“The world smells of spice and dried mango, and it also smells, not unpleasantly, of sex.” – Bangkok Below, Neverwhere
Neverwhere presents two worlds: London Above and London Below, where London Above is the London as we know it, and London Below is the secret underground city that gives the novel its name. Built along abandoned sewer systems, subway platforms and tunnels, and shadowy rivers and caves, the underworld is inhabited by tribes of homeless people leading double lives as cannibals, assassins, and kings. While the people of London Below might appear to be dirty, derelict, and dressed in rags, they also have magically longer lives, the ability to talk to birds and rats, and enhanced strength and agility.
One of the most famous modern fantasy fiction writers, Neil Gaiman’s penchant for vivid imagery has allowed his work to easily transition from page to screen (notably Coraline and Stardust). Neverwhere is a similar example of Gaiman’s cinematic eye, since he first wrote the story as a BBC mini series and then turned it into a companion novel.
There are many instances throughout the novel where you can tell Gaiman already has a completed canvas to work with and paints a clear picture on the page. In one chapter, the protagonists step into a subway car (invisible to Upworlders) that is essentially a small medieval court plopped onto the Tube, complete with a jester, a throne, and a king:
There was straw scattered on the floor, over a layer of rushes. There was an open log fire, sputtering and blazing in a large fireplace. There were a few chickens, strutting and pecking on the floor. There were seats with hand-embroidered cushions on them, and there were tapestries covering the windows and the doors.
Watch the scene from the mini series here.
Even though the dialogue is the weakest aspect of Neverwhere (with many easy and familiar remarks usually reserved for younger readers) its likely that it maintains a similar tone to the original television script.
Image Source: You Media Chicago