I’ve been reading a lot lately, and one of things I’ve noticed is that the best stories are often hidden in the pages that contain them. That is to say, I recently read Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, and while it was a very enjoyable read, it was far from a masterpiece. That’s not to say I didn’t like it; in fact, I liked it very much, and at this moment find myself in the third issue of the comic book adaptation (which I downloaded before even purchasing the original novel, but that’s not really the point here). I quite like Neil Gaiman’s work, and regard him as sort of the Tim Burton of the literature world; he presents his stories with a similar sardonic sense of humor, telling a dark and engrossing tale while slipping in plenty of macabre and downright disturbing jokes.
It’s by far the best kind of humor.
But when it comes down to it, while I would highly recommend Neverwhere, it doesn’t top my list of most amazing books I’ve ever read. It wasn’t scary, like Stephen King’s ‘salem’s Lot, one of the only books that has every truly scared me. It wasn’t a semi-plausible future, as that of Eric Garcia’s Repo Men (formerly published as The Repossession Mambo). As the snippets of reviews contained on the back cover and the first few pages of Neverwhere state, it is a sort of modernization of Alice in Wonderland. The world of Neverwhere makes readers think, and wonder, but though Gaiman paints it vividly and realistically, it has that signature twist that puts it just outside the realm of the possible. To say that there truly is a London Below, and that the world of Neverwhere really exists, that Gaiman is presenting his readers with the unlikely truth about the world is akin to saying that Tim Burton was relaying a factual story in Edward Scissorhands; we all know that there isn’t a man with scissors for fingers who lives in a castle recently vacated by Vincent Price and uses his sharp fingers to make ice sculptures. And we all know that there is no ferocious monster living beneath London (and no alligators in the sewers of New York either, despite the assertion that there were, but they were hunted down). In the end it’s just a fantastic story told by a fantastic author. Not the best novel of all time, though most definitely worth a look.
After all, if you can put aside reality for a few hundred pages, and believe that what you’re reading is true, it makes for one hell of a ride.