April Dystopian Review – Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

neverwhere_14aI think in April the power went to my head.  Although I have been a member of the group since 2009, I have only been Organiser since March this year.  I was full of ideas, books and events.  Maybe I wasn’t thinking straight.  I loved the book and I could see dystopian themes hidden in there and this made me choose Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman for the April Dystopian read.

The book follows the exploits our bumbling maybe-hero Richard Richard Mayhew Dick, who through a single act of kindness, sees him thrust into the mysterious world of London Below.

You wouldn’t be surprised to find out that there is a fantastic (kind of) BBC TV production of this! And yes, that is Johnson from Peep Show as the Marquis De Carabas.  There is also another cameo from Tamsin Greig playing the siren Lamia.  What is more surprising is that the TV series preceded the book and that Lenny Henry was instrumental in all of this coming into life. What is absolutely fascinating about this, is that the characters written for the screen were so perfectly cast that it carries through to the book.

Why did you think this was dystopic I hear you say?  Well, first of we have two world running in parallel, one hidden from the other.   Both London Above and London Below are painted in such ways that your thoughts over which is the Utopian/Dystopian world is constantly challenged.

London Above is our world or present day if you will.  Mayhew had a standard job in the city and had a pretty average life, if slightly dull.  London below is almost a literal interpretation of the landmarks of above.  There were 7 Black friars and Earl’s Court was in fact an Earl’s court on a disused tube carriage.  The people of London Below were the people who ‘slipped through the cracks’ so that the people of London Above could no longer see them.  It’s a blatant metaphor for homelessness and Neil Gaiman has cited this as his inspiration.

The beauty of the book is that it is based in London and the interpretation of well-known tube stops and sites takes your imagination somewhere you never thought would go.

In my opinion, the word Dystopia is NOT synonymous with a terrifying political regime or a totalitarian government.  It’s an alternative world where bad things are happening and more specifically related to fiction, an awakening of an individual or group that all is not what it seems and that it should be fought against.  I get this from this book.

Again, this was a controversial issue within the group.  Was this or was this not dystopic?  It is very fair to say that everyone loved the book, the story and its ultimate message about the people who slip through the cracks.  It’s uplifting, thought provoking and poignant yet funny, fast-paced and exciting.  You often forget that it’s a grown up book as you do picture yourself as child travelling through London and seeing things for the first time.

The Book scored 7.6 out of 10

Here’s what the group had to say

Rokas“I loved the book, but it’s not dystopian.  To be dystopian it needs to have a political element which it did not.  6 out of 10” (there were some very emphatic hand gestures here to demonstrate how political this needed to be)

Sam W“Best book I’ve ever read for either the Dystopic Meetings or the Post-Apocalyptic.  As easy to read as Stephen King but with more substance.  Great characters, witty plot twists. 9.5 out of 10” (high praise!)

Michelle“I just really like the fantastical elements of this book.  It is very visual.  It’s not dystopic though. 9 out of 10”

Abe“I was a bit worried I was bagging this book a bit much.  I really did enjoy reading it and I wouldn’t have picked it myself.  6.5 out of 10” (I’m going to have to stop allowing half marks!)

Originally Posted July 2011

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