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Book review: 'Neverwhere,' an old Neil Gaiman favorite

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Harper Collins

With the release of his latest novel, "The Ocean at the End the Lane," Neil Gaiman has delighted long-time followers and has drawn in new fans as well. The book has received critical acclaim and has been featured on a lot of "best books of 2013" lists. For the newcomers (and perhaps a few old-timers who have missed or forgotten some of Gaiman’s highlights from the 90s), the question might be which of his works to turn to next. There are his famous "Sandman" graphic novels, soon to be adapted for film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, or there are his more famous novels, "American Gods" and "Stardust" (also a movie).

But some people may overlook the TV-series-turned novel from 1996, "Neverwhere." Although the idea of adapting a novel from a television program makes many literary purists cringe, Neil Gaiman wrote the television series and is frankly in a league of his own. This fantasy novel, published back in 1996, is arguably flawed, but still contains considerable charm and substance. "Neverwhere" is the story of the pitiable Richard Mayhew and his adventures following his accidental discovery that there is another London, a London for all the people who "fell between the cracks."

In an act of kindness, Richard helps an injured girl on the streets, losing his fiancée in the process, and he learns that there is a "London Below," a world formed among the abandoned Underground stations and tunnels. This world is considerably more magical than "London Above," where he meets a cast of memorable characters, from Door and the marquis de Carabas, to Croup and Vandemar. A few gaps exist in the story, but in all, this novel is a fun, twisting ride through a dark, wholly original world.