Alright, this has been an exciting week. For those who don’t already know, I graduated from high school this past Sunday. Then I got a job. Being a grad apparently makes all the difference. Well, I’m not complaining. I’m actually still trying to get more work- the better to save faster, you know.
Last week, at the library, I checked out a particular book by Neil Gaiman and gave it to my mom. She finished it in all of three hours, and the next day I returned and checked out two more, and one for myself. See, I’d been thinking about The Graveyard Book- it’s sort of stayed with me, you know- and decided that I wanted to read more by the amazing author who produced it. So while Mom’s been reading American Gods and Anansi Boys, I read Neverwhere.
As I was sitting across the room from my mother, she reading American Gods and I reading Neverwhere, she would occasionally look up at me and proclaim, in a slightly wary voice, “Brigid… This book is very odd.”
I would hum a tired, “Mm-hm,” in reply.
I haven’t read American Gods, so I don’t actually know what my mother was going through at that moment, across the room from me. I have, however, read The Graveyard Book, and as I was in the process of reading Neverwhere, I was more or less coming to terms with the fact that ‘odd’ is par for the course with Gaiman.
Neverwhere is about a very normal man named Richard whose life goes a little haywire when he comes across an unconscious girl, bleeding in the streets of London. Calling an ambulance proves fruitless, so he leaves his livid girlfriend and takes the injured stranger back to his flat. When the girl (whose name happens to be Door) comes around, she immediately sends him on a crazy mission that makes less sense as it goes on. When he returns home, having completed the tasks she assigned him, she thanks him, apologizes, and vanishes.
The next day, something is very wrong in Richard’s world- no one seems to know who he is. In fact, all evidence of his existence has somehow been wiped from the planet. Meandering pointlessly, Richard discovers a part of London he never knew existed- London Below. It is this mysterious world from whence Door appeared, and it is into this world that Richard now ventures.
Neverwhere is exciting and mind-bending. The people from London Below are- well, not all people, for one thing- unexpected, dangerous, and very different. Gaiman has taken this situation of magic and otherness and thrust into it’s center a very ordinary person. Richard is embarrassingly human, with his fair share of flaws and even a crippling phobia. Through the trials and ordeals of the book, he illustrates a powerful resilience that, honestly, we probably all have and will never need to draw on.
Have you ever wondered how you would react if something like this were to happen to you? The very skeleton of the book isn’t original- it’s basically Alice tumbling into a much darker Wonderland and being unable to find her way out. Naturally, Gaiman crafts this into something extraordinary- don’t get me wrong here, the book was fantastic. But those bones of the plot aren’t beyond the average imagination. Do you imagine yourself going crazy when everything stops making sense? Soldiering on and taking everything in stride? Rejoicing at a break from normality and becoming ruler of your underground domain?
Personally, I count myself into that second category- the ‘take it in stride and try to survive’ type, I guess. While it’s easy enough to think of myself going crazy and sobbing into a pitiful grave, the practicality of that option, if the situation were to actually take place, would quickly reveal itself to be lacking. I think that’s the point of Richard as a character: you may just be human, but you can almost certainly take on more than you think you can. It’s a comforting thought.
As I’ve said, we do have two more Gaiman books in the house right now, but I don’t actually see myself reading those right away. A very good friend gave me a gift card to Barnes & Noble for graduation, so on Tuesday I went to go buy a book. Usually I don’t like to buy books I haven’t read before, but this time a novel presented itself that was completely unresistable. So that’s what I’ll read next. I’ve also ordered a couple of books into the library, so I have something of a line up at this point.
As a final note, this book did indeed come off of V’s list of awesome, and I’ll be linking this review there immediately. If you enjoy books, but can’t really get behind most of what I read, give V’s list a chance- our tastes in books are very different, even if they do occasionally mesh favorably.