Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman

A week or two ago, I was talking with my neighbor and she mentioned that she had finally gotten around to starting one of Neil Gaiman’s books. Which one, I demanded to know. She thought about it for a minute and then replied, the one with the door. Ahh, Neverwhere. The second book of his I ever read. I immediately besieged her with questions about how she was enjoying it, and offered recommendations for her next selection, and when her sons demanded our attentions again, and she seemed quite grateful to be out of my Gaiman-obsessed firing range.

I don’t blame her. I suspect it’s the same feeling my mother got last week when we went to the second run theatre to watch The Rise of the Guardians for three dollars apiece, and I kept leaning over to confirm that I thought for sure the Boogie Man was drawn from a photograph of Gaiman. Look at the hair, I whispered. And the terrifying, yet strangely mesmerizing grin. It’s as though he has a story – one I would probably follow him into frightening territory to hear. I could practically hear her eyes rolling, so I’m quite glad I didn’t mention how I silently squealed over the movie having a character called The Sandman…

So yes, I admit it. I can be a bit overwhelming when it comes to all things Gaiman. And I have no problem rereading his novels over and over again. When I pulled this one off the shelf, I also remembered that it’s just two more weeks until what promises to be an incredible radio adaptation premieres (cast list and details here), and I got all amped up again. There might have been fist pumping…

When I searched for that link, I also came across an interesting detail about the book which I had never known; the novel was actually a companion piece for the television series created by Gaiman and Lenny Henry in 1996. The plots are the same, but the novel is a much richer expression of the story, in my opinion at least. I’ve seen the series two or three times though, so obviously, I don’t hate it – I just prefer the book. I am looking forward to seeing it transformed, yet again, into a new format with a cast of brilliant British actors (I’m actually nervous about just how good – and by “good,” I mean “terrifying” – the cast is said to be). It fits into what is becoming something of a theme for me this year – the translation of fiction.

I haven’t been intentionally seeking out these projects, but sometimes, even when we aren’t looking for a thing, it manages to find us anyway because, well, we need it to – it is simply time for us to find it, or for it to find us so that we can face it or deal with it or vanquish it. This is one of the major ideas at play in Neverwhere, and I believe it’s true for us as readers and creators (and humans) as well. Right now, I’m working on a project that ties in classic texts with modern sensibilities, and even though I haven’t intended to explore other people’s expressions of this idea, it seems to happen anyway. All of a sudden, everywhere I turn, it’s all I can see. Neverwhere is a book I’ve loved for over a decade for its lovely story, compelling villains, and fumbling (yet completely lovable) hero, and inexplicably now, when I come to review it, I can’t help but see what a grand life it has outside of its spine. It gives me a new kind of chills…


For more about Neil Gaiman, go here (you can join me in obsessing over his new book, due out in a few months), to twitter, or tumblr.

27 thoughts on “Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman

    1. Definitely! So many good choices out there too – Neverwhere is a great book to start with, but I also recommend Stardust as a solid choice for easing into the Gaiman mindset ;)

  1. You’ve reminded me I need to reread Neverwhere. I lost my copy of it in a fire, and unfortunately I haven’t been able to replace it yet!

    I think my favorite Gaiman is “The Graveyard Book”, but I find something beautiful in each.

    1. I love The Graveyard book too! I always am completely bowled over by it when I pull it off the shelf. It’s the only book I’ve ever read that actually prompted me to write and send an incredibly corny letter to the author stating my undying love for the book. I really wish I could find a copy so I could post it because it was just that ridiculous!

  2. I hope to finish “Neverwhere” sooner rather than later, and I look forward to chatting with you about it! My ability to sit down and read a book without pictures has definitely changed since having children. :)

  3. I had a bad Gaiman experience as a child–I was (and still am, to a lesser degree) easily scared off by suspense and horror. Now I’m giving The Sandman graphic novels a try, and if I survive that I may branch out further.
    In recognition of the massive number of books you’ve convinced me to add to my To-Read list, I’ve nominated you for the Shine Award. If, for any reason, you don’t accept awards, no worries. Just take this as a note that you shine a little happiness and intrigue into my day. :)
    If you want to accept it, go to here for the rules.

    1. I am a total wuss when it comes to horror and suspense, so I completely understand. I actually think Sandman and Gaiman’s short stories are much scarier than his novels though. For example, Stardust, Good Omens, and Odd and the Frost Giants are witty and sweet adventures (not scary at all), and The Graveyard Book and Coraline are a little more intense, but they’re aimed at younger readers, so you could definitely handle them. American Gods and Anansi Boys are not really scary either – just very strange – but I think you would be into them in the right mood, knowing your tastes somewhat :) Even Neverwhere is not too frightening in itself – it’s just that I heard the actors chosen as the villains have made the roles very frightening (also, I tend to be more easily frightened by audio and visual clips than I do text).

      My experience with Sandman was pretty rough, to be honest. I only made it through five volumes, and the first one scarred me deeply (I think that’s the one with the horrifying cafe scene…). I would highly recommend his books to you over the graphic novels (and if you want a really gentle and adorable introduction to him, his children’s books are all delightful – I give them as baby gifts all the time).

      1. I’ve read Good Omens–I’m a Pratchett fan. Sandman is actually working for me fine. (I just don’t look too closely at the gore.), I’m starting on 7 next.
        Maybe I’m less of a wuss than I thought…

        1. Do you have a rec for a Pratchett book to start with? As much as I want to read him, I don’t have any titles in mind, so I never get around to it. I have a feeling once I do, I’ll be hooked…

          1. Hi, Caitlin *waving*…butting in here, too. Booksjadore, I had never read Pratchett, either, but seeing Jim Butcher quote him in the last Dresden File book was the last straw. I had to find out what he was about, and now I have so much to catch up on. I started with the 4 Tiffany Aching books that are a series within a series, being part of the 39 volume Disc World series. The Wee Free Men was my intro to Pratchett and it was SO good! I can highly recommend that as a fun place to start. When I finish the last of these 4, I’m going to start from the beginning of the Disc World books. I’ve hardly ever laughed as hard as I did at the Wee Free Men, the Nag Mac Feegles. They are glorious!

          2. His Discworld series interact, so you can read them in order, or chose a series within the series to start:
            Color of Magic–an inept cowardly wizard named Rincewind, keeps falling into adventures
            Equal Rites–practical witches, who take no nonsense from the wizards
            The Wee Free Men–a young witch growing up in sheep country.
            Going Postal–a confidence man who’s finally caught, and offered a job or a hanging.
            Mort–introduces Death, and his apprentice. Hogfather, Death book 3, introduces Susan, one of my faves.

            1. I wonder how sick the rest of my readers will be of him after I get through 39 of Pratchett’s books ;) Also, I think I had better read them in order – reading things out of order makes me extremely twitchy!

              1. Yeah, I normally insist on reading things in order, too, but the Tiffany Aching series is sort of a stand alone thing, and since the title intrigued me, I started with them. Of course, I am reading those 4 books in order, and am getting ready to start on #3. I understand there are several stand-alone series within the 39 books. I think it’s not that the whole 39 are even exactly a series, as I would think of them, but more a “world” with several different stories told within it. Maybe? All I really know is the Wee Free Men are the funniest things ever. How can you not love a bunch of 6″ tall, blue skinned, kilt-wearing men, with names like Rob Anybody, and Daft Wullie, and No’-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock? In fact, I’ve made myself miss them, so I think I’ll start Book 3 tonight!

  4. I have two very strong memories of Gaiman’s work from when I was younger. I read American Gods probably before I should have and was entranced and confused in equal measure. I actually forgot it’s title and only later did I connect the dots. I also saw the BBC TV series of Neverwhere as a child and again only later connected the book to it. The book is definitely a better experience and I can’t wait for the TV series. I’d recommend his short stories to any fan. I have Fragile Things and Smoke and Mirrors and they offer the weird and the sublime in bite-size doses!

    1. I’m with you about American Gods! I read it right after it came out, and I didn’t quite get it. When I went back and reread it a few years later though, I loved it, and the one time I’ve seen Gaiman speak, he read a chapter from it, and that made me love it even more :)

  5. You have hooked me for sure. I’ve only read one Gaiman book, The Graveyard Book, but I really, really liked it. (Not sure why I haven’t reviewed it yet. I need to fix that oversight for sure). I’m definitely putting Neverwhere and Stardust on my To Be Read list. In fact, I may download one of them tonight. I’m in just that kind of mood. Great post! Thanks.

    1. Oh yes, you definitely should! Both books are such fun – somewhat different tones (Stardust is a lighter) but excellent reads. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

  6. I have to reread Neverwhere again soon.. but I feel like there’s so many books and so little time! I absolutely can’t WAIT for his new book… it’s so nice to find another Gaiman-obsessed person here. :)

    1. I know! I keep seeing other authors who have received an advanced copy reporting on how amazing it is, and I am insanely jealous. June seems so far away!

  7. I loved coraline when I was younger and this book sounds amazing! Also if anyone is interested check out my blog called twenty only its about the random twists and turns that most people get into to!! Tell me what ya think

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