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Neil Gaiman Neverwhere

Updated on January 17, 2014

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Nevewhere is not so far away when you live in London. In the novel Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman you are closer than you think to another world and, like the other world in Alice Through the Looking Glass, Neverwhere is a mirror image of London as we know it, but distorted, dark and dangerous. London as we know it and London as we never want to know it.

When I was a child I lived in York and read about London, heard about it on the television and I conjured up images of what it would be like. I imagined Scotland Yard as just that - a yard. A yard like the yards behind the terrace houses in the north of England. Shepherds bush - a bush with a few sheep around it. Neil Gaiman is the same but Gaiman's imaginary London is much, much richer - as you might guess coming from a writer of Dr Who fame; re-creator of the Cybermen.

His world is peopled with Angels and vampires, Lords and Ladies who live in the sewers of London's underworld and who talk to rats. There is a Baron at Baron's Court, shepherds, just like I imagined them to be, at Shepherd's Bush - I love the literal nature of these.

It is also rich in place. Neverwhere has moving, mysterious markets, dangerous passages and areas such as Knight's Bridge. There are cut-throats and predators that stalk the darkness and lay in wait for the uninitiated and the unaware and, worst of all there is The Great Beast.

It was into this world that a young Scottish businessman fell while on his way to a restaurant with Jessica, his fiance.

Image courtesy of Amazon Buy from Amazon.com - Neverwhere: A Novel

Buy from Amazon.co.uk Neverwhere


This work by Barbara Walton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Please note that all pictures, unless otherwise attributed, are copyright of the author, Barbara Walton, and are not to be reproduced without written permission

Neverwhere - Discover London Below - Bestseller and cult book by Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere: A Novel
Neverwhere: A Novel

Mind the Gap! All Londoners and anyone who has visited London will have heard the song of the Underground "Mind the Gap". But have you stopped to think what would happen if you fell into the gap? Might you slip into the dark, terrifying world of London below?

That is exactly what happened to Richard Mayhew, a young Scot, recently moved to London to take up a new job.

This book contains four hundred pages of brilliant fantasy.

Published by William Morrow Paperbacks (September 2, 2003)

 
Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman

Meet the author

If I make a slip in this article and write 'Nevermore' instead of 'Neverwhere' forgive me. It's interesting though, that one of Gaiman's favourite authors, and mine too, is Edgar Alan Poe. Both Nevermore and Neverwhere are dark, magical and mysterious.

Gaiman also loves some of my other favourite authors: Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - my all-time favourite book. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were two of the authors I loved as a child. My father bought me The Hobbit and the entire Narnia series. I loved them.

Other authors that inspired Gaiman I've never even heard of, here's a little reading list for me: James Branch Cabell, Michael Moorcock, Gene Wolfe, and Ursula K. LeGuin. I've heard of G.K. Chesterton, but to my shame I've never actually read one. Gaiman is a great collaborator, teaming up with Terry Pratchett among others.

Neil Gaiman started life in Hampshire, England, born in 1960. His family are of Polish / Eastern European-Jewish origins but Gaiman himself thought of Scientology as being the religion of his family.

He began his writing career with biographies and comic books. Sandman was awarded the 1991 World Fantasy Award, one of the first comic book to be given a literary award. since then he's gone on to write children's books, books for adults and teenagers. He has won a whole host of prizes and awards and with The Graveyard Book (2008) he became the only author to be given the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same book.

Gaiman has also written for TV and films, including writing for Dr Who, and many of his works have been adapted for the screen.

Since 1992 Neil Gaiman has lived near in Wisconsin, US.

For more information about Neil Gaiman and his work, take a look at Wikipedia or Gaiman's website.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia, author Kyle Cassidy is licensed under a GNU Free Documentation License

Neil Gaiman's Website - Get it straight from the horse's mouth

This is a neat site with information about Neil Gaiman, his new releases, biography, bibliography, photos, downloads - click on over and take a look yourself.

How Neverwhere Began

It has three forms - so far ...

Neverwhere began life about 1996 as a TV series on BBC 2, but despite it being a massive success, Gaiman wasn't happy with it. In a video interview on Radio 4 extra he admits that the thing in his head and the thing on the screen didn't match.

To get his ideas out more clearly he turned to the word, and wrote a novel has, over time, become a cult novel and a best seller.

Neil was then approached by the BBC with the idea of producing it firstly as a BBC Radio 4 in the Afternoon Play spot, and then continuing it on Radio 4 Extra. Gaiman is a great fan of both radio stations and so am I. It was by way of the radio productions that I came to know about the hidden world of Neverwhere.

Where is Neverwhere - Below the City of London

Visit Islington, Earl's Court, Knightsbridge, (or Knight's Bridge), The Old Baily, think of the shepherds in Shepherd's bush or the Baron at Baron's Court (I lived just down the tubeline at Turnham Green for a number of years).

show route and directions
A markerThe Angel Islington is Here -
Islington, London
get directions

B markerMeet the Earl of Earl's Court -
Earls Court London
get directions

C markerKnight's Bridge -
Knightsbridge, London
get directions

D marker -
Shepherds bush, London
get directions

The Characters of Neverwhere - A who's who of London Below

I'm a visual artist, a painter, and one thing I love about this book it the vivid images that are brought to mind, and none stronger than in the characters. Angels are always imposing, but the feathered man perched on the rooftops, the stock-character rogues that have been so well portrayed in so many books, films and TV productions, the hero and heroine, the monsters and nobles: all faithfully keeping to that well-worn track of fantasy, yet still managing to recreate the images afresh for us. How we love that mix of the familiar and the new. It is the stuff of fairy stories - and nightmares.

  1. Richard Mayhew - Young, affable Scot with rather terrifyingly competent yuppie fiance, Jessica Bartram, who travels to London to take up a new job. He turns out, like so many of these heroes, to be up to the job - whatever it is. (Wouldn't it be nice to find a heroine/hero taken off the streets who was just useless at fighting dragons et al?)
  2. Door - The Lady Door, from the noble family of Arch, with magical abilities to open - yes, you've guessed it - doors. If there is no door handy, she has the knack of being able to create one. Her father was Portico! (I wonder how far back you can go with these names? Porch, Entrance, Cat-Flap?)
  3. Marquis de Carabas - tricky trader of favours, but loyal and, incredibly, based on Puss-in-Boots.
  4. The Angel Islington - Angels can be good - or, like the Devil himself - bad. Is the Angel Islington one of the shining ones or one of the fallen? (I'm not going to tell you). He is given the task of watching over London below. Door has been directed to seek him out in a message written in her late father's journal and the Islington is the only one who can give Richard the means to travel back to London above.
  5. Hunter - Lion-like hunter turned body-guard out to slay the Beast of London. She already has a great monster-fighting CV having tackled the bear of Berlin, the black tiger in the city underneath Calcutta and the blind white alligator-king who lives below the city of New York.
  6. Vandemar - dim and brutish, Vandemar is a revoltingly cold-hearted killer who enjoys his bloody work. Silent, wolf-like with a tendency to howl.
  7. Croup - foxy, sly and ugly, the other half of these heartless killers.
  8. The Earl of Earl's Court - a medieval lord presiding over his court in a tube train. He is Door's ally and helper in her quests.
  9. The Abbot of the Black Friars - Blind leader of the black friars who guard that all-important key. You will also meet the brothers Fuliginous and Sable
  10. Old Bailey - feathered, lives with the birds on the rooftops and guards the Marquis, a little silver box.
  11. Lamia and the Velvets. These are cold and needy creatures who suck the warmth out of you along with your life. Don't get too close!

Five Fascinating Facts About London Below - All you need to know

  1. Orignially devised by Neil Gaimand and Lenny Henry (talented or what!). Henry wanted the series to be about the homeless and so with a mix of social realism and magic, Neverwhere was born. The original TV series was shot on video and due to changes in plan, the visual quality of the series was compromised.
  2. There are three versions of the novel: 1. Written during the TV series' tranmission. An Audio version on CD and cassette also exists

    2. A re-write for the US market The publishers thought the US wouldn't be able to appreciate the London references

    2. A combination of the two

  3. In 2005 Mike Carey and artist Glenn Fabry produced a nine part comic book series
  4. There have been many stage productions
  5. Not had enough of Neverwhere? Gaiman says a sequel, 'The Seven Sisters' might be in the offing

Where Did Neverwhere Come From? - There are many sources of inspiration and this is just one

'Free Live Free' by Gene Wolfe,

Find The Gateway to the Angel Islington - A taster of the BBC mini TV series

Watch the BBC Production of Neverwhere - UK TV drama DVD

I've chosen the 15th Anniversary Edition of Neverwhere because the story and production is so rich it really does help if you have a bit of background information. The map will be essential for anyone who doesn't know London really well. You'll be richly rewarded by putting in a little extra work in order to enjoy Neverwhere to the full.

Neverwhere (15th Anniversary Edition)
Neverwhere (15th Anniversary Edition)

3.5 star rating by Amazon customers

English language, run time Run Time: 173 minutes, I disc

Fifteenth Anniversary edition with Introduction, Commentary with Neil Gaiman the Author, Lenny Henry, and producer Clive Brill, an Interview with Neil Gaiman, Photos, Character Descriptions and the all-important Neverwhere Map

 

Other Books By Neil Gaiman - This is just a small selection of Gaiman books

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel
The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel

Brilliant fairy story for adults. I first came across this magical tale when it was serialised on BBC Radio 4. I was hooked! I loved the lyrical style and the beauty of the imagined ocean. It is very fairy-tale like in so many ways.

 
The Graveyard Book
The Graveyard Book

A child raised and protected by a graveyard. Teen fiction

 
DEATH Deluxe Edition
DEATH Deluxe Edition

Death, a chartacter drawn from the Sandman series, steps out in her own right

 
The Silver Dream (InterWorld Trilogy)
The Silver Dream (InterWorld Trilogy)

April 23, 2013, Sequel to InterWorld, the science fiction novel

 
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

The end of the world is nigh .. indeed it will end next Saturday and just before dinner ...

 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman's Latest Book - A magical book of childhood imagination

Listen to this engaging story read by Michael Sheen is BBC Radio 4 Book At Bedtime in 5 episodes.

Neil Gaiman and Dr Who

Gaiman made the Cybermen scary

Gaiman wrote the Doctor Who episode, "The Doctor's Wife" which was broadcast in 2011 with Matt Smith' as the Doctor. The original title was "The House of Nothing" and it won the 2012 Hugo Award for the Best Dramatic Presentation.

The second episode for Dr Who by Gaiman was "Nightmare in Silver", where the Cybermen returned - but this time they were much more scary. This episodes as broadcast on 11 May 2013.

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