neverwhere read along

(Sorry I didn’t have the time to post yesterday. Work, of course, and I also had a busy weekend with my brother’s birthday and buying a couple of new book cases which of course led to re shelfing of books.)

I had decided that in lieu of specific questions this week, we would culminate this group read with each individual taking their own direction with what they wanted to share. I did suggest that I would be most curious to know how readers thoughts and feelings about particular characters were affected by the events in this final section of the book. Beyond that, let’s just chat about Neverwhere.

Now I want to watch the miniseries and happily it’s available on for just a few euros.

Lots of people in Neverwhere are not what or who their appear to be at first glance. Obviously, Door turns expectations; she first appears hurt and homeless and probably helpless but turns out to be a member a very influential family (albeit in the London Below) and far from helpless. She’s also not the innocent girl Richard assumes she is but can use politics to her advantage quite deftly. Then there’s Hunter whose loyalties turn out to be different than Richard expects. Most readers probably didn’t expect her to go as far as she did to get what she wanted. I didn’t the first I read Neverwhere and I was really shocked and betrayed. And of course Islington. It was described as such pure and good creature that the truth was again shocking. Of course, it has been imprisoned for a long time; anyone’s sanity would have cracked after that.

Interestingly, Vandemar and Croup turn out to be pretty much what they appear to be: villains who enjoy torturing others. However, they aren’t human and we don’t find out what they are. Did Islington make them that way? I doubt it. It seemed to disapprove their work except when it was “necessary” for Islington’s own ends. Maybe they are demons or some old gods? Or bogymen under the bed come to life? I’m pretty certain they didn’t die in the end. They’ll appear again somewhere.

Lamia also appeared different at first but I remember of being suspicious of her even during the first read and thought Richard was pretty gullible to fall for her act. Or maybe I’ve already grown suspicious of every character at that point. 🙂 Lady Serpentine was also a very interesting character and I would have liked to know more about her.

The Marquis remains a mysterious character. I’m still not sure if he’s loyal to Door or just looking for that big favor from her (=more power to him). Maybe he can get both in the same package. His ability to return from the dead was great! He asks Hunter if she keeps her life somewhere else so it seems that this is something the Marquis has bought or traded for instead of unique to him. Also, the fact that Old Bailey knew what the small box was and how to use it, means that the Marquis trusts Old Bailey literally with his life. They must have some interesting history.

I also very much enjoyed the way that the London place names became people or more literal places, such as Knightsbridge > Nightsbridge, Old Bailey, or Blackfriars.

Lots of things are left open at the end: Door’s sister being alive and lots of unanswered questions about the characters. Richard is also clearly heading for more adventures.

Even though Ricard complained and was scared most of his time in London Below, he found out that he didn’t fit anymore Above. He got a promotion, a nice new flat, but didn’t have any friends and didn’t seem interested in making any new ones. He grew and changed in Below but didn’t have anyone to share those experiences with in Above. I understand his decision to return but I would have take a couple of bags full of stuff to trade with. 🙂

1. Chapter 6 begins with Richard chanting the mantra, “I want to go home”. How do you feel about Richard and his reactions at this point to the unexpected adventure he finds himself on?

I feel sorry for him. He’s been thrust into a very dangerous situation without knowing anything about it and just because he wanted to help Door. He’s lost his whole life because of that act of kindness.

But then at the Ordeal of the Key it seems that his meeting with Door and all the rest are “meant to be”; that fate or a higher power has arranged the whole thing. Unfortunately, I don’t really care for that type of story.

2. The Marquis de Carabas was even more mysterious and cagey during the first part of this week’s reading. What were your reactions to him/thoughts about him as you followed his activities?

He clearly had his own agenda. The world of London Below isn’t a happy place so it felt to me that the Marquis’ plotting has to be something sinister. And then Door’s father calls him a monster and in Door’s memories we see the Marquis doing something which I interpreted as slavery or perhaps pimping.

3. How did you feel about the Ordeal of the Key?

I didn’t remember it from my previous reading so it was a surprise. I didn’t know what to expect. It seems very fitting and fairy tale like, especially when combined with the previous tasks, of fighting skill and wit. The Ordeal itself is also fitting for Richard who is being torn between Above and Below, and is constantly pointing out that people and events around him can’t exist even though they do. It’s also easy to see how Richard could fail the test by relying on “common sense” that London Below doesn’t really exist but it’s instead insane hallucinations. Unfortunately, the Ordeal is also very convenient test for him. So it’s great that it ends with Richard finding the bead and is starting to really believe in the Below and the people in it.

4. This section of the book is filled with moments. Small, sometimes quite significant, moments that pass within a few pages but stick with you. What are one or two of these that you haven’t discussed yet that stood out to you, or that you particularly enjoyed.

Near the start of this section in the British Museum Door explains to Richard that the people in London Above simply don’t see the people in the London Below. Yet, Richard was able to see Door before he became one of the people from Below.

The discussion between the Marquis, Croup, and Vandemar when we realize that the Marquis isn’t going to betray Door.

Oh, and the monster in the Gap was great!

The first Read Along post:
I read Neverwhere years ago. I first started to read Gaiman through Sandman and then found his books.

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

They’re certainly quirky and memorable and very, very creepy. One of the creepiest things is that Gaiman uses funny descriptions for them. At the same time, they also don’t have any redeeming qualities; they kill people and enjoy it. They’re also not human. They seem to have the ability to travel through time, or in time, because we first see them in 1550 and they discuss going to London Below, four hundred years forward. And they don’t bleed. They’re certainly very effective and scary villains.

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?

It has very much an Alice in Wonderland feeling except that while Wonderland was somewhere else, London Below is right there, if you want to see it. It’s filled with the “undesirable people”; the homeless, the unemployed, the sick, and the suffering who have fallen down society’s safety nets. They’ve formed their own society with their own rules because they have to.

People of London Above don’t even see the people of London Below, much as we have a tendency to ignore the nastier sides of our society as long as we can.

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

There’s the allusion to Alice in Wonderland with Richard obviously as Alice but he’s happy to get away and back to his normal life.

Above people also ignore Below people like the “ordinary” in society ignore the homeless and desperately poor.

There’s also commentary on the coldness of our society. Jessica is a prime example: she donates to charity but just steps over wounded Door like she isn’t there. She also says to Richard that “they all have homes to go to. Really.” In her priorities, her life and any advantage she can get, is far above anyone else.

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

Door is an obvious one. She’s the damsel in distress, a plot device, but she’s also intelligent and resourceful. She also has to constantly make deals and think about politics.

However, my very favorite character in Neverwhere is Hunter: competent and deadly. She doesn’t flaunt her skills until she needs to impress Door and the Marquis. Her short conversation with Richard is funny and apt: She sells her body and Richard immediately jumps to the conclusion that she’s a prostitute. (What else can a woman be, right? Yet, from a certain point of view, that’s what we all do: sell our labor and so our bodies.) In my mind’s eye I can’t help but see her as Gina Torres (from Firefly).

The Floating Market is also a whole character by itself.

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?

Lost, stolen, forgotten items. Probably all the socks I’ve lost, especially just one of the pair… Possibly lost artwork, like unheard of Shakespeare plays.

I’d be looking for all the things I lost in my last move.

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

I still haven’t warmed up to Richard. He has the tendency to let others decide his life and do what is expected of him instead of what he really wants. OTOH, that’s probably true of most of us, to a point.

But I love, love the setting of the London Below and Above.

Carl from the Stainless Steel Droppings is hosting Neverwhere read along and I decided to participate. I’ve read Neverwhere before but that was years ago. I haven’t seen the TV show or graphic novel, though.

The schedule will be as follows:

Read the Prologue through Chapter 5, May 13th-20th. Discussions for this section posted Monday, May 21st.

Read Chapter 6 through Chapter 6 through Chapter 12, May 20th-May 27th. Discussions for this section posted Monday, May 28th.

Read Chapter 13 through the end (Chapter 20), May 27th-June 3rd. Discussions for this section posted Monday, June 4th.