So yesterday afternoon I went on a Barnes and Noble run (I go there often enough that I should just give in and make B&N runs an official “thing”) and came back with a new notebook and a new real book. Have I ever mentioned my obsession with notebooks? I have an unofficial collection of half-filled notebooks going on, and it’s really sad. Almost as sad as I was when I found out that I’m one of those people who make lists for everything. Grocery lists, to-do lists, to-cook lists, to-read and to-watch lists. It’s ridiculous. I’m almost at Carrie (from John Tucker Must Die) levels of list-making, you guys.
Carrie, what are you always typing on there?
Oh, lists… normal stuff, same as everyone. I have my ”To Do” list, my ”Goals” list, my ”Contingency” list, my ”Observations,” my ”Notions,” which, of course, are very different because ”Observations” require a topic sentence and ”Notions” do not. You know, normal stuff.
Buuuutt… one good thing about lists is the fact that you get to feel all accomplished after you cross off the things you’ve done. Which brings us to the real book I got at Barnes and Noble. I’ve been wanting to read more science fiction and fantasy lately, and I was torn between Old Man’s War by John Scalzi and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Eventually the fact that I’ve been wanting to read Neverwhere for a while won out, so I ended up taking it home with me. And tonight I got to cross it off my to-read list.
This is the first Neil Gaiman book I’ve read, and I’ve got to say, I love his style. I’m a big fan of his dark sense of humor and the way he takes cliches and actually makes them funny and interesting again. I really appreciated the fact that the witty banter was actually witty and not just a sad plot filler. For example, this is what happens when Richard Mayhew and his slightly disreputable friend Gary are talking about Richard’s fiancee:
And how is the Creature from the Black Lagoon?
Jessica’s from Ilford, actually, Gary. And she remains the light and love of my life, thank you very much for asking.
Not only does Gaiman make the conventions and cliches new, but the fantasy world of London Below was so vivid that last night I actually had a dream that I was there having an adventure. (Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything about it.)
On the other hand, Gaiman’s humor and rollicking sense of adventure results in his characters being less accessible. It’s fine not to get too involved when Richard and Door and the Marquis de Carabas are being chased by the terrifyingly sadistic Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, but the descriptions of Door crying in the house where she found her murdered family or Richard silently mourning the rat-speaker, Anesthesia’s death, have a very distant, antiseptic feel that can make the novel seem sort of hollow and soulless. I was pretty frustrated about halfway through because even though the story switches between POV’s, I felt like I wasn’t getting to know any of the characters, even Richard, very well.
The ending made up for some of the missing character development, but I’m still just a tad bit bitter because I want to know what happens after the story closes. Neil Gaiman has said that he plans on writing a sequel at some point, so I guess I’ll just have to wait to get more swashbuckling adventures.
So, my verdict: Neverwhere has all the dark humor, plot twists, and adventures that you could ever want (I’m almost tempted to go into the Grandpa’s description of The Princess Bride here). It’s a very plot-driven book, so sometimes it’s hard to empathize with the characters; but I also know that empathy is probably not what Gaiman was going for, and it’s very likely that my English major’s obsession with character development is just rearing its ugly head. I will definitely read it again next time I need to read a classic fantasy adventure story that takes place in one of the most vivid worlds I’ve read about in a while.