For a fantasy reader, I was embarrassingly late to discover Neil Gaiman. I had read very little urban fantasy, and I bought Neverwhere on impulse, not really sure what to expect. I loved it! Problem: Neil Gaiman set my expectations for urban fantasy almost impossibly high.
The back cover reads:
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.
In the following quote, Richard is talking to Door (a girl).
“He…” Richard began. “The marquis. Well, you know, to be honest, he seems a little bit dodgy to me.”
Door stopped. The steps dead-ended in a rough brick wall. “Mm,” she agreed. “He’s a little bit dodgy in the same way that rats are a little bit covered in fur.”
― Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere
Neverwhere is an intoxicating mix of darkness and beauty, of enigma and truth. Gaiman originally wrote it as a television series which aired on BBC2, then wrote a novelization of the story which differed from the television series. The novel was later published in the U.S., then later still rewritten for the U.S. market and published again, as the U.S. publisher apparently thought that many of the references to London were too obscure for U.S. readers. Then, a comic book version was produced based on the novelization. I’ve only read the novel produced for the U.S. market, so my comments are based on that version. If you enjoy comics / graphic novels and are not already familiar with Gaiman’s work, you should check it out. Some stories work in graphic format, others don’t. Gaiman’s work does – perhaps in part because much of his early work was in comics.
I’m eventually going to read all of Gaiman’s work. If you like British humor, you’ll love his work. If you like being surprised, baffled, intrigued, and amazed, you’ll love it. If you’ve ever considered reading urban fantasy but aren’t big on vampires and werewolves, start with Neverwhere.
All the characters are fantastic, but the marquis is my favorite in this book.