NeverwhereNeverwhere

Neverwhere
by Neil Gaiman
400pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 8/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.18/5
Good Reads Rating: 4.08/5

The first novel Neil Gaiman wrote after gaining his reputation as a comic book writer was Neverwhere, a stand alone story based on the BBC mini series Gaiman worked on. (Having seen the mini series before, I was amazed at just how similar the book and mini series were.) As is to be expected from anything by Gaiman, Neverwhere is an enchanting tale, strange and a little crazy. If almost anyone else had attempted this story, it would probably be somewhat silly. Yet somehow, whenever Gaiman writes something, he pulls everything together in such a way that it works really well.

Richard Mayhew is an ordinary London citizen with a decent but dull job and a pretty but snooty fiancee named Jessica (NOT Jess!). On the way to an important dinner with his Jessica’s boss, Richard and Jessica find a young woman lying on the sidewalk, hurt and bleeding. To Jessica’s great chagrin, Richard insists on helping the girl even if it means missing the dinner and losing Jessica. Richard brings the woman, who is called Door, back to his apartment and cleans her up.

Once Door has returned to her home, Richard finds that he no longer seems to exist. He can’t hail a cab, his coworkers ignore him, Jessica can’t even remember his last name, and his landlord doesn’t even notice him bathing when he shows some potential tenants every room in Richard’s apartment. Convinced Door has something to do with this occurrence, Richard decides to find her and becomes introduced to the London Underground – people who have “slipped through the cracks” of London – and is caught up in finding out why the rest of Door’s family was killed.


The world of the London Underground is unusual and fascinating, and while it coexists with our world, it is very different. This world has many common fantasy elements – some magic, unusual creatures, and assassins yet it is also unlike standard fantasy. It is not at all the typical tale of a modern day person who is whisked to a magical land full of castles, beautiful princesses, and fairies where they may have to work on the side of good to defeat an evil dark lord. Many of the people are the homeless of London, and the “lords and ladies” are not well dressed or at all refined. There are residents who speak with and revere rats and sewer folk who collect rubbish from their smelly home. It’s not a lovely and pleasant place, which makes it more realistic and gives it a sort of charm.

The story is paced very well without a boring moment. It is a fairly short, very plot-oriented story with sparse descriptions and a lot of dark, whimsical humor. I particularly enjoyed how Gaiman twisted the standard quest story, but unfortunately I cannot go into much detail about that without giving too much away.

The characters themselves are not explored in depth, but sometimes “good” and “bad” were not as apparent as one might have expected. The people of the London Underground certainly helped bring the story alive.

I would recommend Neverwhere to those who enjoy entertaining, well told mythical adventures.

8/10

To celebrate the 7th birthday of his blog, Neil Gaiman is going to make one of his books available online for free for a month. The free book has not yet been determined as Neil has requested readers to vote for the book they think is the best starting point for someone who has never read any of his work. American Gods is winning by a lot right now, and the closest contender after it is Neverwhere.

To read more and vote, go here.

By registering on Tor’s website, you can receive emails containing free digital science fiction and fantasy books. The first book is going to be Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn: The Final Empire (a rather good book), and it will be followed by Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. After that, they will send more books but the site does not say what they are.

Feb
09
2008

I closed the poll a day early since I’m done with Neverwhere so it’s time to start reading the next book, which will be William Gibson’s Neuromancer. I’m curious about this one since it’s become a cyberpunk classic, but from what I’ve heard, I get the impression that it’s more of an “important” book than a “good” book.

I’ll probably do another poll at some point, but I just got the new Carol Berg book Breath and Bone yesterday so I think I want to read that one after Neuromancer.

Below are some new releases or books coming out later this month that I have been hearing a lot about or have been looking forward to reading. The book is already out according to Amazon US, Canada, and UK unless it says otherwise. (Bright of the Sky isn’t actually supposed to be out until later this month in the US, but it says it is in stock anyway. The Red Wolf Conspiracy is supposed to be out, but it seems to be hard to get a hold of.)


The Red Wolf Conspiracy
by Robert Redick (April 1 in Canada)

The Somnambulist by Jonathan Barnes

A Magic of Twilight: Book One of the Nessantico Cycle (Magnificent Fantasy: the Nessantico Cycle) by S.L. Farrell

Bright of the Sky: Book One of The Entire and The Rose by Kay Kenyon

Myth-Chief by Robert Asprin

Matterby Iain M. Banks (Feb 27 US and Canada – out in the UK)

Biting the Bullet (Jaz Parks, Book 3) by Jennifer Rardin (Feb 11 in the US and CA, Feb 7 in the UK)

In a Time of Treason by David Keck (Feb 19 in US, Canada, and the UK)

MistbornMistborn

Mistborn: The Final Empire
by Brandon Sanderson
672pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7.5/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.48/5
Good Reads Rating: 4.5/5

Mistborn: The Final Empire is the first book in the Mistborn series and the second novel written by Brandon Sanderson, the author selected to complete the final novel in the Wheel of Time series. The second book in the series, The Well of Ascension, is currently out in hardcover and the final book, The Hero of Ages, has a scheduled release date of October 20, 2008.

The immortal Lord Ruler has been both a leader and god to the people ever since he came to power and saved them approximately a thousand years ago. He has gifted some of the nobility, who were his allies during the time of his ascension, with special abilities known as Allomancy and forbidden them to breed with the commoners for fear of passing this power on to children not of pure noble blood. An Allomancer is one who can perform magic using metals he or she has swallowed. Mistings are those who can activate one metal and use its power. Mistborn, more rare than Mistings, are those Allomancers who can use all the known types of metal and their powers.

The skaa (commoners) have been oppressed and subject to the whims of the noble class ever since the beginning of the Lord Ruler’s reign. One of these, a Mistborn named Kelsier, has become a legend among his people as the only one to survive the punishment of being sent to the infamous Pits of Hathshin. Kelsier’s brother tells him of Vin, a 16-year-old Mistborn street girl he detected, and Kelsier invites her to join his band of thieves and begins training her with her powers. Under the leadership of Kelsier, Vin and other skaa rebels form a plan to do the impossible – overthrow the Final Empire and its Lord Ruler.


The book was a bit slow in the beginning as it introduced the characters and skaa life, but it was nearly impossible for me to put down during the nonstop action of the last 100 pages or so. The story focuses on politics and planning a lot, but it also includes some really spectacular fight scenes. The fights are based on skill with Allomancy and using clever tricks to outsmart your opponent rather than merely whacking each other with weaponry, and some of the descriptions were quite well done. It certainly had some of the more fun fight scenes I can remember reading.

The magic system was unique and interesting, but it had its disadvantages as well as its advantages. It was refreshing to have magic following a set of rules instead of just being unexplained mysticism, but on the other hand, sometimes it would have been nice if a little were left to the imagination rather than all the descriptions of how Allomancy worked. Kelsier’s training of Vin reminded me of tutorials in RPGs where you are learning how to use your character and what all the different controls do. I also found it really hard to get over the swallowing metal part of it – all I could think of is how unhealthy that sounded. (I know, kind of silly to get hung up on that in a fantasy book, but I just kept wondering why at least some of these people weren’t dying from poisoning even if it was semi-explained.)

I liked the characters, but none of them were particularly unique or well-developed, although I did enjoy that they were fairly contemplative and thoughtful at times, particularly about religion, friendship, and betrayal. My favorite was Elend, the eccentric nobleman, but I came to love Vin as well as the story went on. I will not spoil the details of the ending, but I felt like some of it did not fit with the characters’ actions through that point in time. The ending was also a bit rushed, and one part of the story that had potential to be very compelling was wrapped up in an unsatisfactory manner.

It may sound like I did not enjoy this book since I am being so critical of it, but the truth is, once I got past the slow beginning, I really had a lot of fun reading it. It did not live up to the expectations I had for it based on what I had heard about it, but that was mainly because I had some preconceived notions about the story that were false. It was not as original a story as I had been anticipating, but it was still very enjoyable with a unique world/magic system and more examination of it than most epic fantasy books offer. I will definitely be picking up the sequel.

Mistborn: The Final Empire was a strong and fun sophomore effort. It was nothing extraordinary, but it is certainly worth the time of epic fantasy fans.

7.5/10

Other opinions on this book: