Monday, November 18, 2013

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (1996)

Neverwhere was apparently Gaiman's second book, after Good Omens with Terry Pratchett.  Interestingly, he wrote to accompany the BBC movie (which I've never seen) and has revised it twice (according to his Wikipedia page).  I'm not sure which version I read, but I imagine it's one of the revisions.  I've read Neverwhere once before, and remember enjoying it immensely - unable to put it down.  It's been long enough that I remembered very little of it, so it was like reading it for the first time. I was unable to put it down again, although I think I enjoyed it slightly more the first time.  Just slightly.  It's a tremendously fun book to read, very urban fantasy, and very similar to Charles deLint - substitute London for Toronto.  It don't think Gaiman's style has changed - it is still dark, mysterious, and full of allusions to other books in a very cool, smart way (Neverwhere is like The Wizard of Oz on crack).  But he's definitely honed that Gaiman style; Neverwhere sits on a lower rung than the Ocean at the End of the Lane or The Graveyard Book.  The Big Bang of the Gaiman universe happens with Neverwhere; since then, it's evolved into something sharper, the planets have all aligned.

It helps to know something about the London underground, or at least be aware of it.  Or on second thought, maybe not.  Just knowing it exists perhaps.

The book reminded a little bit of the seventies gang movie The Warriors.  Neil Gaiman's books always remind me a little bit of something else, or more often, a patchwork quilt of many something elses, which is probably why I like his work so much.

"Jack Ketch" makes a passing appearance in Neverwhere, as an oath ("Say the word," said Mr. Vandemar... "and it'll be off his neck before you can say Jack Ketch."  Of course, he's a minor character in The Graveyard Book.  The Hempstocks do no appear.

Gaiman always throws in good stuff, and Richard remembering and reflecting on snatches of the Lyke Wake Dirge is one of many instances of good stuff - I had to do some research on it; according to the great and powerful Wikipedia, at its essence the ballad is about being charitable in life and how that effects your journey after death; an allusion to Richard's old life dying because of his act of charity toward's Door.  Cool stuff.

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