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160 of 201 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining but not overly memorable fantasy novel, December 28, 2003
This review is from: Neverwhere (Hardcover)
In the field of Science-Fiction/Fantasy, there is no greater accomplishment than creating a unique and intriguing universe. Although well-written books, The Hobbit and Foundation are classics less for perfect prose than for the creatures, landscapes and societies they introduced. The appeal of the universe ranges outside books, though. It is why Attack of the Clones grossed millions on its opening day and why a lot of people know more about Marvel Comics than they do about any foreign country.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is a pretty unmistakable attempt at creating a universe. The novel was Gaiman's first major project after finishing the acclaimed Sandman comic series (which could be described as his first universe, but is more of an amalgamation of Biblical scripture, Gaelic and other folk tales and the larger world of DC Comics). Because of Sandman's success, Gaiman is sometimes considered a new Tolkien or Asimov, but he fails to reach his potential on Neverwhere because, despite his ambition, his universe-creating powers at not at a prime.
The universe of this novel is London Below, a dark and outlandish world existing beneath the UK's sprawling capital. It is inhabited by a feudal aristocracy, lonesome warriors and a religious cult that talks to rats. After two ruthless mercenaries slaughter one of London Below's most prominent families, the only survivor, a young woman named Door (for her ability to open mystic gates), escapes to London Above, where reluctant yuppie Richard Mayhew takes her in. Joined by the mordant Marquis de Carabas and a grim female bodyguard called (get this) Hunter, Richard and Door journey through London Below to find-out who ordered the deaths of Door's family and why.
Gaiman is an outstanding writer who eases readers into the strangeness of London Below and keeps them reading with intrigue that unfolds at just the right pace. I was must admit I was entertained while reading the book, but I doubt it is one that will stay with me for long.
This is for two reasons. The first is that Gaiman is apparently used to pencillers supplying the visuals to his stories. The descriptions of London Below were never vivid or colorful enough to leave an overly memorable picture in my mind. The second is that Gaiman fails to completely develop London Below. We never fully learn how this society functions, what separated it from London Above and how its strange customs came to be. Perhaps Gaiman was considering a sequel that would explain such, but still Neverwhere does not lay enough groundwork for readers to fully connect to this universe.
Neverwhere is smartly written and highly entertaining, but for works such as this the creation of a memorable universe is the deciding factor and it falls short on that criteria. Gaiman's best post-Sandman work will probably be another project.
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Initial post: May 5, 2013 8:56:01 PM PDT
While you may be accurate in much of your assessment of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, it should be noted that the story was originally a made-for-television 6-part mini-series for the BBC. Gaiman was approached to come up with a story that included homeless people in London. In his best effort not to glorify being homeless in London, (for fear that the youth would find it to be the hip thing to do), Mr. Gaiman came up with Neverwhere, adding his fantasy twist to real life situations. The idea being that those who are homeless go unnoticed by society. We pass them by, we walk over them on the sidewalk, but just you persistently state you will do with Neverwhere, we quickly forget them and carry on with our lives without ever giving them another thought. With that said, while the television series was low-budget, it was very entertaining and the creators made the most of what resources they had and brought Gaiman's story to life. Gaiman, in turn, wrote what is now the novel and the rest is history. I suggest you watch the mini-series and hopefully you'll find more appreciation for this work. If not, then your review and mine like-wise, will too be forgotten.
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