Then the time came, and guess what? I didn't open my laptop once. It wasn't that I didn't want to write. It was that by the time I was actually allowed to turn on an electronic device, drinks were being served. Then the horrendous meal had to be served, and trays cleared. That left about forty minutes of free time before it was time to turn the laptop off again. And if you're a writer, you know that it can sometimes take forty minutes just to get into it. This wasn't revising or delving into a section of a book that was already well planned in my head. This was trying to draft a brand new project. And with someone sitting uncomfortably close to me and usually hogging the armrest, and the person in front of my reclining right into my air space, writing was just not feasible. So I read. A lot.
In five days I read two and a half books, something that usually takes at least a month these days. It helped that the books were all good, of course, but my favorite by far was Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. I selected it on my Kindle on a whim, but I love Neil Gaiman, and the price was right, so I figured I'd give it a shot. And I loved it. Maybe it's because it was the perfect book for me as a writer right now - a parallel world fantasy novel with a healthy dollop of sarcasm, wit, and adventure - or maybe it's just because it was wonderfully creative and, well, Gaiman-y. But I can't recommend it enough.
Neverwhere was created as a companion to the television miniseries of the same name (both came out in 1996). There also happens to be an audio miniseries coming out in two days from BBC Radio 4 starring James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes please!
|The BBC Radio 4 cast of Neverwhere.|
And if you'd like to know what the book is actually about, here's the description from Gaiman's website:
Richard Mayhew is an unassuming young businessman living in London, with a dull job and a pretty but demanding fiancee. Then one night he stumbles across a girl bleeding on the sidewalk. He stops to help her--and the life he knows vanishes like smoke.
Several hours later, the girl is gone too. And by the following morning Richard Mayhew has been erased from his world. His bank cards no longer work, taxi drivers won't stop for him, his landlord rents his apartment out to strangers. He has become invisible, and inexplicably consigned to a London of shadows and darkness a city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere.
For this is the home of Door, the mysterious girl whom Richard rescued in the London Above. A personage of great power and nobility in this murky, candlelit realm, she is on a mission to discover the cause of her family's slaughter, and in doing so preserve this strange underworld kingdom from the malevolence that means to destroy it. And with nowhere else to turn, Richard Mayhew must now join the Lady Door's entourage in their determined--and possibly fatal--quest.
For the dread journey ever-downward--through bizarre anachronisms and dangerous incongruities, and into dusty corners of stalled time--is Richard's final hope, his last road back to a "real" world that is growing disturbingly less real by the minute.
If Tim Burton reimagined The Phantom of the Opera, if Jack Finney let his dark side take over, if you rolled the best work of Clive Barker, Peter Straub and Caleb Carr into one, you still would have something that fell far short of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. It is a masterful debut novel of darkly hypnotic power, and one of the most absorbing reads to come along in years.