Monday, June 27, 2011

The Magic Beneath Your Feet: NEVERWHERE by Neil Gaiman

I haven't watched the BBC television series Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and Lenny Henry, unless you count snippets seen on YouTube before I wrote this post, but I recently finished the novel and offer this advice: read the book first. While the show and the book follow almost identical plots, and dialogue comes out verbatim, your imagination deserves to roam through Gaiman's world without the limits of television sets, tight camera shots, and budgets. Following Gaiman's description in the novel, your imagination will create worlds rarely seen outside the lush colors and textures of a Tim Burton film, images I've never seen depicted on the small screen, even in the best productions.

Neverwhere: The Story
Richard's life is the perfection of mediocrity: job in securities, a beautiful and successful fiancee, mates at work, and a flat that has stray laundry only in some places. But then, late for a dinner date with his fiancee, he stumbles upon a girl, prone, covered in blood, layered in tattered clothes, and begging for safety.

She is Door, a dweller in London Below, a city beneath the city and home to all who've fallen through the cracks. After Door are two masterful assassins who take great pride in their work and plan to finish the job of exterminating Door's family.

Without a choice, Richard is pulled through the cracks, embroiled in London Below, and tromping around with nefarious company on a quest to return home to his London.

Neverwhere: My Thoughts
As a reader, I luxuriated in Gaiman's boundless creativity. As a writer, I poured over the lyrical language and fairy tale tone, which characterize all of Gaiman's books that I've read. The novel is a call to imagination. To originality. To daringness. It was a reminder of why I want to write, and it could be a textbook of damn good writing. There is sustained imaginative world building and character development; you never run out of surprises. The props that fill the world are unique, and some, like the engagement ring, are symbols that convey subtexts of abstract meaning, emotional significance, and internal conflict. The two Londons are peopled by characters I love and loathe, sometimes at the same time. There is a flowing, rather long denouement, during which a lesser writer might lose the reader, but not Gaiman. Neverwhere comes to a satisfying conclusion.

Expect a good time when you read Neverwhere. Also, expect to learn something about London.

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