I did not know what to expect from Neil Gaiman's debut. I had read a few issues of his The Sandman comic series, but had not been impressed. Of course, that was over a dozen years ago. Since then, Gaiman has received international acclaim for both Neverwhere and American Gods. Wanting to read something on the "light" side after reading a novel such as Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt, I elected to give Neverwhere a shot. And boy was I not disappointed!:-)
This book has been called an Alice in Wonderland with a punk edge, and I have to agree wholeheartedly with that claim. Gaiman takes the readers on a dreamlike trip to the Underside of London. The author's attention to details, odd or not, makes Neverwhere one of the most highly visual novels I have ever read.
The narrative and dialogues flow quite easily, making you turn those page well past your bedtime or lunch break. And Gaiman's witty, sarcastic and ironic writing style often made me think of Neal Stephenson. The author's sense of humour will make you smile/smirk at every turn.
The worldbuilding is dark, well-crafted and imaginative. Gaiman's ability to turn places we know into unfamiliar and whimsical setting is the hallmark of a gifted storyteller. With him, London takes on mythical dimensions. And since it's one of my favourite cities in the world, it was pure delight to read this tale. One thing is certain: you will never look at the Underground the same way again. I can't imagine not thinking about Neverwhere the next time I'm on the tube, coming to stations such as Black Friars, Knightsbridge or Earl's Court.
The characterizations are neat. Not overdone, just what the story needs to maintain its well-paced rhythm. It's a bit of a delirious joyride to follow Richard's adventures and misadventures, as he attempts to return to his former life. The supporting cast of characters gives more depth to what is already a fascinating story. In particular, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar imbue this tale a pleasantly dark sense of humour.
Neverwhere is a book that reads really well, and too rapidly do we reach its very satisfying ending. What I truly enjoyed about this book is that fact that it's basically unlike anything else out there. And Gaiman's witty writing style makes reading this book quite a treat.
If you haven't given this novel a chance yet, please do so. You will not regret it!
The final verdict: 8/10