Underground Journey – “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman
How’s that for a recommendation?
Nice guy Richard Mayhew finds himself sucked into London’s literal underworld when he rescues a woman bleeding on the sidewalk. Next thing he knows, he’s being pursued by two evil dudes, and following the bleeding woman (Door) and her companions (a sleazy Marquis and a ferocious female bodyguard) though the tubes and trails of London Below as they hunt for the secret behind Door’s murdered family. Along the way, they encounter floating markets, people who speak to rats, an angel, and a group of underworld friars. There are also doors you can’t see, and darkness that envelopes people so they never re-appear. Oh, and there’s also a beast that must be destroyed.
Neil Gaiman crafts stories like no other writer, and “Neverwhere” is among his masterworks – though with a body of work that contains “Coraline,” “The Sandman,” “Good Omens,” and “American Gods,” who’s to say what the masterpiece really is? “Neverwhere” can be read either as just a great fantasy story, or as a social commentary on “the people who fall through the cracks” of society – namely, the homeless. Richard is a good enough person to look down and see the bleeding Door on the ground, where his fiancee steps right over her without even noticing. The residents of London Below literally live below the city, camping in abandoned tube stations and invading places (like Big Ben) for their annual market. They go unseen and unheard by the residents of London Above when they do venture into the upper world.
The action is swift, the characters are so vivid they almost leap from the pages, and the story has enough twists and turns to out-mystery any episode of “Law and Order.”
“Neverwhere” is the Spring 2011 “One Book, One Chicago” selection for a reason – everyone should read it.