Book Reviews

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere by Neil GaimanNeverwhere on 1996, Paperback, 380 pages
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Under the streets of London there's a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.
Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere. (from Goodreads)

Yes, the TV show came before the book! Which explains why I kept thinking “this feels like an adaptation.” I have a love-hate relationship with book adaptations of movies; mostly they always feel derivative and pointless, and not even Neil Gaiman can make one great. The Neverwhere novelization is better than most, but it still can’t top the TV show.
The problem might be because when you’re writing an adaptation, you have to stick pretty close to the original source. You can expand things a little (like internal dialogue or whatever), but basically you’ve got a paint-by-numbers kind of thing. It ends up feeling very stale and forced, and it’s particularly strange that Neverwhere-the-book has that problem because it was written by the same person who wrote the thing it’s being adapted from! Or maybe I’m just projecting, because of my bias against novelizations. Maybe if you haven’t seen the TV show, you wouldn’t even know this was an adaptation! Something to think about.
Anyway, enough about that. Though I could feel the weight of the TV show pressing down upon me the entire time I was reading the book, I still pretty much enjoyed the story. It’s one of my favorite scenarios– a hidden city, one with magic and danger and living right alongside the mundane city, too! It’s also a quest story, another of my favorites. Quests can be very satisfying, especially when the people on the quests learn something new about themselves, and they grow into better people. Richard in particular benefited from the quest in Neverwhere, though he wasn’t the only one who did so.
I loved the story and the setting, the characters are pretty good (the Marquis is my favorite, of course), and the writing is pitch-perfect early Neil Gaiman-y.[1. I do actually prefer his later writing, but if you have a hankering for something more like Sandman, Neverwhere is a decent solution.] But I couldn’t stop comparing the book to the show, which is something I do a lot in general[2. comparing adaptation to source in negative ways] and which I should probably correct one of these days. Especially since it knocked down what would have been a 4-star book into a 3-star book. Hm.
Read: August 3-4, 2013
Guess what? There’s an Author’s Preferred Text version! With added scenes and so on. I wonder if I’d like that one better than this “old” version. I really liked the 10th Anniversary edition of American Gods, even more than the original version. Hmmmmmm.
Sidenote: I do NOT mind tie-in novels! In fact, I kinda love them. (See: my huge collection of Doctor Who tie-in books.) I think the difference is that tie-ins take the source material and expand from it in a way that feels more creative than just copy-pasting the dialogue/action/etc.
Do you like tie-in novels? What’re some of your favorites? Besides the Doctor Who books, I also have a decent-sized collection of Young Indiana Jones books. Woohoo!


  • Jenny @ Reading the End

    Oo, I wonder if I have the preferred text. I know that there was an edition of it I started reading in a bookstore in London that had scenes my copy (which I got in America) didn’t have. So I guess that is the Preferred one? Or is there some other edition with STILL MORE SCENES?
    I do love the miniseries of Neverwhere but I saw it long after I loved the book, so it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the book. Paterson Joseph is kind of a genius.

    • Anastasia

      I think there’s a version that’s not the preferred version but which has more scenes than the US version? It might just be the UK version, come to think of it.
      I have just discovered the radio version of Neverwhere! It’s free somewhere on the BBC website for a bit and I definitely want to listen to it and see how it compares to the book/TV show.

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