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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is a fun example of the "fish out of water goes on a quest" type of fantasy. In this case the fantasy world is London and the points of interest are the stops along the Underground except they're not like what Richard Mayhew expects.
Neverwhere is not a unique fantasy but it is still a fun take on a standard form of fantasy. Gaiman playfully acknowledges the books that have come before his with twisted literary references. My favorite is his gory allusion to Winnie the Pooh.
Like all good fantasy quests, the hero (or heroine) must join up with a band of local travelers to complete his journey. Like Dorothy and Alice, Richard just wants to get home to the London he knows, not this London Below. As with Through the Looking Glass where it's helpful to have a chess board nearby to track Alice's progress, keep a map of the London Underground handy to see where Richard is in his quest.
There are too many literary allusions and puns to mention them all. While understanding them or knowing your way around London isn't necessary to enjoy the story the extra knowledge does make the experience of reading Neverwhere all the more fun.
Comment #1: Saturday, March, 29, 2008 at 03:48:55
I liked this book better than American Gods. "
Comment #2: Friday, March 28, 2008 at 23:55:11
So did I. I found American Gods a bit of a chore to read."
Comment #3: Saturday, March, 29, 2008 at 11:47:33
I wish I did know my way around the London Underground. I'm an anglophile from way back, but I've never been to England, more's the pity. Maybe an altered London would be a trip worth taking.
Have you read much Neil Gaiman? I keep thinking I will read something of his since he's so popular, but I still haven't gotten around to it."
Comment #4: Saturday, March, 29, 2008 at 09:16:10
I've never been to Britain either but I'm interested in subways so I know the basics of the Underground's map.
I've read Stardust (don't remember it), American Gods (was bored by it), Anansi Boys (loved it), Good Omens (enjoyed it) an now Neverwhere which was my favorite of the ones so far."
Comment #5: Sunday, March, 30, 2008 at 12:48:46
I really enjoyed Neverwhere, though I thought the story was better than the writing. At the time I thought Gaiman should stick to comics, since Sandman was so wonderful, but I think he's come a long way and I like his prose books, too. I took this with me the last time I was in London; it was a good literary companion."
Comment #6: Sunday, March, 30, 2008 at 10:56:28
I haven't read Sandman yet. I plan to one of these days."
Comment #7: Thursday, April, 24, 2008 at 07:56:21
How did I miss this? I love Gaiman; I loved Neverwhere. My younger son recently read it and loves it too. If you get a chance, check out the DVD--it was a BBC miniseries before it was a book, and it's a lot of fun."