Neverwhere: A Novel

by Neil Gaiman

Paperback, 2021





William Morrow Paperbacks (2021), 464 pages


Richard Mayhew's life is forever changed after he rescues a young girl named Door and finds himself living in a city of monsters, saints, murderers, and angels, and he must help Door on her mission to save this strange underworld kingdom from destruction.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

464 p.; 8 inches

Media reviews

Gaiman blends history and legend to fashion a traditional tale of good versus evil, replete with tarnished nobility, violence, wizardry, heroism, betrayal, monsters and even a fallen angel. The result is uneven. His conception of London Below is intriguing, but his characters are too obviously
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symbolic (Door, for example, possesses the ability to open anything). Also, the plot seems a patchwork quilt of stock fantasy images. Adapted from Gaiman's screenplay for a BBC series, this tale would work better with fewer words and more pictures.
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2 more
Kirkus Reviews
The novel is consistently witty, suspenseful, and hair-raisingly imaginative in its contemporary transpositions of familiar folk and mythic materials (one can read Neverwhere as a postmodernist punk Faerie Queene). Readers who've enjoyed the fantasy work of Tim Powers and William Browning Spencer
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won't want to miss this one. And, yes, Virginia, there really are alligators in those sewers--and Gaiman makes you believe it.
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The millions who know The Sandman, the spectacularly successful graphic novel series Gaiman writes, will have a jump start over other fantasy fans at conjuring the ambience of his London Below, but by no means should those others fail to make the setting's acquaintance. It is an Oz overrun by
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maniacs and monsters, and it becomes a Shangri-La for Richard. Excellent escapist fare.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member dk_phoenix
Halfway through this book, I was wondering why I kept reading. I didn't care about the main character, and I found a number of the secondary characters annoying. Things were dull. Why didn't I like it? Why didn't I care what happened?

But, I persisted. And persisted. And persisted. And without
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warning, the story grabbed me, sucked me in, and came together in an enormous, unexpected way, and I wondered -- with a bit of sadness -- why Gaiman hadn't bothered to write a sequel. Yes, I wanted more.

Here's the thing: The main character is dull and uninteresting. But that's the whole point. That's the idea behind him, and for the entire book, he just wants to go back to his dull, uninteresting life, full of rote and the mundane. So that made perfect sense, once I used my noggin and thought it through.

Second, the very interesting main characters don't appear right away... but when they do? Well, I couldn't wait for the next scenes in which they featured.

The description was also incredibly detailed without being overwhelming. I don't know how he did it, but I can't remember anything I've read recently where the words crafted such a detailed image in my mind as I read, that it was like watching a movie play along in my brain... but at the same time, the description wasn't noticeable, or overt, or included in big blocks of text. It was subtle, painting the scene with little brush strokes until I forgot I was reading at all.

And everything came together in the end. Every little thing, even the tiniest gesture or mention or object from elsewhere in the novel, all came full circle in the end.

It took me a moment of reflection once I'd finished the book to realize that, after all the complaining I'd done once I started it, viewed as a whole the book was fantastic. Is fantastic. Very well written, very well put together, and wholly satisfying in the end. The more I thought about it and talked about it with someone else, the more I realized I'd liked it.

Ahh, Mr. Gaiman. You're subtle, but you're a master of your craft.
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LibraryThing member jolerie
The marquis scratched the side of his nose. "Young man," he said, "understand this: there are two Londons. There's London Above - that's where you lived - and then there's London Below - the Underside - inhabited by the people who fell through the cracks in the world. Now you're one of them. Good
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When Alice fell through the rabbit hole she discovered her Wonderland. When Richard Mayhew fell through his sewer hole, what he discovers is a world that is eerily reminiscent of London from days gone by tainted by a whole lot of strange, and all of it happening underground. Train stations take on a whole new identity, mice are the messengers of the dark, a floating market where all manner of odd and odder folks congregate, and to top it off, Richard finds himself embroiled in a murder mystery where the stakes may cost heaven and earth.

I can't believe this book has been sitting on my shelves for years, just collecting dust. This underground world that Gaiman has conjured is utterly immersive and fantastical in every meaning of the word. The sense that you are in a familiar place, and yet everything is just slightly off enough to make it all magical is brilliant. Often times I lament the fact that there aren't enough stand alone books and too many series, and yet Neverwhere may be my one exception. The characters have such a rich, but unexplored history; London Below and how it came to be is a story left to the imagination, and all these things, I only wish Gaiman had more time to flesh out in detail. If every sewer cover lead to a London Below, filled with it's Marquis de Carabas or a diminutive elfish girl in search of the reason behind her family's murder, I'd dive in head first. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
One day, Richard Mayhew is running around London with his beautiful, demanding, career-oriented fiancée who is about to have the most important moment in her life as she drags him to an exclusive restaurant to meet with her powerful boss. Then Richard stumbles upon a young girl who is obviously
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injured and in need of help, and forsaking his beautiful Jessica, brings the girl, called Door, to his place to give her a chance to recuperate and hide away from two sadistic killers who are on her heels. Suddenly, Richard becomes invisible to everyone, can't seem to get a taxi or get into the subway station to get to his job, and when he does, discovers his desk is being removed and his coworkers can't see him. He rushes to his apartment to take a bath and calm down and is appalled when a real-estate agent appears with a couple who decide to take the flat, even as Richard is standing stark naked and dripping right in front of them. Richard then plunges into London Below which is peopled with strange inhabitants who abide by different rules of physics (among other things) in search of Door. He finds Door at a floating market as she is auditioning for a bodyguard before embarking on a perilous journey. Door's family has been brutally murdered and she must find a key for the angel Islington as a bargain in exchange of which he will reveal the identity of those who killed her family.

An adventure filled with surprises and satisfying plot twist, with a cast of memorable characters that seem to be delightfully real, even as they display behaviours that are strange, when not downright deranged. This was a satisfying romp, made all the more delectable in the audiobook version narrated by the incomparable Neil Gaiman. Do I sound like a smitten fan? That's because I am.
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LibraryThing member flissp
When a girl stumbles, exhausted and bleeding, into the path of Richard Mayhew and his fiancee Jessica, Richard, much to Jessica's dismay, has to stop and help her out. But there is something unusual about the girl, and the very act of helping her draws Richard away from real life and into a place
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existing between the cracks of everyday London. A place where tube stations and people are not what they seem and nothing is safe - London Below.

When I was small, I used to sit on the tube wondering just what went on in all those nooks and crannies and locked up tunnels you see around the older underground stations in London and wondering where the station names really came from. In Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman has taken these kind of meanderings and created a parallel London, existing out of reality, but somehow still true in spirit. It is very easy, even in a busy place like Covent Garden or Picadilly Circus (for example), to turn down a tiny side street and enter what feels like a completely different world. It is a city steeped in history, where the ancient is muddled together with the new and it doesn't take a huge leap of faith to imagine the Marquis de Carabas striding round the corner of St Paul's towards the river. Neil Gaiman is wonderful at suffusing a book with atmosphere - I first read this when I had been travelling for months and in a strange way, it made me quite homesick (and I'm neither a Londoner, or a person who gets homesick).
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LibraryThing member msf59
Richard Mayhew has been living in London for three years and life is grand. He has a good job and is engaged to a beautiful young woman, from a wealthy family. One night, on the way to dinner with his fiancé, he finds a girl, lying injured on the sidewalk. He decides to stop and help her, much to
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the disappointment of his disgusted girlfriend. This kind-hearted decision will change his life forever. There are dangerous people hunting this girl down and he must bring her to safety, which leads him into a dark underworld, hidden beneath the city subway system. Here he meets a ragtag group of misfits, all trying to protect “Door”, this special young girl, hotly pursued by a pair of colorful hired killers named Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, who has a fondness for eating mice. When Mr. Vandemar attempted a smile: “It was unquestionably the most horrible thing that Richard had ever seen.”
This story is filled with adventure, humor, fantasy and horror and for me a wonderful introduction to this gifted author.
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LibraryThing member ninjapenguin
Absolutely one of my favorite books to re-read and re-read. Yes, none of it is world-shattering, never-seen-it-before, genre-changing fiction, but it's still as fun and engaging on the fifteenth read-through as it is on the first: and how many books can boast that?

The idea of another, more magical
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world that runs parallel to our own is a common one in fantasy literature, but Gaiman's London Below is not a Faery land, unless you're reading some of the more nasty tales. To me, the juxtaposition of the world so mundane that we never notice it (sewer tunnels and homeless drifters) and the world so fantastical we'd never imagine it (floating markets held in closed department stores, girls who can open doors to other dimensions) help make this book so special.

Mostly, however, I love the characters. Richard the Everyman whom we (like the London Below denizens) despise for being so "normal" even while we can't help but pity him. Door, lost and afraid, trying to find her way back to safety. Old Bailey the pigeon man, the sly Marquis de Carrabbas, the terrifying yet strangely humorous Misters Croup and Vandemar. Hunter, Anesthesia, the angel Islington. Any author would be proud to have created half of these characters; yet, kindly, Mr. Gaiman allows us to share in all of them.
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LibraryThing member MickyFine
Richard Mayhew's life is perfectly ordinary. A transplant from Scotland living in London he has a perfectly normal job and is engaged to Jessica, who likes to drag him around art museums on weekends. But on one evening, Richard finds a young woman bleeding on the sidewalk and decides to help. In
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doing so he discovers a whole other world beneath the city. But in becoming entangled with events in London Below, Richard discovers that the darker life there may never allow him to return to London Above.

Gaiman's fantasy alternate London is a brilliant and dark world that is at turns delightful and disgusting and at all times utterly fascinating. In some ways, [Neverwhere] is a dark take on [Alice in Wonderland] with Richard pulled into a strange world that almost never makes sense to him. With a riveting plot and detailed characters, there isn't anymore to ask for from this book. But Gaiman also adds in his tremendous way with words, his delight in playing with the English language, that is an extra bonus on an already delightful package.
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LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I loved this: the ultimate urban fantasy. In our modern society, when a person falls below the social net and becomes a streetperson, we talk of them "falling through the cracks." In the London of Neverwhere, when people "fall through the cracks" they reach the "underside" of "London Below." The
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kind of place where Knightsbridge becomes Night's Bridge, where crossing into nightmare takes a toll beyond price. Where the "Floating Market", a bizarre bazaar, might take place in a closed Harrods after dark or the docked HMS Belfast. I liked how Gaiman uses the London's layers of history. As a New Yorker, it wasn't hard to translate it into the terms of my city and imagine, as the novel mentions at one point, that there really are alligators in our sewers. And a floating market might by found at Macy's after dark or the USS Intrepid.

It was easy to relate to the protagonist, Richard Mayhew, an everyman urban dweller; a nice guy who slips into a world out of our modern urban fears and reacts in ways I can identify with. I've heard this novel described as a "dark fantasy" and it certainly fits, some parts come across as Stephen King-like horror. The novel is populated with other unforgettable characters such as Door, Hunter (both strong female characters), Islington the Angel, the Marquis de Carabas--and Croup and Vandemar, two of the creepiest villains in fiction.

Well, paced, with a great flow, this made for a great read. My first Gaiman, but emphatically not my last.
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LibraryThing member Storeetllr
I tried to read this awhile ago in book form but just couldn't seem to get into it. Knowing that some books are better listened to than read (for me, at least), and having the chance to hear the author, Neil Gaiman himself, doing the reading, I decided to give it another chance. Oh, my! I'm so glad
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I did! It was nothing short of magical! Gaiman is one of the few authors who can (and really should) read his own work. He infuses the characters with so much life and the story with so much verve, at least the two I've heard so far (this one and "The Graveyard Book"). Shuddery villains, villainous heroes (and heroines), heroic nobodies, angels and demons and monsters galore. Made me want to try and find a way into that shadowy, glittery, dangerous underworld of Neverwhere.
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LibraryThing member mikemillertime
This book was very flat, childish and cliched, which isn't to say it was horrible, just not all that spectacular. Using very stock characters, humor, setting and story, it was told with reasonable flair by Gaiman, but I would not recommend it to anyone other than his rabid enthusiasts. I've read
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and enjoyed several of his short stories in the past, but was disappointed with the childish simplicity of his debut novel.
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LibraryThing member bookswamp
Richard Mayhew gets inbetween the two London universes - "down below" and "above". How he manages to get along with his quest and braves all adventures until he finally finds out what he _really_ wants to achieve and how he finds his own happy end is a thrilling and at the same time moving story.
LibraryThing member JDubba
Neverwhere is the first solo novel by modern fantasy master Neil Gaiman. I first encountered Gaiman in his graphic novel series Sandman and later picked up his novel American Gods both of which are worthwhile pursuits, and what led me to begin pursuing his other works. Immediately upon beginning
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Neverwhere it was apparent from tone, style and thematic elements that I was reading Gaiman's work which has a very distinctive feel. From that point on I rarely slowed pace as I devoured this novel.

Neverwhere has a fairly straight forward adventure plot line. Heroes on a quest for answers to a series of murders, all be it with an unknown destination and unknown dangers along the way. What makes it such a good read is the amazingly rich world of London Underground, a new dimension in reality that is thoroughly through the looking glass. A dimension that coexists with the day to day life of everyday London (London Aboveground) but hidden in the shadows and abandoned sewers and subways and empty train cars. A dimension with boundaries that can only be traversed in one direction by those that fall through the cracks of reality.

The story is told from the perspective of one Richard Mayhew, a Londoner who through an act of kindness finds that he has fallen through the cracks and like Alice is trapped in this strange and exotic existence where nothing is as it seems. With no other anchor in this new world, Richard determines to embark on a mission with the girl he rescues, to find out who had her family assassinated and why. During the course of solving this mystery Richard has an existential transformation, learning things about himself that he never suspecte

Neverwhere is a masterpiece of fantasy which I would recommend to both those familiar with Gaiman and those who are not as of yet acquainted with his works. Gaiman is an artist in a world of artisans in the arena of modern fantasy fiction. If you are looking for a brief escape from reality that does not involve becoming a telezombie, Neverwhere is it. Pick up a copy today.
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LibraryThing member soniaandree
The setting takes place in the London underground, with 'literal' translations of some stations, like Islington, Blackfriars and Earl's Court...The novel is dark and fantastic, a bit like Pullman's Oxford, a parallele world that is also very familiar. By the end, you'll be careful to 'mind the
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gap'! This is a definite read if you do not know Gaiman's works.
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LibraryThing member LeslitGS
Richard is just a normal bloke trying to make it through his less-than-exciting life, doing his job, remembering his fiance's engagements. But when he stops to help a wounded and bleeding girl, everything is turned upside down. The girl he has rescued is Door, the last surviving relative of Lord
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Portico of London Beneath, and on a journey to find out what happened to her family. Suddenly, he finds that his entire life seems to never have happened, and he only truly exists in this new world of darkness and tunnels. His only hope is to accompany Door on her quest and maybe find a way to go back to the life he once knew in a world he understands.

Shocking, I know, I read yet another Neil Gaiman novel. Well, that's why he has his own tag, now isn't it? Not shocking, however, is the fact that I absolutely adored this novel, though I only picked it up when I did because I was tired of seeing the TV miniseries at Barnes and Noble without being able to honestly want to get it since I had yet to read the book. I know, I'm weird.

Though the characters were solid and interesting, and the plot was as well, I would have to say my favorite part of this novel was actually his descriptions. For some reason, I have a distinct fondness for worlds that are much like our own but subtley different--or wrong. This would, most likely, explain my attraction to the Pratchett novels which are pretty much our world through a fisheye lens. Neverwhere, however, presents a world that is not so much a reflection as a self-sufficient shadow of our world, existing as a skewed parallel to our own with pockets of time and darkness. Gaiman's brilliance comes in his wordsmithing and artistry in explaining what this world is, how one gets there and how it is logical and has rules while still breaking our concepts of reality. Boundaries are stretched, borders are fuzzier and Door has the power to open, well, doors more or less anywhere she needs to.

What Gaiman does to create a picture of this world is to give you textures and sounds, relate these things to things you already know. The descriptions are, indeed, fantastical--the unseen beast that resides in the tunnels, the darkness that is physically present, the sewers that are more than they seem--but rooted in day-to-day realities. Sewers are forever sewers and smell of must and filth, are drippy and contained and more or less unpleasant. Markets are big and busy and carnivals of smells, sights and sounds. Things we know, but altered.

I find humor in that this London Beneath, or however you would like to know it, has a remarkable resemblance to a sort of black-market world. Bartering and favors carry more weight than currency. I'm sure it's not meant to be clever or funny in any overt way, but rather to be entwined with the whole theme of underneath in a much more artful way, but the [pathetic] lover of puns in me enjoyed it far too much for it to go unmentioned. Just be glad I didn't make any seemy underbelly or something jokes. Seriously, I could probably come up with a lot.

I expect that most any reader could thoroughly enjoy this novel, as long as they have the key ability to open themselves to the fantastic. It is not an overbearing or overdone fantasy, it is not Tolkien; it is not Pratchett. Seeing as the reader is following Richard in his introduction to the new, or rather old, world, and processing it as he is doing so himself, it is all rather...accessible without being dumbed down. I would also vote this as a solid way to start into Gaiman's grown-up writing, as American Gods is a good book, well written and interesting, but is substantially more dense and, in a way, I would almost say more niche. In Neverwhere, Gaimain tells his story beautifully and concisely, introducing very real-feeling characters who, like so many of us, are just trying to figure out what the heck is going on and leading them through the adventure that lies ahead of them.

It's some good stuff.
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LibraryThing member SaraPrindiville
Good escape from "serious non-fiction" books that I've been reading. Good story, some of his descriptions seem a little forced and the main character seems a little too much like Arthur Dent, but it's a compelling story. Somewhat reminiscent of Charles De Lint.
LibraryThing member kpickett
Richard Mayhew was a normal guy, until he met Door. She took him in to the London underground, not the subway, but another world that lives underneath the world we know. Richard is caught in a struggle for power in London Below. Neil Gaiman does it again with this delightedly light yet dark
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fantasy. I think my favorite characters were actually the despicable but articulate assassins that the heroes are constantly escaping.
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LibraryThing member msjessicamae
This is the first book I have read by Gaiman. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I opened it. I had heard such great things about him but for some reason I still wasn’t convinced he was going to fall short of my expectations.

Boy was I ever surprised. I loved this book. The story was
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fantastic and the characters were lovable (even as I hated some). Door was adorable and I even loved bad Mr. Vandenmar. I was literally laughing out loud at almost everything Mr. Vandemar said…

“What,” asked Mr. Croup, “do you want?”
“What,” asked the marquis de Carabas, a little more rhetorically, “does anyone want?”
“Dead things,” suggested Mr. Vandemar. “Extra teeth.”
-page 205

Gaiman created a world that was exciting, captivating, and even frightening but he also gave me something to think about. He took reality and shifted it so I now see a story in the shadows. I want to go to London and read this book there. I want to read this book on the Underground. I can’t wait to read more from Gaiman.
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LibraryThing member aethercowboy
If you're anything like me, you despise the dreaded lowest form of writing: the novelization. However, if you're ga-ga for Gaiman, like me, you'll overlook that previous statement and proudly display this book on your shelves.

Neverwhere, the novelization of the BBC miniseries by the same name,
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written by Gaiman, who also wrote the mini, is by far the best, and quite possibly the only decent novelization available ever.

But let's get over the novelization aspect, shall we?

Richard Mayhew is your normal business man. He has his life ahead of him, he has a successful career, he has a steady relationship, he has everything, until a chance encounter with a member of London Below seemingly makes him invisible to the rest of the world. He is ignored unless he makes too big a fuss, at which point, he is escorted out of whatever building he's fussing in, and then promptly ignored once again.

In his efforts to rejoin society, he finds himself entering London Below, essentially London's Underground and sewers, and tries to help Door, the girl who caused him to fall out of society in the first place.

He goes on a journey through London Below to the Angel Islington, all while he and Door are pursued by a pair of thugs known as Croup and Vandemar.

The plot thickens as we learn the true identities and loyalties of all the characters involved.

This is a great novel, if you're a fan of urban fantasy. Additionally, any fan of Gaiman is sure to appreciate it.
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LibraryThing member -Eva-
When Richard Mayhew left Scotland for a chance at yuppie-life in the City, he couldn't possibly have guessed that a Samaritan act would open the Door to a completely different world, one in which he not only risks losing his identity, but his very life as well. This isn't one of my favorites in the
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Gaiman œuvre (and its accompanying TV-series can't honestly be recommended), but I do enjoy parts of it - especially the baddies, Messrs. Croup and Vandemar, are quite hilarious (“Can’t make an omelette without killing a few people."). Unfortunately, the book reads a little too much as what it is - a novelization of a TV-script - so the world-building isn't perfect (although the usage of the Tube and some other ideas are excellent), the characters lean a little too close to being pure archetypes, and the big climactic events are sometimes rushed through. It's still high quality, since it's Gaiman, though, and if you're already a fan, it's a nice read of one of the author's early works. If you're looking for your first Gaiman read, however, I'd suggest starting elsewhere.
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LibraryThing member sockmonk
Fantastically crafted dark fantasy. Neil Gaiman is a genius.
LibraryThing member BookJumper
Easily my favourite Gaiman, and one of the rare books that leave me slightly jealous - 'awww Neil, I wanted to write that,' the soul seems to say.

The premise is simple enough: below the London we all know and (ahem) love there's a London that houses all the nobodies who have become literally
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invisible in London above. It is a premise that Gaiman works with beautifully to produce memorable characters, page-turning events and - best of all - the most inspiredly nightmarish interpretation of the London underground ever. For this reason, knowing London helps with the appreciation of the novel; enjoying it without ever having been there is of course possible but one requires a vaster imagination and probably a map or two.

So why the missing half star, if I love it so much? Purely personal preference, I was not amused at the ending re: my favourite character, but that's a quibble: as always with Gaiman, this is well-written, compelling, darkly humorous and clever. If you've enjoyed any of his others, you'll enjoy this.
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LibraryThing member Gwendydd
This is a perfectly good Neil Gaiman book, but it's pretty much exactly like all the other Neil Gaiman books I've read. It has the same plot - a perfectly ordinary person finds himself suddenly involved in an extraordinary fantasy world and must go through a process of self-discovery and
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questioning his own sanity while becoming the unlikely hero of the fantasy world. The characters are fun and well-crafted, but not particularly original. Nothing really came as a surprise. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the book - after all, Neil Gaiman is really good at writing Neil Gaiman books. But this is pretty much a run-of-the-mill Neil Gaiman book.

I listened to the audiobook, read by the author, and the audiobook is very enjoyable. Gaiman has a nice voice, and his reading is dramatic and he's good at giving all of the characters individual voices.
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LibraryThing member averitasm
I liked this book alot and I really enjoyed the whole setting I find myself wishing for more maybe another book to finish where this one left off, different than anything I have ever read.
LibraryThing member amberc
All London office worker Richard Mayhew tried to do that evening was help a damsel in distress, but he got more - way more - than he bargained for.

On his way to a dinner function with his fiancee he stumbles upon a bleeding young woman on the street. He takes her home and his life changes forever.
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The young woman, aptly named Door, takes him on a journey to a world standing in the shadows, full of people who can talk to rats, traveling markets, and assassins of the most ruthless sort. Richard ends up traveling with Door trying to uncover the mysteries of her past, and desperately trying to find a way back to his world, London Above.

I loved this book. The humour was dark, the play on words caught me by surprise and it was very hard to put down.

My favourite quote " Have you ever got everything you ever wanted? And then realised it wasn't what you wanted at all?"
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LibraryThing member Cygnus555
Wow. What an extraordinary book. Funnily, Librarything noted that I would not like this book based on my previous books - but I have to say that I could NOT put it down. What an outstanding story.

Such a unique way of seeing the world to create a story so magical and engaging. I loved how dark the
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story was, and yet not disturbing. I hate books that are overly graphic and rude... this skated right on the right side of that line for me. Dark and yet hopeful. Creative and constantly surprising.

You must read this book.
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