Neverwhere-Neil Gaiman Review

‘ I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don’t want to be sane.’

Good evening and apologies for my absence! I have been work busy, a bit exhausted and had an impromptu weekend away which was well needed. This book, is shockingly, the only Neil Gaiman book I have never read. And I dragged reading this book out for an entire week.

Richard Mayhew’s life takes an unexpected turn after a small act of kindness. After saving the life of an injured young woman named Door, Richard is suddenly confronted with the fact that the London he knew is not the only London. There is a London with rat speakers, angels, vicious assasins and train stations that never existed. When Richard is left with very little choice to go to this London Below, he is left with one option. Survive.

The alternate London trope in fantasy is a favourite (a post on this someday) and noone does it better than Neil Gaiman. Neverwhere is the original alternate London story. London Below is a place that belongs to various baronies and duchies and is littered with people, streets, trains and other things that have just been forgotten. It is very interesting that the people of London Above don’t see or remember anyone of London Below. This initially being how Richard ends up in London Below. The relationship between those above and below is so close to the approach people have towards the homeless that I even began to question my own attitude towards this too. Very relevant today I think.

Gaiman can write characters that will both walk with you, comfort you and put you in great danger after you leave the book on the shelf. Richard Mayhew has some very similar traits to Shadow Moon but he does use his voice a lot more and speaks his mind quite often. His development and character arc is very much that of an unlikely hero but there are some questions about him that are never answered that really work in the novels favour.

Door is very interesting but I did much prefer Hunter and of course, the Marquis de Carabas. Hunter is a woman that is known, feared and respected by many of London Below and her past especially that associated with Serpentine is hinted at heavily. I’m hoping it is addressed in the eventual sequel. The Marquis is a man who is two steps ahead at all times an wears a very wonderful coat. An unlikely semi anti hero figure who deals in favours he is fun as he is captivating.

I can’t not mention Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar. They. Scare. Me. Neil Gaiman always manages to brew a character that freaks me out long after I have put the book down. Before it was the Other Mother, Mr World and Tiger. Now I can add this murderous pair.

This book is following a journey. The journey of Door trying to find out who murdered her family while also being that of Richard as he see’s the true nature of London Below. The plot is a constant walk with many stops along the way. Many places are literal translations of the locations within London Above that will delight and frighten many. How many times will you look at Black Friars now and wonder where the friars are?

There was no surprise that I loved this book and that I am always slightly biased toward Gaiman’s work. But I am not lying when I say this book is such a good starting point for reading his books and a great gateway into fantasy. Again, it is getting a sequel which Gaiman doesn’t do so if you do love it stay tuned.


Audiobook Recommendations for Newbies

I only got into audio books last year when I worked a hectic job and found no other time to read. My history with audio books wasn’t great prior to then. I distinctly remember being bored to total tears in primary school when our teacher put on a tape (yes. tape) audio book of The Hobbit. It was AWFUL.

So to counteract that terrible start to audio books in my life I’ve made a list of the absolute best I have read so far.

  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin: This was the book that started it all, for both Le Guin and audio books overall. This book was so good this has gone on to be one of my favourite books of all time. This books details the mission of human male Genly Ai. Ai is an agent for the Ekumen, an intergalactic counsel and has been tasked of convincing the planet Gethen (or Winter) to join the council. Gethenians have no gender, choosing to be male or female once a month during a period known as ‘kemmer’ and we follow Ai on his mission to both learn and navigate his way on Gethen. This is quite obviously a sci fi book and it stole my heart. It is full cast which suits such a broad spectrum of characters. The cast also are wonderful at handling the voicing of chracters that don’t display obvious gender attributes. Overall it really sets a cold, winter vibe that this book really benefits from.
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman: Out of all Neil Gaiman’s books this was my least favourite. Then I listened to the BBC radio 4 production. The book follows Fat Charlie Nancy as her learns of the death of his father Anansi, the spider god, and of the existence of his brother, Spider. Charlies life takes a sudden turn after both of these things happen and he suddenly has to make a decision that incurs the wrath of the Gods themselves. This book is so funny it actually makes me smile to think about it but it paints such an amazing set of characters due in part to the casting. Lenny Henry is perfect as Anansi. This is also a full cast production (you will see a trend). One thing I really loved while reading this was you felt like you were in the places of the book. London sounded like London, the Caribbean sounded like a sunny place, anywhere else just felt and sounded so real it felt like I was actually there. If you struggled reading the book physically, definitely try the audio.
  • Nevernight by Jay Kristoff: Mia Corvere wants to avenge her father, who she witnessed being executed as a child. Mia wants to be an assassin to achieve her vengeance. She must journey to the Red Church and become an acolyte of the goddess Niah in order to complete her training. That is of course if she survives. If you somehow haven’t heard of this series, fair play now read it. Honestly I read this on audio for the simple reason being I was busy and wanted to read it at last. The audio is perfect for both those reasons, the narrator Holter Graham does a fantastic job for all the voices particularly Mia and Mercurio. His voice for Mia took a while to get used to but by the time I listened to the sequel, ‘Godsgrave’, it had either improved or I embraced it. Either way I highly recommend it on audio especially if you don’t have time to sit down and read the actual book. You also get to avoid the footnotes.
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King: The Creed family move from Chicago to the town of Ludlow in order for Louis Creed to get a job at the University of Maine. The house sits beside a road that is used heavily by large trucks. After the death of a pet in the family Louis learns of a piece of land that can reanimate the dead and begins to wonder what else it can do. This is my favourite Stephen King book for many years and listening to it on audio hasn’t changed that. The book is narrated by Michael C.Hall from the TV show Dexter and oh my god is his voice chilling. I knew what was coming but still dreaded every second as the story went on. Also, bonus if you are a Dexter fan!
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman: Yes this is also on the list. I’m sorry. Shadow Moon has just gotten out of jail. Shadow Moon has also just found out his wife is dead. Then he meets Mr Wednesday who offers him a job as a body guard. Shadow has no idea what he has let himself in for. This is my favourite book of all time and yet I had never read it on audio before this June. There are 2 versions, the full cast production and a single narrated version. Definitely check out the full cast (surprise) version, simply for Neil Gaiman’s narration of the Coming to America stories.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K Rowling: Based on the Harry Potter in verse text book of the same name details the discoveries of Newt Scamander and his discoveries about different beasts and advice on how to handle them. Obviously the movie is loosely based on this book but the audio is narrated by Eddie Redmayne who plays Scamander and its so lovely. He puts every bit of the soft loveliness he has on screen into the book. There are even background effects for each creature, the dragons being my favourite. I did hear from a friend of mine that he thought this one was pointless if you’re not into Harry Potter so maybe heed his advice if you’re not a fan. Or ignore him and listen to the lovely man talk about pretty creatures.

I hope this list is helpful to anyone sitting on the audio book fence. I honestly think audio books are very subjective, based totally on the readers taste and experience but narrators and cast vs no cast does make a huge difference I feel. Spotify, Borrowbox (for Irish readers) and Scribd are other options to Audible as well if you want to try audio books while still being cautious. Until next time guys, take care!