I usually read late into the night and sleep when the sun comes up, but this guy changed it for me. For the first time ever, I was scared to read a book. All alone. In the dark.
Mind you, it isn’t actually scary. (Yes it is.) I wasn’t trying to prevent myself from having nightmares or anything. (Yes I was.)
I loved it. But. I’ve given the book three stars. Let me explain why.
I had the same issue with Good Omens. I don’t like predictable endings. And even though I’ll forgive an ending if everything that leads up to it is excellent, Neverwhere just wasn’t a Good Omens. Yes, I was hooked. Yes, I forgot to eat. Twice. Yes, I got angry phone calls from people I’d promised to meet. This book is brilliant, it really is. But with the last forty pages or so, I wanted the escalation to be worth it. I wanted to know that all those hours I spent reading it would result in an explosion that would leave me staring at the wall blankly for the next half-hour. What I didn’t want was to be able to tell exactly what was coming.
However. A good ending isn’t the be-all and end-all (heh heh) of a book, and there’s something about Neil Gaiman you should know, if you don’t already. This guy can paint pictures in your head. Really.
With most fantasy novels, it’s fairies and pixies and elves (not all, don’t hurt me) and while I enjoy novels like that, I don’t really see them in my head. There are images (from movies, photographs, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter related fan art) I can link to the author’s description, but that’s about it. With Gaiman, he actually inserts pictures in your head – and I know this sounds absurd – but he manages to do it. Only, he chooses gritty, everyday landscapes to weave his stories into, instead of glimmering, airy-fairy ones. Don’t get me wrong, I love the latter – it’s just that, even when you have light and dark in those novels, the darkness is still above your everyday existence somehow. It’s something you wish you were a part of, and know you can never be. Neverwhere wasn’t like that. It was the most real fantasy novel I’ve ever read. That’s what made it creepy. That’s what gave me chills. I know I’m never going to be a Warrior Princess/get a letter inviting me to Hogwarts/plunge into a book by reading it beautifully. But I know there is, in fact, a city that exists “below” mine. A city full of dubious characters, more than dubious transactions. A city that is dark and scary without even having to be in a book. Add a little imagination to that picture and you have Neverwhere. Easily accessible. You and I could just as easily slip through the cracks and find ourselves in a world that scares the living daylights out of us.
Final verdict? Incredible. Despite the slightly disappointing finish.