Audiobook Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Audiobook Review: Neverwhere by Neil GaimanNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Narrator: Neil Gaiman
Length: 12 hrs, 37 mins
Published by Harper Audio on October 23, 2007
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Horror, Urban Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: Gifted
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three-half-stars

Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed. There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them. And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew.

"A fantastic story that is both the stuff of dreams and nightmares" (San Diego Union-Tribune), Neil Gaiman's first solo novel has become a touchstone of urban fantasy, and a perennial favorite of readers everywhere.

When I found myself at a loss for something to listen to because I’d finished all of my review audiobooks, I remembered that I had a copy of Neverwhere from Audible. Neil Gaiman audiobooks are always fun, so I went ahead and listened to his beautiful accent. Neil Gaiman books are always fun, particularly on audio, and Neverwhere is not exception. However, Neverwhere is definitively my least favorite of his novels that I’ve read.

The problem lies with the protagonist. Richard Mayhew is boring and not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I don’t know that he’s necessarily stupid, but he’s the kind of person who schlumps through life and doesn’t go in for any kind of introspection. He does things because that is what a person is supposed to do. The only sign of any real personality is how he likes to collect ugly troll dolls to keep in his office. The damning evidence of his awfulness is that he’s the kind of Richard who doesn’t mind if people call him “Dick.”

Of course, character arcs are a thing, so maybe this blah man could take a journey through London Below and become a valiant hero or at least find a personality. Not really. Richard Mayhew seemed every bit as meh by the end. He’s not even an unlikable protagonist; he’s just boring. All of my suspension of disbelief issues came from moments when Richard was of any use at all in the novel’s quest. When he bungled things or got people killed being an idiot, that I believed. When he slayed an infamous monster or obtained an important object, I rolled my eyes.  The fact that I don’t care one iota for Richard Mayhew was a definite problem.

Boring Richard Mayhew is brought out of his entirely mundane existence by Door, a girl he finds bleeding on the street. He helps her, and is rewarded for that by suddenly becoming invisible to everyone he knows. He’s become a resident of London Below. Richard follows Door, needing protection from her and the Marquis de Carabas and hoping for a way to return to his boring life.

The actual world is really cool and a bit silly. There’s London above, the normal London, and London Below, where rats are highly respected and magic resides. Gaiman plays with the strange name for places in London, interpreting them literally. Islington is an angel who resides at that tube stop. There are friars or shepherds, all corresponding to tube stops. It’s fun and exciting, though perhaps not quite enough to compensate for the mind-numbing Richard.

I’m still rating Neverwhere pretty highly, partially for the world building and writing, but also for Neil Gaiman’s performance. I’ve listened to four or five Neil Gaiman audiobooks, and I think this one is best-produced. There are a lot of neat sound effects. Plus, Richard is at least Scottish, which means that on audio he has a brilliant accent. This is the only way in which Richard is interesting.

Neverwhere is a fun listen, and I’m glad I had the audiobook, because I’m not certain I would have enjoyed this one without the brilliant production and narration.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

This is what I have to say to good old Dick.

This is what I have to say to good old Dick.

2 responses to “Audiobook Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman”

  1. I’ve only read two of Gaiman’s books: Neverwhere in paperback and a hardcover copy of Black Orchid, one of his graphic novels.

    Somehow it has never occurred to me to listen to something of his in audiobook form (till now). Adding that to my to-buy list.
    Rosie @ The Literary Hedonist recently posted…Oops, I think I did it again…My Profile

  2. I have read America Gods and then listened to The Graveyard Book, I definitely enjoyed listening to the book. So I can see how this one is probably better as an audiobook. I will have to keep it on my list!
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