Saturday, January 3, 2015
2014 plowed past me and left me standing at the platform of 2015 feeling a bit flustered and perhaps a bit excited by the possibilities before me. It is fitting, then that in the moments of the waning year, I picked up Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere(1999) only to be whisked away to both the familiar and tantalizingly unfamiliar London underground. I slipped into a wonderfully haunting (and terrifying) world of the faces people to live below in the underground world. What happens when people fall through the cracks? They fade away and become part of the unseen society which exists...neverwhere. Protagonist Richard Mayhew does something nice, and (since no good deed goes unpunished in literature), he finds himself abandoned in a world where people exist between the normal world that most of us know, and a disturbingly distopian subterranean world of subway stations, abandoned tunnels, sewers, and fog. All those things that go bump in the night live in this world, and rear their ugly heads frequently to threaten Richard and company as he tries to save a young woman from the evil that pursues her. And of course there is a secret society (isn’t there always?) I’ve been to London a few times. I’ve ridden on the “tube” and am aware of some of the history of the subway system. Gaiman’s mix of historical elements, fantastical characters, suspense, and that wonderful bit of humanity had me hooked from the first pub scene when Richard says goodbye to his hometown to the end of the story (no spoilers here, folks). The romp thrilled me and filled me with a desire to investigate the London underground stations with my new awareness of Gaiman’s mythological underground. I’m sure there must be a such a tour offering such a rousing romp somewhere in Londinium. Conventional time and space, and relative dimension, are all challenged by Neverwhere; I kept wondering just how this might play into an episode of Dr Who (Neil has also penned a few episodes for that sci-fi phenomenon). Describe it in twenty five words or less? Alice-in-Wonderland meets Dr. Who, sprinkled with a touch of Twilight Zone, and Life on Mars, all with a film noir feel. Quite a wild ride and well worth the price of a ticket.