Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is a fantastic story about Richard, a young office worker who, because of a random act of kindness, slips into ‘Under London’, a parallel world that exists in the sewers and underground where all the misfits and weirdness of London has fallen.
Part steampunk, part mystery, part straight-out fantasy, this is a fun and readable story.
The plot centres on Richard who, after helping a girl on the street called Door who is able to create and unlock doors to different worlds, falls into Under London. They embark on a voyage to help door find justice for the death of her family and, through the journey, meet a host of people and creatures and visit amazing places: Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar the assassins, the Marquis of Carabas, Old Bailey the bird, the angel called Angel Islington, Hunter, former protector of the Atlantis, the floating market …
The book compares, interestingly, with China Mievelle’s Unlundun, which also uses the device of an underside to London. Both are fantastical, and both use the ordinariness of the person from London to explore the strangeness. of its other. Both are clever books, with Gaiman’s perhaps a little straighter – both in the sense that it’s not quite as wacky, and in the sense that it has fewer obvious critical theory references.
That said, there’s a brilliant line from Door in Neverwhere, hinting at the way there is even an excess of time:
There are little bubbles of of time in London, where things and places stay the same … There’s a lot of time in London, and it has to go somewhere – it doesn’t all get used up at once.