A lot of dark and terrible things happen to various characters during the course of this novel.  And yet, in the end, there’s still good guys, bad guys and those caught in between.

Of course, we root for Richard and Door and we cheer against Croup and Vandemeer (who come across as much creepier on the printed page than they do in the BBC mini-series).

But along the way, we meet a lot of other characters who aren’t necessarily classically good or bad.  There’s the Marquis, who betrays Door, but we understand he has some very good reasons for doing so.  We have a lot of flawed characters who are motivated by their own self-interest and who would, quite likely, consider themselves the heroes of the story.  I still find the death of Anaesthesia one of the most unnerving deaths in the novel and many of the books I’ve read. The idea of being caught up in unrelenting darkness and forced to face your fears possibly for the rest of your life without end….just un-nerving.

And while Anaesthesia is only in the novel for a few pages, Gaiman makes us care enough about her that we (at least me) are moved by her death and her fate .

Of course, each time I read the book, I’m reminded that the Jim Henson Company, once upon a time, had the movie rights to this novel.  Given what they did with Farscape, I’d love to see how a larger budget adaptation of the book would work.  I realize there would have to be cuts, trims, etc. but I still think this is a novel that could be wonderfully realized on the silver screen.  And it might just bring some new Gaiman fans into the fold.



Filed under Neverwhere, Read Along

4 responses to “Neverwhere Read Along, Week Three

  1. I agree, I feel like Neverwhere is very much a fairy tale in the tradition of the old ones, pre-Disney (even pre-Brothers Grimm) cleaning up the nastier parts. It is a very dark world and yet, like you mentioned, we find characters that we cannot help but grow attached to. It is a strength of Gaiman and of this novel that I feel attached to Croup and Vandemar even though they are the bad guys. Nasty fellows at that. I feel a bit sad when they have to depart the scene.

    You are so right on about Anaesthesia’s death. It does get to me in a way that defies explanation if you are simply to look at the amount of “screen time” she has. Yet to a reader I think we all cared about her deeply and were affected by her passing. It is one of the truly horrific moments in the book and lets Richard know, and the readers, that London Below is not a place to be entered lightly.

    I too think of Henson when reading this, because I feel a connection between the way I feel about Croup and Vandemar’s demise and the way I feel about Jareth’s at the end of Labyrinth. I hate to see them go. There is a sadness because of the idea of a chapter of life ending that may not make good sense but it is always there for me. I’d love it if they took on this book as a project of theirs. It has such potential, now, to be done right. I’d love to see that.

  2. I’m not sure if I said this in my last comment or not, but it was great to have you as part of the group. I so appreciate your comments and enjoy how much you appreciate this book.

  3. I get the dark fairy-tale vibe from Neverwhere, too. I liked it!

    Where in the book did you feel the Marquis betrayed Door?

  4. I’m in the same boat with Sandman. It doesn’t help that the comic book store never stocks the first volume. Ah well.

    I loved the way that characters weren’t necessarily pure good or evil. Hunter was a big one for me–she may have betrayed Door, but she also kept saving Richard’s life, and she paid a high price for her betrayal. I think one of the neat things about London Below was that so many of the characters were neutral on the good/evil scale.

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