Thoughts: Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

This is sort of cheating, because I’d read it before, a long time ago, but hey, I didn’t tell anyone what I thought of it, so it still counts!

I’m a Gaiman fan, and have been since I first read him, so don’t expect any great nuanced critique here. The edition I read was the author’s preferred text (though it’s been so long since I first read it, and I didn’t have the other edition to hand that I couldn’t tell what had changed) and illustrated by Chris Riddell, whose work I have loved since I first read the Edge Chronicles. This was pretty much a guaranteed winner for me.

Neverwhere is a classic of British fantasy, a love letter to London (and it’s to Gaiman’s credit that he can overcome my instinctive eyeroll at love letters to London). I wondered while reading why I’d never got into Gaiman earlier in my life, why my childhood had been deprived of an early start, but honestly at the time this was published I was not of an age to be reading about some of this stuff, so all is forgiven. There’s a lot of language and a lot of horror for a young kid.

A couple of interesting things I noticed on this read:

  • Though it’s all about London and how great it is, the main character is Scottish. London is a city of various immigrants.
  • Chris Riddell’s Marquis is PERFECT.
  • Despite this being the author’s preferred text, there were some really weird jarring Americanisms that came out of absolutely nowhere. This is strange because the rest of the book is so aggressively British.
  • The Marquis though
  • Croup and Vandemar felt almost tropey, which is possibly unfair of me. I suspect they were very early on in the world of chalk-and-cheese bad guy duos. Thinking of Goss and Subby from China Miéville*’s Kraken, and there’s something a bit Terry Pratchett about them as well, though I can’t bring anyone to mind.
  • Basically all the characters are great, and the worldbuilding is great. Some of the suburb/district/Underground station names/whatever they’re supposed to be were twisted in really cool ways, not falling back on the laziest interpretation of the names.
  • I admire Gaiman’s ability to leave some of those names as just casual mentions, enough to give us a taste… Admirable restraint. A lesser writer would have wanted to cram them all in.
  • Jessica is actually the worst person oh my goodness.
  • That homelessness bit freaked me out a lot more this time around.
  • He claims in the book to be writing a sequel, which, yes please.

Sorry, I don’t have much interesting to say! I enjoyed the reread, it took me back to cosy times and a familiar fantasy world, which is always welcome. Chris Riddell’s illustrations are, as always, lovely and gothic and full of spidery lines and shadow and filigree detail. A really great match, like, dream-team match. Highly recommend!

*Speaking of Miéville, a bizarro-London book that you can press on children is Un Lun Dun, by the same, and you should do that!

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