My latest audiobook adventure (and it really was an adventure) was to delve into the world of London Below as I followed Richard Mayhew on his journey into the mysterious, murky underworld that coexists with his normal, everyday existence in London above. This was my fifth Gaiman book, and I think it’s jumped straight to the top of my ranking – it was really excellent.
Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.
Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.
Although this is the fifth Neil Gaiman book I’ve read, I actually don’t really tend to hold him in particularly high regard. While I thought that Stardust was good, I wasn’t really grabbed by Coraline, The Graveyard Book, or The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. But my sister’s boyfriend, Mark, really likes Gaiman, and I found this on Audible, so I decided I’d give it a go. My expectations weren’t particularly high, as I haven’t really loved any of his other books, but I was actually really surprised by this – in a very good way!
Richard is your typical average guy, with a job in an office in Central London, a girlfriend who drags him to cultural things he doesn’t really like, and a small but perfectly fine flat. That is, until he helps a bleeding young girl he finds on the pavement, and is plunged into a world where rats speak, a Door is a person, and it turns out there are actually Shepherds in Shepherds Bush.
Packed with tongue in cheek humour and a pair of frankly terrifying yet still somehow hilarious thugs for hire, Neverwhere had me laughing out loud at several points in my week of car journeys to and fro. As we explore the nooks and crannies of Under London, Richard’s bewilderment at the world he has found himself in is matched in entertainment only by the frequent references to areas of London which are warped an hilarious at the same time. The Serpentine, no longer a body of water in Hyde Park, is now one of the Seven Sisters who absolutely terrifies Door for reasons which are never really explained.
The Audible version I listened to was narrated by Neil Gaiman himself, and somewhat unusually, he did an excellent job. The majority of times I’ve heard authors reading their own work, they lack some expression, but Gaiman put just the right amount of enthusiasm and variety into his delivery. I really, really loved his deadpan delivery of Mr Vandemar – he’s quite possibly my favourite character in the entire book.
I enjoyed this so much that I will almost certainly be seeking out more of Gaiman’s work – American Gods, or Anansi Boys will make it onto my list in some way, shape or form.