I found a way to recover part of my old blog content, so I decided to rerun some posts from that, mainly reviews of books I liked. The following review was first published in June 2008. (All tagging is new, and I’m afraid I don’t have any means of saving the old blog comments.)
The book: Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
The edition: author’s preferred text, as published by Headline Review. 372 pages plus exclusive second prologue, interview with the author and reading-group discussion questions.
Synopsis: what happens to people who fall through the cracks of life? They fall to an underworld of underground caves and sewers, populated by monsters and angels, knights and hunters, monks and vampires, a world that answers to different rules, where magic is at work and one’s life is in real danger every other minute. And if they go back to the World Above, they just go unnoticed (in that regard, I just loved this passage where Richard and Anaesthesia sit on the edges of a bench, and a couple sits in the middle and starts to “kiss each other, passionately”, “gradually becoming more horizontal”, despite Richard addressing them). When Richard Mayhew, a young London businessman, stops to help a bleeding girl, he is unsuspectingly brought to that London Under. He ends up in an underworld quest to help the girl, Door, to avenge her extermined family, a quest that may also help him to get his life back.
My thoughts: this was my first Gaiman, so please bear with me while I write this: GREAT! WONDERFUL! INCREDIBLE! WOW, WOW, WOW! 😀 I kept reading all the best about Gaiman, but I didn’t really know what to expect (also, I was planning to read Stardust, but this book arrived as a present — grazie, Ale! — so I started reading without even knowing what it was about).
Iloved just about everything. A very nice story and very well constructed, so that it’s not only engrossing, but also full of sudden twists and turns. I loved the characters, the way they are built and described, the way they sound true to life even when they are so way far from the life we know. And Richard is just the perfect character to fall in love with (had I read the book some years ago he may have turned into a full book crush, although at the time I was probably unable to understand this kind of character). I mean, just read this:
The lift continued to descend. Richard was sweating, in a clammy cold sweat, and digging his fingernails deep into his palms. In the most conversational tones he could muster, he said, ‘Now would be a very bad time to discover that one was claustrophibic, wouldn’t it?’
‘Yes,’ said Door.
‘Then I wont,’ said Richard.
[And a few minutes later, when at the end of the lift ride they find that they have to cross a wooden ledge over a precipice of several thousands feet:]
‘And I suppose,’ he said, with a great deal less insouciance than he imagined, ‘this wouldn’t be a good time to point out that I’m really crap at heights.’
How could one not fall for him? But Gaiman is such a master that even the most horrible and terrifying of characters (such as Mr. Croup or Mr. Vandemar) are perfectly real and understandable in their evil. Rating: 8.5/10.
Reading note: this book counts towards the Once Upon a Time II Challenge, for the Fantasy area. I’ve put Stardust on hold at the library, and I plan to read anything else by Gaiman that I can put my hands on.