Saturday, May 29, 2010

Book Review: "Neverwhere"

There's something incredibly refreshing about being able to pick up a book and just let it take you off into another world, even if that world happens to be as strange and creepy a place as that described by Neil Gaiman in Neverwhere. His "London Below" is inhabited by those who "fell through the cracks in the world," as one character puts it - and our protagonist, Richard Mayhew, manages to come upon one of those cracks, managing to find himself in London Below quite by accident. Naturally, a quest ensues (in fact there are several quests) , but they're carried off in grand Gaiman style, with quirky humor, a full cast of fascinating (and mostly bizarre) characters, and various twists and turns along the way.

As I read I kept picking out areas where I thought I sensed other literary influences: there were shades of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Paradise Lost, &c. &c. (alright, in the case of the second title the reference was more cheekily direct, and extremely well played). It's a darkly entertaining story, but also something of a grim satire on the state of human society and the plight of those who fall through the cracks.

If you've ever wondered about what strange worlds exist below the subway platforms (and, having lived in a fairly large city for going on five years now, I know I certainly have), and if you can let your imagination run wild a little bit when you read (a skill I am infinitely thankful for), I suspect you'll really enjoy Gaiman's exquisite novel. It's a treat.

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