February 4, 2005

Neil Gaiman is known for his evocative storytelling and intriguingly off-kilter characters. Neverwhere is an excellent example of these characteristics and showcases Gaiman’s ability to conjure up a fantastical setting from mundane trappings.

Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, an average joe who ends up falling ass backwards into the fantastic when he assists a woman lying hurt on the sidewalk. His kindness results in a slow removal of his presence from the waking world and his sublimation into the confusing world of London Below. London Below is a neo-mythical setting, a mirror world just beneath the streets of London that exists as an afterlife for the folklore of Britain.

Once he’s beyond the pale Richard has no choice but to assist the woman, Door, and her associate the Marquis in uncovering the mystery behind the death of Door’s family. Gaiman uses familiar tropes from the fantastic as well as a number of original beasts and characters to challenge the mild mannered Richard in increasingly stressful ways.

In the end, Richard is forced to choose whether to transcend his mundanity or accept a life of quiet desperation.

Neverwhere is, overall, a quick and exciting read with a modern twist on the fantasy quest. Extremely memorable supporting characters make this a book with few unsatisfying moments and chewy dialogue.

I recommend this book to anyone tiring of the same old same old in swords and sorcery fantasy, and anyone who appreciates the greatness of the supporting cast.

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