The Alpha Reads: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere

The theme of this week is the concept of being a true fan. This time I am focusing on Neil Gaiman, an artist that I really should have been following from day one, because I love his writing. But I’ve been exposed to his work in the form of screen adaptations (Stardust, Mirrormask) and through the literary adaptations of his graphic novels, written by other writers but set in his universe.

I’ve never been someone who goes with the crowd. There’s a reason I have an entire section of reviews called the Come Latelies. That’s because if I enjoy something, I do it in my own time, and not just because six billion other people think it’s cool. Neil Gaiman is one of those people who I have always heard about, but never really got around to fully immersing myself with his work until much recently.

Neverwhere has been around for a while, but because I read the most recent “Author’s Preferred Text” edition of this book, it doesn’t count as a Come Lately.

Like with the works of Joss Whedon, Neil Gaiman has a fairly standard format for the stories categorized as “Faery Tales for Grown-Ups”. The story begins on Earth Prime, with an average Tom, Dick, or Harry who finds himself in a parallel world, typically populated by elves or magical folk. The hero goes on a quest with one or more of the inhabitants of this land and becomes a better person who proceeds to kick ass back on Earth Prime.

Am I criticizing this? Hell no. Because as I said, these are faerie tales for grown-ups. It’s okay to stick with a certain set of archetypes because at the end of the day, this is escapism in its purest form. C.S. Lewis did for children what Neil Gaiman does for us when we no longer have the option of being sent to a nice house in the country while our parents risk death in the middle of air raids. He draws a door on a brick wall and gives us the option of walking through it, with the knowledge that this decision will forever change us.

Neverwhere is no different. We all want to be Richard Mayhew on some level. We all want some big change to happen to us and to make us better than what we are, but we don’t always have the courage to go out there and do it. This is a man who follows a prescribed path to success and happiness, but when he finds that none of these things are guaranteed, it only makes sense that the appeal of London Below and all of its bizarre rules and inhabitants is stronger than what London Above can promise.

The story is packed with interesting characters, multiple story arcs, foreshadowing, and enough plot twists that feel like a well deserved punch to the smug faces of any readers who think, “Pfft, I totally know what’s going to happen next”.

Am I a true fan of Neil Gaiman? At the end of this Neverwhere, I think I finally joined the club.

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