Neverwhere: A Novel is the fourth Neil Gaiman I’ve read, and I enjoyed it better than the others. This is a guy people go nuts over, but I’ve never really gotten the fascination. Yes, I like dark subject matter. Yes, I enjoy fantasy and horror. Yes, I think the guy can craft sentences. But I’ve always felt a bit dis-satisfied upon completing his books. He reminds me in some ways of a pretty imaginative guy named Clive Barker (remember him?). His books were crammed full of bizarre demonic creatures and interesting misfit characters and lush descriptions–but there never seemed to be any depth to his work. Gaiman is more subtle than Barker, but I still think he’s re-working old material.
Neverwhere is like Oz or The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant or Harry Potter and the Social Commentary of Late-Phase Capitalism–one of those alternate universe fantasies where someone is sucked out of the “real” world and into another place where the rules are not quite the same. Richard is an appealing central consciousness, and he gets punished for an act of compassion. But falling into London below allows him to escape the tedium of his job and a relationship with a rather callous stereotype. I like best the villains Croup and Vandemar–they should get their own novel some day.