Day 917: Neverwhere

Cover for NeverwhereI haven’t read any Neil Gaiman except a book about a witch that he wrote with Terry Pratchett. That one was very silly, but I thought I should read some more Gaiman since he is so popular. I should maybe mention that fantasy is not usually my genre, with notable exceptions.

Richard Mayhew is happy with his life. He is a successful young investment counselor and is engaged to a beautiful but demanding woman. One night when they are on the way out for an important dinner with his fiancée’s boss, he finds an injured girl lying on the sidewalk. The girl is filthy, and Richard’s fiancée wants him to call an ambulance and leave her there. But Richard picks her up and takes her to his apartment.

We have already met the girl, being chased by two villains named Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar through dirty dark tunnels. When the two men come to Richard’s apartment looking for the girl, he says she is not there.

The girl’s name is Door, and she asks Richard if he will go somewhere for her and fetch the Marquis de Carabas. Doing this favor takes him to a strange world underneath London. Richard returns Door to the Marquis, but once she is gone, he realizes he can’t return to his own world. When he tries to, people can’t see him. He finds he has no job, no fiancée, and his flat is in the midst of being let to someone else. He returns to the other world to get help from Door.

Door is the daughter of Lord Portico, a family famous for opening things. Recently, her entire family was slaughtered by Croup and Vandemar, and she wants to find out who ordered it and why. When she returns home to find her father’s diary, it tells her to go to Islington, a legendary angel. Richard finds himself accompanying Door, the Marquis, and Door’s bodyguard Hunter on a dangerous quest through this alternate world that makes its home in the London underground, with characters whose names play on the names of underground stations.

At times this novel seems quite juvenile. In fact, partway through I started trying to figure out if it was intended for adults at all. This is because the humor often seems to be aimed at 14-year-old boys, for example, a villain who is constantly eating live slugs and pigeons. But the Introduction states that it is meant for adults, to do for them what books like the Chronicles of Narnia did for Gaiman as a child.

For this adult, anyway, it fails. I was mildly sympathetic to Richard’s plight, but the book doesn’t do enough with the characters to get us more interested in them. And I wasn’t enamored of Gaiman’s vision of a filthy, mud-filled underworld of strange beings.

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Day 99: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Cover of Good OmensAnd now for something completely different. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is an absolutely wacky spoof by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. In the planning for Armageddon, a demon gives the Antichrist to a Satanist nun to swap with the baby of an American diplomat. But she mixes up the babies, and the Antichrist goes home with an ordinary British family.

Eleven years pass, and the powers, both of light and darkness, gear up for the end of the world. But one angel (Aziraphale) and one demon (Crowley) have decided they like the human race and life on earth too much to want the war between Heaven and Hell. They go off together to find the Antichrist and avert Armageddon. And then there are Agnes Nutter’s “nice and accurate” predictions.

A review on the book cover says it is like a combination of The Omen and Monty Python, and that gets it about right. It contains lots of digs at sources of apocalyptic literature. This book is not for everyone, but many of you will find it hilariously funny.