I really can’t help myself this week. I HAVE to spotlight a Neil Gaiman book. I know I’ve gone into raptures about his writing before, but I’m in the midst of a cross-country move (read: frazzled), and I don’t have anything else prepared. Plus Neverwhere is one of the only books I have unpacked at the moment – everything else was shipped to Seattle this morning – it escaped by dint of having been lent out to a friend (and returned at the last minute). It really and truly is a favorite, though, and it just plain ROCKS.
I think I first read Neverwhere in high school. I’ve just remembered a rather tattered library copy that made its way into my hands. The young adult section at that local library was glorious! Oh, and I loved the book. I wasn’t really into fantasy literature at that point, but something about the sheer imagination and quirkiness and horror and subtle humor and ADVENTURE of it really struck a chord. So I went to college, bought my own copy, and re-read Neverwhere a couple of times.
Then I lent the novel to a friend, who likewise raved about its genius. I never saw that book again. Meanwhile I dove into the rest of Gaiman’s novels (Stardust, American Gods, and eventually Anansi Boys…I tried to read Coraline, too, but got scared), and tried not to worry about the whereabouts of the missing book. In one of my more fanciful moments I even speculated that it was making the rounds of the college, discovered (and loved!) anew by other students every couple of weeks.
I went to grad school and bought another copy, which I lent to a new friend. That book also disappeared. It started to feel as if Neverwhere created its own black hole of borrowed books. A couple of years later I moved to Atlanta for continued grad schooling, and when a friend came to me last month for leisure reading recommendations, I sent her home with The Graveyard Book and my newest copy of Neverwhere. For while I do worry that my Gaiman books won’t make it back to me, or will be harmed (I may be slightly obsessive about books staying in pristine condition), I can’t NOT lend them out. They’re so good! They must be shared! I am glad to report that my 3rd copy of Neverwhere returned safely this time, and that a brand-spanking-new Gaiman fan has been created. Yay!
Neverwhere takes place in a fantasy world that sits right next to ours, though it goes unnoticed and unknown by those who live Above. The denizens of Below (in this case, London Below) live much more perilous, fateful and interesting lives. It’s a dark, fantastical, urban mystery-adventure, peopled with terrible nemeses, courageous, strange, and weird characters, and an unlikely hero who just wants to get back to the way things were before it all went pear-shaped. What happens, who meets whom, and a treacherous chase to the finish make this novel not only a favorite, but a must-read and a perfect fit for just about anyone (the truly squeamish need not apply).
Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed. There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them. And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew.