Monday, August 24, 2009
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I've never read a Neil Gaiman book I didn't like, and Neverwhere is no exception. Neverwhere is based on a TV show that was developed by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry in 1996. It was later adapted to book form by Mr. Gaiman, and it is well worth reading.
The story focuses on a rather average man named Richard Mayhew, who stumbles into a different world one night when he decides to help a young girl he finds bleeding on the streets of London. The girl he meets is a magical being from London Below a world that exists with and below London itself (or London Above). London Below catches people who fall through the cracks of the regular world, in addition, this fantastical world is also inhabited by a number of magical animals, medieval monks, beasts, monsters, and even angels.
Richard's chance encounter with the bleeding young girl from London Below pulls him out of his normal life to such a degree that he can no longer interact with people from London Above. Trying desperately to restore his status as a member of London, Richard heads into London Below and gets embroiled in a conflict that involves two terrifyingly brutal hit-men, magical rats, the fall of Atlantis, and even an attack on heaven.
Gaiman's characters are described in ways that make them laughable and lovable and the world he supplants below (and above, and within) London is amazingly vivid and exciting. I couldn't put this book down, and while I always hate to see a book end, being a fan of long form fiction and fantasy, this ending was wholly satisfying. I would recommend this book to anyone, fan of fantasy or not.
Now, a word on the fact that this book is based on a TV series. Before reading this book I had no idea that it was a series on the BBC in '96. For that fact, I am glad. I checked out some of the series on youtube, and was underwhelmed to say the least. You can see for yourself here. The acting is very good; specifically the Marquis de carabas is not at all what I envisioned, but is perfect none the less. Despite the acting, I can't get past the look of the show. It's just looks rather cheap to me. I feel like Gaiman's writing deserves a better look. Something more polished with a keener eye for production design. I'm not saying it needs the Hollywood treatment, but the book I read was much bigger and more beautiful than the clips of the show I watched. I often like to see screen adaptations of books that I have read, but this is one instance where I'm rather glad to remain ignorant and content to enjoy only what Gaiman describes in his pages, not what aired on the BBC.