10 October 2009
Neil Gaiman: NEVERWHERE
It was with a certain sense of trepidation that I first approached Neil Gaiman's work. I'm not sure why, but I'm inclined to think it has something to do with his popularity. It's not that I'm so pretentious I can't stand to read anything that's even the slightest bit popular; I've gone cover-to-cover on all the Harry Potter series, two Dan Brown novels (if you can call them that), and even read the first Twilight book (was it called Twilight? I think so...). While I'm at it, I might as well admit to a more-than-passing familiarity with even Mitch Albom's prose. So it's not that I object to reading popular fiction--it's just that so much genre fiction these days is just trash, and the ignorant masses (I'm being semi-ironical here, please note) can't seem to separate the wheat from the chafe, or however that idiom goes. The truth of the matter is, I was quite concerned that Mr. Gaiman's writing would just be bad, something like the inexplicably-popular Stephen King's (how do people read that tripe? Do they, or do they just buy it?). Fortunately, it was not. I pounded back the first three volumes of the collected Sandman (still waiting to get my hands on my father's copy of volume four to finish the set, at which point I'll write it up glowingly here), read and reviewed American Gods sometime during the month of August, and just recently finished enjoying Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? earlier this week. By the time I sat down to read Neverwhere, I expected to like Gaiman's writing. I wasn't disappointed. Is this his absolute best work? No, not that I've read. In fact, it's an awful lot like plenty of other late-twentieth, early-twenty first century, but really good. Hidden world underneath London? It's not groundbreaking, but the story is well-told and the stock characters artfully employed. Any cheap hack could've written this story, but because that hack turned out to be Neil Gaiman, the story turned out excellently and the book thoroughly enjoyable. B+ material, this, but solid B+. This is a book I read quickly, without feeling terribly sorry to put it down. It was, in the best way possible, nothing more and nothing less than pure fun. I like that, now and then (it's possibly worth noting that there's a BBC2 television series associated with this book. I know nothing about that, but figured it was still worth noting, at least).