I don't want to give too much away about this book, but I will say it's one of my all time favorite novels and the one which first enamored me to Neil Gaiman as a writer (I like his graphic novels, but I love his prose). Early in chapter one, Gaiman introduces two main characters with the following passage:
"There are four simple ways for the observant to tell Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar apart: first, Mr. Vandemar is two and a half heads taller than Mr. Croup; second, Mr. Croup has eyes of a faded china blue, while Mr. Vandemar's eyes are brown; third, while Mr. Vandemar fashioned the rings he wears on his right hand out of the skulls of four ravens, Mr. Croup has no obvious jewelry; fourth, Mr. Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing at all alike."
~Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere p. 7
If that passage incites nothing more than a shoulder shrug from you, I'd recommend not bothering with Gaiman's work. But if you're like me, you find it highly entertaining. From the opening words, the reader imagines Gaiman is about to describe slight differences between the individuals. He continues with some brilliant descriptive writing, revealing both physical and character traits, and closes the paragraph by completely overturning the reader's original perception. And all of this is done amid a somewhat fearful and suspenseful chapter. The juxtaposition of humor and darkness is something of a signature in Gaiman's work and I think this passage is a good snapshot of what much of his work contains.
I read this book years ago, and I'm sure some people are wondering: why blog about it now?
This weekend I had the opportunity to see a stage production of Neverwhere at Chicago's Lifeline Theatre. Adapted for stage by Rob Kazlauric (who also takes on the role of Richard with a very believable Scottish accent) and directed by Paul Holmquist, the show follows the novel quite closely and does a wonderful job capturing the humor, adventure and excitement of the story. The cast was magnificent and each character seemed to have walked right from the pages of Gaiman's work. The sets, sound, lighting, music, makeup, costumes, puppets, and props were all pulled together with fabulous details, and the love of the source material was evident in every aspect of the production. For those in the Chicagoland area - or those looking for a reason to take a Windy City vacation - I highly recommend seeing Neverwhere. The show has been extended to July 18th, but tickets have been selling out, so if you're debating, don't delay. I should note too that I really liked Lifeline Theatre as well. They are a venue that specializes in literary adaptations and I'm a little ashamed to admit that this was my first visit - however, as their new season advertises The Moonstone and Watership Down, I certainly plan on returning!