The wonder of Neil Gaiman is that no matter how many myths he re-imagines, it never gets old. No matter how many times you read them, there’s always something fresh.
“Neverwhere” is the story of Richard Mayhew, who, like Arthur Dent before him, gets swept up in events beyond his ken; events that take him to another world. Unlike Arthur’s adventures in space, however, Richard ventures into Under-London; the dark labyrinth of sewers and tunnels, of forgotten times and forgotten people that exists under the surface of our world.
Richard rescues a girl named Door, on the run from two of the best literary villains, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar. Unfortunately, having encountered the denizens of Under-London, Richard finds it impossible to go back to his normal life. Literally. People fail to recognize him, and forget him immediately after seeing him. In one memorable scene, his landlord shows his apartment while Richard sits naked in the bath. Richard is forced to venture into Under-London, in search of the only person who still knows him; Door, who is herself in search of vengeance for her murdered family (also dispatched by the esteemed Mssrs Croup & Vandemar). Together Richard and Door must face hired killers, a barmy Earl, and a demented angel, not to mention talking rats and Richard’s ex-fiance, before their journey is over.
One of the things I love about “Neverwhere” is that Richard is an adult thrust into a fairy-tale-esque adventure, not a child. And unlike a child, he has troubles. He struggles to cope. He wants to put the world back into a box that he understands, but at the same time knows he has to move forward. It’s difficult, and sometimes he’s an absolute twit, but you feel for him.
We see the world of Under-London predominately through Richard’s eyes, so there’s quite a bit that isn’t explained, that Richard doesn’t know, or that he doesn’t understand. I was fine with that; part of the feel of the book is Richard’s sense of confusion, and I would have found it much harder to believe if everything was laid out and easily accessible.
I honestly can’t recommend this enough; it’s a great read, and an excellent introduction to Gaiman if you’re not familiar with his work. Plus, it’s $2.99 in the Kindle store at the time of this writing, which is a deal that’s hard to pass up.