Monday, May 21, 2012

Read Along of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: Part 1

You can see Carl’s Part 1 post, and the links to the other blogs taking part, here.

If you haven't read the book, or even if you have, why not join in and read along with the rest of us? This week we have read up to the end of Chapter 5.

Before I get to the questions I have to confess that I had the most incredible case of deja vu when I started the book. It turns out that I saw the original TV series on the BBC back in 1996, so I think I know the identity of the evil person who is after Door, but I am not totally sure.

1.  What do you think of our two villains thus far, Messrs. Croup and Vandemar?

They are really repulsive, and have some seriously dangerous talents. Plus Mr Vandemar eats raw mice: barf! I am creeped out by their ability to move around way too quickly, which seems to be some sort of teleportation. I am intrigued by the interplay between them, with Mr Croup acting as the brains to Mr Vandemar’s brawn. I like the overly grandiose and slightly antiquated language that Mr Croup uses, although he does seem to suffer from verbal diarrhea. I am repulsed by, but also curious about, Mr Vandemar’s magical spit, which seems to be some form of natural super glue. That scene where he purposely knifed his hand to the wall was jaw-dropping on so many levels. 

2.  Thus far we've had a small taste of London Below and of the people who inhabit it.  What do you think of this world, this space that lies within or somewhat overlaps the space the "real world" occupies?

It is obviously a very harsh and unforgiving world, but also very sad. I cannot imagine that it is easy to survive in a world where you are unable to return to your previous life because you do not exist anymore. I am intrigued by the lack of obvious theft from London Above, as the invisibility would make this a perfect way to make a living. I assume that will be explained at some point. The inhabitants of London Below do not seem to be only the homeless and forgotten. There are those who have been born and raised there, such as Door, and I can imagine that some find their way there because it fits their way of life or talents.

3.  What ideas or themes are you seeing in these first 5 chapters of Neverwhere?  Are there any that you are particularly drawn to?

There is a steampunk feel to some of the dress and mechanisms that we have seen so far, but my overall impression is of darkness and dirt. There is also a surreal feel to almost everything, with characters that are teetering on the edge of madness and settings that come straight out of nightmares. The whole world is built from rubbish by people who have been discarded by society for a variety of reasons. I get the distinct impression that this world is the human equivalent of the life that one can see when one lifts up a rock. I am most drawn to understanding how the two Londons interact with one another.

4.  We've met a number of secondary characters in the novel, who has grabbed your attention and why?

At the moment I am most intrigued by the Hunter, probably because she is so ‘normal’ in many ways and yet so supernatural in others. I hope we will learn more about her. I was very taken by Anesthesia, as she seemed like a fundamentally nice kid. Her death was quite a shock.

5.  As you consider the Floating Market, what kind of things does your imagination conjure up? What would you hope to find, or what would you be looking for, at the Market?

It sounds like a moving junkyard in many ways. It would be interesting to see what exactly some of the stalls are offering and how useful things have been crafted from rubbish. I noticed that Door mentioned a group of Roman legionaries that seem to speak Latin, so I would be hoping to find them or some Roman era artifacts. What can I say? I think I was probably a Roman in a previous life because I find them so fascinating.

6.  If you haven't already answered it in the questions above, what are your overall impressions of the book to this point?

It is grim and dark, depicting a cruel, merciless world. I like the way reality has been twisted slightly to create a whole world of fantastical nightmares.


  1. The Romans were interesting; I like the way that London Below seems to be a mismatch of people and items from a variety of different eras.  I think I'd much rather live in London Below than London Above; it's such a quirky and magical world that seems to be full of surprises and wonders even though it's also dangerous.

  2. I love that almost throwaway comment about the legionaries still camped out and speaking Latin - it maybe confirms that time works differently in London Below as Richard thinks it might when he finds his digital watch doesn't work. Although the Marquis takes Lord Portico's gold watch, so I don't quite know what to think about that.

  3. Perhaps Lord Portico's watch does not behave in the same way as those from London Above. I was very intrigued by the recorder ball thingy: very steampunk! :)

  4. It suggests that there might be Vikings and all sorts of other relics from our past running about, which could be very entertaining! :)

  5. I wondered if Anesthesia is really dead or just lost in her nightmares until she can conquer her fears ... that was such a sad scene for me when Richard sees the cheap crystals from her necklace rattle their way down of The Bridge ... poor thing.

  6. I'm not sure which of those is the better alternative . . . :(

  7. I think dark and dirty was my main impression of the wrorld below too. That and an ever present sense of danger, poor Anathesia.

  8. I found it rather oppressive, but then I get claustrophobic in enclosed, dark spaces :(

  9. Good comment about the lack of theft.... Why is that? Hmm... This is a re-read for me but it has been many years. I can't recall anything on that. Perhaps it is linked to culture - in that if it isn't from London Below then i don't want it. 

  10. I hope it is explained, because it is a major plot hole for me at the moment . . .

  11. I wonder if Croup and Vandemar just know where all the spaces between the spaces are so they can slip between things and get where they are going faster.  At any rate they are a couple of cagey fellows, and probably should be in cages! :)

    It is an interesting thing about London Below that once you make contact with it, your life starts to unravel. I'm a 'have your cake and eat it too' kind of guy and I would want to be able to exist in both worlds. 

    I'd very much want to be an explorer in London Below, finding things from other eras and such.  And I would be a hopeless packrat because I would probably find all kinds of stuff I wanted, weird as it may be, in the Floating Market.  

  12. Now that is an interesting idea about Croup and Vandemar, especially as it seems somewhat similar to Door's ability. 

    I hope they explain why some people move totally into London Below whilst others seem to be able to move between the two worlds, like the old lady at the beginning. So many questions! :)

  13. Hi Sue! 
    I found London Below to be a rather sad place as well. And yeah.. Croup and Vandemar are repulsive and creepy. The fact that they're so ordinary and blasé about their activities makes them even creepier. *shudder*

  14. They seem to really enjoy their work . . . :(

  15. "A moving junkyard" - I think that sums the Floating Market up pretty well!  I really like Hunter, too.  I'd love to know more about how she wound up acting as a bodyguard.


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