Monday, May 21, 2012

Neverwhere Group Read - Part I

It has been years since I last read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. It was my first Gaiman novel and it has had a special place on my bookshelf ever since.

Big thanks to Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting, organizing, and inspiring this groups read. Stop by his blog to see his thoughts on the book.

1.  What do you think of our two villains thus far, Messrs. Croup and Vandemar?

At first glance, they didn't seem to be too formidable. Vandemar likes to eat questionable things and Croup has a way with words. Both enjoy intimidating folks. But then they take out a very skilled bodyguard. Hmmm.....And that scene with the knife throwing at the hand - I now have to wonder how much, if at all, these two can be hurt.

2.  Thus far we've had a small taste of London Below and of the people who inhabit it.  What do you think of this world, this space that lies within or somewhat overlaps the space the "real world" occupies?

London Below needs a suite of cleaning ladies and lads. I am not too keen on the whole roasted cat idea. I like that all the folks Richard has met so far have some sort of power or ability that he wasn't expecting and completely lacks himself.

3.  What ideas or themes are you seeing in these first 5 chapters of Neverwhere?  Are there any that you are particularly drawn to?

The Portico family - Arch, Door, etc. Very interesting how they are all some sort of gateway between things.

Richard is an average guy who is treated below average by nearly everyone, except maybe Door. I am glad Jessica is out of his life.

4.  We've met a number of secondary characters in the novel, who has grabbed your attention and why?

The Floating Market (not really a character itself but has lots of character) has a huge potential to be a very central location in the book.

I was taken in by Anasthesia....but that didn't last long.
I would love the back story on Hunter.

5.  As you consider the Floating Market, what kind of things does your imagination conjure up? What would you hope to find, or what would you be looking for, at the Market?

I bet rat tails are out. Cat tails in.
Did you ever see the movie rendition of Stardust, another Gaiman novel? I would expect the Floating Market to by a grittier and less wholesome version of the market just beyond the Wall.
And I would want to sample the local bangers and mash. Maybe.

6.  If you haven't already answered it in the questions above, what are your overall impressions of the book to this point?

London Above is really boring and full of boring and self-important folks.
The theme that there is so much more going on around us, outside of our little life, is beautifully illustrated.
Who should Door trust? Hmmm.....I am thnking she might be a little too trusting.

Other Thoughts: 
Very funny that Richard's first idea of Hunter is that she is a prostitute. 
Everyone in London Below has interesting clothing, not dictated by the latest fashion star.


  1. Your answer to number 2 makes me think more about Richard, and the fact that he in many ways does see in those he meets down Below a reflection of what he isn't, or what he could be.  I'll be thinking about that during this next section of the read, seeing how his interactions with other characters changes him, or doesn't.

    Yes, Stardust was a nice adaptation.  Not perfect, could have been better, but fun.  I did like the market there.

    Anasthesia is a lovely little character and I too was very surprised the first time I read it.  Surprised and very saddened.  It still tugs strongly at my heart whenever I read it.

    I agree that London Above is boring, and I like believing that one of the ideas of this novel is that you don't have to venture far from your front door to begin an adventure and to experience the extraordinary.

  2. Is it wrong that the roasted cat comment made me laugh out loud?  Probably so...probably so.

    I keeping seeing Croup and Vandemeer as people who would appear non-threatening on a quick look but there'd stil be something that bothered you later and that you never could quite put your finger on. 

  3. Mhm.  I'd also say that their interaction with Varney showed that they're in an entirely different league from normal thugs.  They aren't as harmless as they'd let on.

  4. I found the scattering of her little crystal beads at the end of The Bridge so sad ... and when Richard picked one up and pocketed it, I thought it a nice gesture to hold her memory before moving on.

  5. I agree with you about wondering at the dark powers of Vandemar and Croup ... they are two smarmy baddies, for sure!  I'm just wondering who or what they aligned with ... a scary thought there!

  6. Um, I'm afraid the cat bit made me laugh too - I'd watch out for those sausages if I were you! I do agree that Jessica is dreadful, Richard is much better off without her.

  7. It seems like Richard's 'gift' is compassion, which sets him apart from many of those in London Above.

  8. I remember them being very creepy in the TV version, giving off a crazy, untouchable vibe.

  9. Absolutely, Jessica was just awful: it seemed like Richard had let her take total control of his life for some reason. 

    I would also be very suspicious of any meat products offered to me, even if they came with mash! :D

  10.  Yes, that is a nice touch on Richard's part.  That whole 'toll bridge' moment is so much a part of the dark nature of old fairy tales and I like the way Gaiman wove that into the story despite how sad it ultimately was.

  11.  I would most certainly agree.

  12. Based on the book so far I'm not sure I'd eat anything they offered me in London below! I was taken in by Anathsesia too, I wish it had lasted longer.

  13.  Even tho Anesthesia turned out to be a momentary character, Gaiman treats her as a full character - one that could have had a future. That is such a great strength to his writing.

  14.  The roasted cat comment made me laugh too. And they probably taste something like rabbit. Not that I have been contemplating it too much.

    I can still remember my impressions of Croup and Vandemeer from the first time I read this book. At first glance, like you say, they didn't strike me as particularly threatening bad guys. And I was OK with that, because Richard doesn't come off as a guy who can handle much of a threat anyway. Not at first.

  15. I was so glad when Richard defied Jessica and chose to help Door! I like Sue's comment above about Richard's gift being that of compassion. So very true. It was very touching when he took one of Anaesthesia's beads to remember her by--that was such a sad outcome. She was so brave, really.. and not just because of the Bridge incident... I think she and Richard would have been long lasting friends had that ended differently.

  16.  Dork Alert - Tell me, what is mash? I hear the term all the time, related to Great English Cooking. But I have never had mash. Just potatoes? Other stuff mixed in? Is there gravy involved? Is this a breakfast or lunch or dinner item?

    And you are all right to be suspicious of meat products of London Below. Could be Tourist mixed with cat.

  17. It is indeed mashed potatoes. The best preparations involve lots of salt, cream and butter, so it is very healthy! :D 

    I would normally reserve it for a dinner item, assuming that dinner is the evening meal: where I grew up you had your dinner at midday and tea in the evening, just to make life simple! Us Brits don't purposely make things complicated you know! :D

    Bangers (ie sausages) and mash is a very traditional combination, although I believe in London they are very partial to pie and mash served with jellied eels. I am from the North of England so I've never tried that and can't comment on the taste combination . . .

  18.  I have heard of this jellied eels thing. I like eel with my sushi.... but when you jelly anything, you significantly change the flavor and texture. I am not sure I would go with pie/mash/eels combo for evening tea.

  19.  Me too. I would have liked to learn more of her character. But that is a sign of excellent story writing - when an author can kill off a minor character and have his audience bummed about it.

  20.  I also like that Richard didn't even blink with Jessica insisted he leave Door on the street, because they were in a hurry to dinner. He may not fit in with London Below, but he also doesn't fit in Jessica's world.

  21. I'm with you on the secondary characters.  I really liked Anasthesia, and I had much the same reaction as Richard did when she didn't make it across the bridge.  I have a feeling I'm really going to like Hunter!  I hope she sticks around a while.

  22. Same here, Sarah!  I have a feeling I'd go hungry down there.

  23. Oh, eewww . . . tourist mixed with cat!

  24. No kidding!  I would not want to meet them in a dark alley.  Or anywhere, really.

  25. I'm pleased Jessica is out of Richard's life, too.

  26. I was not a huge fan of Jessica.  I wonder if she will make another appearance and Richard can tell her what he thinks after he grows up some.  

    The hand scene with the two villains was very interesting.  Can they even be killed?  Or hurt?  

    Interesting thought that Door is too trusting.  I hadn't thought of this, but now that you said it, it is in my head and I see your point.  

  27. Yes, I did see the movie Stardust and thought it was very fun. I can see parallels to this book as well.

    It's interesting how some people are wondering if Richard is naive to the extreme. I delved a few pages into the new section, and he continues to be surprised at incidents of strangeness that have already been established. I could see him played by a younger (and quirkier) glasses-pushing, eyes blinking Hugh Grant lookalike. Of course, I imagine my view of him will change...   

  28. I dunno... this sounds like a good book but I've read The Graveyard Book and I abhorred the plot and writing style - everything really. If all Gaiman's books have a similar style, I think I'm gonna stay away.

    Ana @ BookSpark