Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy (urban)
"Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed.
"There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them. And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew."
This is the first novel by Gaiman that I have completed. I listened to part of Coraline, but my mother thought it too strange, so we turned it off. Thus, I didn't know quite what to expect when I read this book; I possessed no expectations, so I can confidently say that it didn't fail them. But, I can also say that it didn't exceed them.
The same three words kept running through my head as I read this book: creepy, strange, and mysterious. The majority of the book takes place in the subways and tunnels beneath modern-day London. It was dark for most of the time in the story and two of the characters are masters of killing, hence creepy. There are also plenty of other creatures that are just plain strange, not to mention the world Gaiman has created. And the reader never knows what's going to happen, hence mysterious. This book was also a mystery for me because I'm not used to reading fantasy novels set in contemporary landscapes.
Despite the dark, eerie mood of this tale, I did enjoy it. There is a huge twist that I didn't expect, and the world beneath London was as new and different to me as it was to Richard that my interest never wavered, and I, too, wanted to pester the other characters about their lives and why this place existed.
Some of the scenes are grotesque, and I never felt close or cared much about Richard himself; Gaiman probably could have woven his character more deeply or changed it more. I probably liked him the most at the end when he made a certain decision. Many of the characters are sardonic, no doubt due to Gaiman's natural personality, and the places and characters based on the London geography was well done.
I give this book a 3.5 and recommend it for 16 year olds and up because of a few gruesome scenes.
If you want to read a light, happy book, don't pick this novel up. But if you crave something saturated with shadows and eeriness, where reality is not what you expect, then immerse yourself in this world. And don't fret, it does have a hopeful ending! If it hadn't, my rating would have been much lower (it's all about the endings, after all :).
What I learned: Not to treat people strangely or like they don't exist just because they're different from me.
Check out Neil Gaiman's website for more information about him and his other books (which are many): http://www.neilgaiman.com/