From my earlier blog, as I catch up on Gaiman’s books I haven’t read. Posts on them to come.
Neverwhere (1996), Neil Gaiman, 370 pp.
There’s a point on the 1 train in Manhattan, between the 86th and 96th street stations, when you pass through a ghost station, the remains of the 91st street stop. Actually, there’s a logical explanation: when the platforms at the nearest stations were extended, for the lengthier trains, there was no point in keeping this station. A train would enter it before leaving the nearby stations. Yet it’s so much more thrilling to think of it as a ghost as you pass its grimy walls and empty platforms. You can almost picture squatters taking it over.
If the idea of ghost stations gives you an appealingly creepy feeling, then you need to read Neverwhere, a good portion of which takes place in the hidden stairs and ghost stations of the London Tube. The hero, Richard Mayhew, is thrown into this world by an act of charity for which he’s punished rather than rewarded. Unless you take the long view.
Gaiman has created two of the most relentlessly evil and bloody-minded villains in Messrs. Croup and Vandemar, and populated London Below with tribes of people who can speak to rats, or open solid walls, or suck your life from you as if you were an orange. Mayhew, like Dante, Ulysses, Aeneas, and Orpheus, must find his way through this Underworld, with help coming from unexpected quarters.
Best secondary character: the Marquis de Carabas. See “Puss in Boots” from Perrault (English translation here) to get the reference and appreciate the character even more.