Does “Neverwhere” really need a 1,753rd review on Amazon? Probably not, but that is not going to stop me from writing one.
Neil Gaiman is a creative virtuoso. In “Neverwhere,” his fertile imagination conjures a make-believe shadow London existing beneath and between the margins of the real city. Gaiman’s brilliant mind moves the reader effortlessly through the twilight world of this contemporary fairy tale replete with demons, angels, people who speak rat, and energy-sucking vampires.
Alas, the characters in “Neverwhere” tend to be archetypes rather than realistic, three-dimensional personalities, which is something that happens with fairy tales. There is little to learn about the people in this book beyond what secrets and powers they possess. The plotting delivers some surprises along the way, but the characters have little arc, as they say in the movie business. Even the protagonist’s “surprise” decision at the end of the story is something most readers will see coming far in advance.
One of the inherent problems with fantasy is what might be called The Issue of Convenient Super Powers. Characters happen possess whatever unsuspected magical power is required to get them out of a tight spot. There’s no keyhole for the mysterious key that was the object of a quest earlier in the story? Voila! The character has the power to make hidden keyholes appear.
“Neverwhere” is a fun read. It’s a good book. Its weakness is that the characters, whether sympathetic or repulsive, aren’t people we end up really getting to know and care about.