Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book Review- Neverwhere

I typically will always read the novel before I see the film. And just as I said, this was the case for me for Neverwhere. However, what I didn't know was that the novel was actually based off of the film. The film in this case was a six part T.V. series that Mr. Neil Gaiman wrote for BBC back in 1996. Only later did Gaiman adapt his work into a novel. Even thought the T.V. series is the original source material for the novel, I still loved the novel way better. This was the first Neil Gaiman novel that I had ever read and it's the one that took my down a long spiral of obsessively reading his other works. I do love reading dark, urban fantasy novels and this one was a great trip! Since its been adapted into a novel, it has been adapted into a comic book, stage play, and a movie is in the works as we speak! Now that movie studios are running out of Stephen King material to adapt, it seems like Neil Gaiman is their next go-to guy. The first Gaiman novel that had been adapted was Stardust (which was awesome) and the second being Coraline (see my review below). All of his novels have a great commercial feel to it and I think Neverwhere has the potential to become a great movie.

So lets talk about the book itself. The novel opens with a girl running through a series of tunnels, which is the London Underground, while being chased by two assassins. The girl, named Door, has an ability to open doors (and other things) and escapes her two pursuers by opening a door to the "London Above." The London Above is basically the normal, everyday world that we know of and it exists above the Underground (basically its normal London). The world which Door comes from is referred to as the "London Below." The London Below is a fantasy world that is connected through the many tunnels and sewers that the Underground consists of. Door escapes into London Above and a young Scot man named Richard Mayhew runs into her. Obviously injured, Richard takes Door back to his apartment to allow her to rest. The two assassins named Mr. Croupe and Mr. Vandemar travel to the London Above to search for Door in Richard's apartment but Richard denies knowing about her whereabouts. Richard at this point knows something strange is going on and the girl isn't exactly normal. Door asks Richard to seek out the Marquis de Carabras, a loyal friend of Door's family, from the London Below and bring him to her. After going through what seems to be a trippy dream in seeking out the Marquis, Richard eventually brings him to Door and they both leave.

After Richard's encounter with all these strange characters, he attempts to return to his normal life only to find that he seems to have become invisible and non-existent to all the people he previously knew. In an attempt to fix things back to how they were before he encountered Door, he headed to the London Below to find Door in order to set things straight. Upon entering the London Below, Richard meets the Rat Speakers who take Richard to the Floating Market to find Door. Richard eventually finds Door at the Floating Market who is there looking for a body guard. Door hires a woman named Hunter as her body guard and she tells Richard she plans to seek out the angel Islington. Door's father left her a message just before he, along with the rest of Door's family, were assassinated by Mr. Croupe and Vandemar. Richard at this point has no choice but to tag along with them. Together with Door, Hunter, and the Marquis, they travel through the tunnels and sewers of the London Below in search for the angel Islington while being hunted by the two deadly assassins.

The book over all is a really engaging and a fun read. The world of London Below reminded me of the coexisting fantasy world that was in Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy II. Very fairy tale like but slightly dark and urban at the same time. Many familiar names that are part of the actual London tubes take on a all new meaning in signifying locations in the London Below. For example, the Knightsbridge stop is actually the Night Bridge in the London Below. An actual bridge that is engulfed in darkness that Richard must cross at one point in the novel. When Richard comes off the bridge on the other side, he realizes the bridges takes one life per party as toll for crossing. Destinations in the London Below are brilliantly connected through the intricate London Underground tunnels and sewer system. It's one huge Labyrinth but you can always find your way by jumping on a tube. There are a variety of characters that live in the London Below.

In the London Below, several different groups and societies exist and can appear fantastical, historical, or sometimes just as homeless bums. I loved many of the characters in this novel. Richard, the book's hero, was a clueless, Scottish nobody. What could be cuter!? I loved the Marquis de Carabas; a very arrogant trickster, yet an incredibly loyal friend at the same time. Hunter was just badass motherfucker. Door's character was likeable enough. Mr. Coupe and Mr. Vandemar are ruthless, sadistic, and violent bad asses. The book doesn't shy away from any of the dark and grimy stuff. At one point in the novel, our two terrifying assassins have the Marquis captive; all I'll say is they showed no mercy at all to the poor chap. Overall, there isn't anything particularly meaningful or deep in the novel but it didn't matter. The book was fun, imaginative, fantastical, and hard to put down. Gaiman mentioned that there may be a squeal but this time they're going to another big city's underground train system- perhaps Tokyo or New York. The picture on the right is the Marquis de Carabas from the TV series played by Paterson Joseph and he was wonderful! Captured the Marquis' essence perfectly. I wish he 2ould come back for the new film adaption but I'm sure he is way too old at this point :(

Recommended- Final Score 9/10

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