Neverwhere originally began as a miniseries that Neil Gaiman was commissioned to write for the BBC. The miniseries wasn't a huge hit at the time but it later went on to gain a small but passionate cult following. However, Gaiman wasn't happy with the miniseries because the producers had cut many of his scenes. This was partly due to time constraints and partly because they simply didn't have a big enough budget to present Gaiman's ideas onto screen. Gaiman then decided to adapt his original script into a novel.
It's funny for me to look back on this now but I didn't actually care all that much for the first couple of Neil Gaiman books that I read. I was disappointed with American Gods and Stardust. I didn't feel that either of those books were bad but neither of them really lived up to my expectations and I felt let down. I wouldn't have the slightest hesitation in naming Gaiman as being one of my favourite authors now though because I love Anansi Boys, Coraline, The Graveyard Book and now Neverwhere :) Gaiman has also written one of my all-time favourite Doctor Who episodes (The Doctor's Wife) and I even got him to sign my copy of Anansi Boys from when he did a press tour a few years ago! :D
Now that I've finally read Neverwhere it's seriously challenging Anansi Boys as being my favourite out of Neil Gaiman's adult novels because it's an utterly fantastic urban fantasy novel! It's gripping and fast-paced and suspenseful and full of adventure and excitement. I can honestly say that I would never actually want to visit London Below - there are far too many sewers for my liking! - but it's still an extremely entertaining place to read about as it's vivid, gritty, dangerous, eerie and full of atmosphere. But there's also a huge amount of humour in Neverwhere and if you've ever lived in London or know it reasonably well (as I do) then it's even more fun to read! To enjoy this book a good knowledge of London is by no means essential but it will definitely enhance your enjoyment of the story. London tube journeys have now been forever changed to me because I'm never going to be able to hear the phrase "Mind the Gap" in the same way again!
Then there are also Neverwhere's brilliant characters. Richard is a slightly bland hero to be honest but he's still quite likeable and the supporting characters in this book are even better. They're so eccentric and weird and fascinating! I loved the Marquis de Carabas, Old Bailey, Lady Door and Islington and their characters will stay with me for a very long time.
I really hope that Gaiman will eventually write a sequel to Neverwhere some day. Gaiman doesn't do sequels but he's always said that Neverwhere is the only book of his that he would actually consider writing a sequel for. I'd love to read about Richard, Door and the Marquis de Carabas having further adventures so I would be so thrilled if a sequel eventually materialised one day! And finally, before I wrap this review up, I feel I should also mention that I'm absolutely loving the recent BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of Neverwhere at the moment. It has an insanely star-studded cast of actors and will be the subject of my next post :)
P.S. I was extremely upset when I learnt that an American high school had recently pulled
Neverwhere off of its reading list because of a parent complaining about its "graphic sexual content". The fact that the school caved in to the demands of one - one! - parent without even putting up any kind of a fight is absolutely pathetic. Neverwhere had been on their curriculum since 2004 and hadn't ever received a single complaint before - and would you give in so easily to just one parent's objections?! Obviously parents should have a role in what their own children are exposed to but no parent should have the right to force their values and tastes onto other people's children. I'm a fervent opposer of book banning and censorship and I would encourage my readers to read this great post from my blogger friend BookWormans on the subject :)
For anyone who's curious, the parent wanted the book banned from the school because of a very brief scene which you can read here. All that happens is that an adulterous couple start kissing on a park bench next to an invisible Richard. The man slides his hand up the woman's jumper, they exchange a few swear words ("f***"), and then they leave. We never even see this couple again. This scene is only there to highlight Richard's invisibility to the people of London Above. It's a massive stretch to call the entire book inappropriate just because of this one scene! Gaiman has also said that with Neverwhere he was basically trying to write an adult's take on the books that he had loved as a child - Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and The Chronicles of Narnia. However Neverwhere has actually got very little of the features that sometimes crop up in adult books. There's very little swearing or sexuality in this book at all and it's only really adult in terms of its mature themes.