We always like to wonder what would happen if we became invisible. Not in the sense of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak which provides invisibility at the wearer’s option. That can be very useful when sneaking out of dangerous or dubious situations. We mean the invisibility where we are desperately trying to make our presence felt but no one notices or hears us. Sort of like starting a blog really. Not that we have displayed any signs of desperation so far.
That sudden non existence to the world around is what happens to Richard Mayhew, in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. One day he has a job, a flat, a fiancée and all the trappings of a regular life, the next he helps an injured girl who belongs not to London above but to London below and finds himself invisible by association, to those in London above. Almost as if it is a contagious condition. He therefore finds himself without any choice but to follow after the girl who is enigmatically named Door and turns out to be semi royalty in London below because of her ability to open doors from one place to another. Then begins a search through a magical, mystical, dark and sinister world which occupies the same space as the city above but differently so.
LL: As the sun is blazing hot and it is 36 degrees outside, it is, I think, only natural that we are talking of dark underground places and Neverwhere.
PS: Some books, no matter how long ago you read them, tend to create a presence in your mind. Gaiman creates a long lasting atmosphere with all the descriptions of the sights and smells.
LL: That is what makes it seem so very real. Even to the extent where my claustrophobia started acting up. The whole idea, however, that names of places in London and the tube stations are actually people, is quite fascinating. There is an Earl at Earl’s Court, and there are the friars at Blackfriars and Islington is an Angel.
PS: I did wonder if the crossing of the malevolent and lethal Night’s Bridge where the toll extracted can be the cost of a life and which leads to the magical floating market that takes place at Harrods, is supposed to be a comment on real life.
LL: And the moral of the story could be that random acts of kindness towards strangers can change your existence and lead you through a mad and dangerous other world.
PS: But isn’t that what heroes do? They start off geeky and boring and that one act is the catalyst which turns them into an altogether different character.
LL: Except Richard, all the other characters have a very sinister air to them but despite it at some point the reader starts to like them only to have the story take a different turn.
PS: The unexpected and the dark are a constant theme in Neil Gaiman’s books. Perhaps it is the edgy writing along with his background in graphic novels and comics which makes him so appealing to the IT crowd and gen next.
LL: But we don’t fall in that category. I think for us the initial appeal was in the fact that he had co-written Good Omens with Terry Pratchett and also because we heard of his friendship with Diana Wynne Jones and Robin McKinley. All writers whose books we greatly appreciate.