Before I get into the actual book itself I want to talk a little bit about Gaiman's writing style, especially compared to Pratchett. I consider both of them fine authors but I have to admit that Gaiman is far darker in tone than Pratchett. Even in his darkest books, like Night Watch, there are still elements of light hearted comedy with Pratchett. Gaiman's books, (granted I'm making this assessment off of Neverwhere and American Gods) have a more sombre tone. So I would have to say if you're looking for a good story and a laugh, go with Pratchett, but if you're looking for a good story with a more serious tone then Gaiman's your man. I also feel that sexuality is more present in Gaiman's novels than in Pratchett's. This isn't to say that it's anything like the smut those crazy people over at I Smell Sheep read of course, it's much more subtle than that. But in the case of Pratchett sex, if it comes up at all, is referenced for some jokes or coyly slipped in, it's not there in your face. Gaiman is more direct about it but I feel like it's more presenting it as one thing out of the many many things which make up the human experience of life rather than the end-all-be-all of existence. Finally, part of what I feel makes Gaiman's books more serious is that he incorporates horror elements. I still get the heebie-jeebies thinking about some of the stuff Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar ate. *shudder*
Neverwhere is set in London and we very quickly discover that there are two Londons: London Above and London Below. London Above is the London with which we are most familiar, the world of those who possess: red buses, black taxis, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, so on and so forth. London Below, the world of the dispossessed, is a world of shadows and magic. The story follows a number of characters, but perhaps most central is Richard Mayhew. Originally from Scotland, Richard moved to London for a job and has been an unassuming businessman and is engaged to Jessica, a social climber. Richard's boring life becomes utterly changed when he helps a wounded girl from London Below named Door. Richard soon discovers that the people of London Above can't see him and don't think he exists and is thrust into Door's adventure through London Below.
Door is the last surviving member of her family, all of whom had the unique ability to open doors and locks where they need to. Door is attempting to find out who ordered Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar to kill her family, while being pursued by the very same gentlemen. It seems that the plotter behind her family's deaths has far bigger plans and must be stopped before they can threaten not only London Below, but London Above as well.
Since we're thrust into this wonderful world of Gaiman's creation Richard is a really helpful as a character because he knows as much as we do and often needs a lot of information explained to him. To be fair there are still a lot of things that aren't fully explored in the book and a lot of loose ends but I'm not as mad about it as I am with other books. Sure I could complain that I never really find out what the Golden or the Seven Sisters are. I can infer from information presented, but there's no real explanation. BUT, that being said the story isn't about them. The story is about Door's quest and Richard's growth as a character. Yeah, I had a lot of questions afterward but I read that Gaiman's considering writing a sequel so I feel less irritated with the loose ends. Also, in the end the loose ends are secondary concerns at best. Door's quest is completed and the plot is resolved, and Richard grows into a new and better person.
I do have to warn you, the book has some pretty gross elements so either be prepared or don't be squeamish. I found the book really easy to read and the pages just sort of flew by so it's definitely worth a look if you're interested in a more serious Urban Fantasy novel. (Also a little less melodramatic than the traditional fantasy novels.) Definitely not for kids but I think teenagers would enjoy it. If I have any teenage readers or readers that are parents with teenagers. I wouldn't know.
Next week I look at The God King which is a big high fantasy novel and uses "bemused" a lot. Also, I think there's a giveaway.