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Neverwhere
Neil Gaiman
Avon Books, 388 pages


Art: Amy Halperin Neverwhere
Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman was born in 1960. He worked as a journalist for a number of UK periodicals and newspapers, during which time he wrote Ghastly Beyond Belief with Kim Newman, a book about the worst and most interesting bits of SF, fantasy, and horror books and movies, and Don't Panic, a study of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy phenomenon. In 1987, he published his first graphic novel Violent Cases. In 1988, he began Sandman, a monthly dark fantasy series from DC Comics, with various artists. Born in England, he now lives in Minnesota.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Neverwhere
SF Site Review: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
SF Site Review: The Sandman: Book of Dreams
Official Neverwhere Site
Gaiman bibliography from Dreamhaven Books
Sandman Links

Past Feature Reviews
A review by S. Kay Elmore

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Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew, an average businessman from Scotland living in London. He has a good job, a beautiful fiancée with above average social connections, and he's on the brink of making his name in the world. On one pivotal night, he is thrust into a world of mystery and magic when he stops to help a wounded and bleeding homeless girl. His offer to help the strange girl named Door sends him deep into the world of London Below, a place untouched by time and more dangerous than he ever imagined. Richard becomes an unwelcome but tolerated traveling companion of the Lady Door and her entourage. They are searching for the killer of Door's family and must travel through London Below on a dangerous quest for the truth.

So begins this fairy tale by Sandman author Neil Gaiman. It isn't often that modern writers can approach a fairy tale with such originality and fresh wit, but this is a different story. Neverwhere is a fairy tale for grown ups. It's a gothic novel in the vein of the early 80s London music scene rather than in the literary sense.

The layers of grime and sewer filth that coat the characters can't mask their allegorical identities. They fade between the underground torches and rooftops of London, each one a piece out of place in time. They are like the characters from your nursery rhymes all grown up, and time has made them more sinister, more terrifying and brutal. In the classic children's fairy tale, the stories are more often than not about coming of age, passing the Baba Yaga's test, remembering to refuse the Elven wine, breaking the spell, freeing the princess, and waking up as an adult. This is a story of leaving the facade of the adult world of work and duty and dull repetition behind and becoming a child again.

Because this is a fairy tale, it suffers from more than a little predictability. The bad guys will always be evil, the minute someone says "Trust me," you can't, and if you have a knack for names, you'll discover some heavy-handed foreshadowing during the introductions. But this by no means detracts from the story. It's a good page-turner; entertaining with more than a little wit and the darkly comic relief of a pair of truly nasty assassins who get testy if they aren't allowed to kill something every day or two.

Copyright © 1998 S. Kay Elmore

S. Kay Elmore is a graphic artist, writer and corporate wage slave. She edits The Orphic Chronicle, an online magazine, and tries to make ends meet by writing and developing corporate newsletters and web sites.


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