“Beware of Doors.”
I recently popped into an Indigo in downtown Toronto and found a four book box-set of Neil Gaiman paperbacks for $12.95. It was the exact same feeling you get when when you find out that the perfect cardigan you’ve had your eyes on is suddenly 50% off. I basically threw my money at the cashier I was so excited about the deal. I started by cracking open Neverwhere.
I read it in just over a week. WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO MANY YEARS TO FINALLY READ THIS BOOK! IT’S SO GOOD!
Set in 1990s London, Neverwhere tells the stories of people who get swallowed by the ancient city. We follow protagonist Richard Mayhew through tunnels, over rooftops and into crushing darkness. Neverwhere makes us confront what we fear and highlights that the monotony of everyday life is the greatest comfort.
When Mayhew helps a bleeding girl he sees on the street, his world is opened up as he learns about the bustling and dangerous community of London Below – made up of people who fall through the cracks. His regular life suddenly disappears, or rather he disappears from his regular life, when no one in “London Above” can see or hear him and he is forced to take to the sewers and the Underground and join the other sad souls the world has chosen to forget.
The story is an episodic adventure that is at times dizzying, but endlessly exciting. The characters are distinct and in-depth, including expert character development of the city of London itself. The cracks in 2,000 year old buildings are portals, abandoned Tube stations are suddenly in use and closed department stores become bustling marketplaces. Magic is presented in an everyday and casual sort of why, making the whole story plausible… the best kind of fantasy.
The characters in Neverwhere are as complex as they are entertaining. The protagonist Richard Mayhew is very relatable and likeable, and his fiancée Jessica is perfectly obnoxious. The characters of London Below are really what bring it to life, the powerful and sweet young girl Door, the formidable and knowledgeable Marquis de Carabas, the mysterious and kick-ass female body guard Hunter, and the unnerving villains Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup work together to add so much magic and depth to the story.
Gaiman keeps you guessing until the last page, while dropping enough nuggets of truth to keep you hooked. Neverwhere is a true page-turner… one of the truest I’ve encountered. I can’t believe it took my this long to finally read it. I can tell that it’s a forever book. One that I will read again, and again. 🙏🏻 📚
Who should read this book?
- Fantasy / mystery / sci-fi lovers (most of you have already probably read this)
- Anyone who’s ever been to London (the city is an important character in the book which adds delightful depth, particularly if you are familiar with the city)
- Read this to get out of your reading slump (seriously it’s hard to put down)
- If you’ve been reading a lot of realism or non-fiction but want to get into fantasy or magic realism, I definitely recommend this as a stepping stone
What are your favourite Gaiman books? Will I ever need to read another author?