by Neil Gaiman
Discussed September 2006
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

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by Brenda Krekeler

by Neil Gaiman

By Neil Gaiman

Richard Mayhew had a going away party in Scotland. He got drunk, stepped outside in the rain and an old woman gave him advice. “Stay away from doors. It begins with doors.” He gave her a large white umbrella with London’s underground map on it. Richard returned to the party, drank some more and the next morning left for London with a hangover.

Three Years Latter
Mr. Vandemar was always hungry and taller than Mr. Croup. They sent Mr. Ross ahead of them and the girl who thought she was safe killed Ross but was pursued by Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup.

Richard had been in London for three years. For the last two years he had been dating a sophisticate-control freak. He forgot to make reservations for Jessica and her boss and he was in trouble now. Rushing out of his office he had to sign out to allow the doors to open.

The girl ran and Mr. Croup could smell the blood drops she left behind from the shoulder wound she had received from Ross’s knife.

Richard made it to his apartment and changed his clothes and met Jessica downstairs.

Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup were close to the girl. She was spent but she tried to open a door. Jessica and Richard were rushing down the street. A door opened in front of them and a girl collapsed out of the doorway. Jessica stepped over her like she didn’t see her. Richard picked up the girl to take her to his apartment. Jessica said if he left to take care of the girl their engagement was ended. Richard thought the only option was to take care of the girl. The girl opened Richard’s locked apartment door simply by touching it. She begged him not to call the police or doctor. He wrapped her arm and she fell asleep on his bed. In the morning the girl woke and Richard put a bandage on her arm. The knock on the door was Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup. They forced their way into the apartment searching for their fictitious sister who had run away. Their search did not reveal the girl and Richard was very scared. Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup left. The girl’s name was Door. She talked to a pigeon and eventually a rat showed up with a message. The message was directions for Richard to meet the marquis de Carabas. Door’s request to de Carabas was to get her back home with a bodyguard and she would owe him a really big favor. De Carabas opened a manhole lid and sent Richard down and told him not to ask questions. De Carabas and Richard obtained a silver box from someone who owed de Carabas a favor. De Carabas and Richard came back through a closet door in Richard’s building. Door apologized to Richard for the inconvenience she had caused and also thanked him. Then Door and de Cabaras disappeared.

Richard went to work and no one knew him. He went to Jessica’s and she hardly remembered his name. He went home and they were leasing his apartment with items still in it. No one could even see him. He packed a few things and went to the ATM machine to get money but his card wasn’t recognized. He asked a street person if he knew Door or about the Floating Market. He was taken below the city to the rat people.

Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup got a phone call from their employer. They were staying in an abandoned hospital. There were told not to kill Door. One of them had put a knife through the other’s hand. And by rubbing and spitting on the wound, it healed.

Richard was introduced to the Lord Rat. Everyone bowed to Lord Rat. Richard was given permission by Lord Rat’s speaker (who was human) that he was to be escorted to the Market.

Door relived her experience of finding here family dead inside the house of no doors. They should have been safe. De Carabas was with Door in her father’s house of no doors. They were inspecting her father’s study where he dictated the secrets of where all the rooms were located. The rooms were all over the city on the underside.

Richard’s escort was the rat speaker. Her name was Anaesthesia. Anaesthesia explained that she had become homeless when she was eleven years old. She became very ill and the rat found her and took care of her. Anaesthesia explained to Richard that a person can only exist in Above London or in Below London. One cannot exist in both places.

De Carabas was in Lord Portico’s (Door’s father) study for the first time. Door found her father’s journal and gave it to de Carabas.

Anaesthesia told Richard the Floating Market would be at the Knight’s Bridge.

Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup hired Varney to become Door’s body guard. Varney was to give her up to them upon their instruction.

Door’s father’s journal told her to go to the angel Islington.

Richard and Anaesthesia met a lady dressed in leather before they crossed Knight’s Bridge. As Anaesthesia led Richard through the dark Bridge to the market, she disappeared. Only Richard and the lady in leather made it over the Bridge. Richard soon forgot Anaesthesia’s name. Richard found some food in exchange for a pen at the Market. He ran into Old Bailey who knew Door and de Carabas. After Richard gave him a dirty handkerchief, Old Bailey told him where Door was. Richard found Door interviewing body guards. She was not happy to see Richard. Hunter won the position of body guard. As it turns out, Hunter was the woman dressed in leather that helped Richard cross Knight’s Bridge. The market dismantled quickly.

Outside on wet London streets, Richard asked about how he could get his real life back. Door said she was sorry but that traveling with them was not the way. The marquis de Carabas told Richard there is the London Above and the London Below – the Underside – inhabited by the people who fell through the cracks in the world. De Carabas told Richard he will have to make the best of it down here in the sewers, the magic and the dark. Door and the marquis left Richard alone in the dark and he cried.

Varney who was supposed to become Door’s body guard failed when Hunter bested him. Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup hunted Varney down. Mr. Croup fell upon Varney with teeth and talons. So much blood but Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup drank it all up so only to leave a small stain.

Door couldn’t leave Richard. They, Door, Hunter and de Carabas came back for him. Richard asked what they were looking for and Door said initially they needed to find an angel named Islington.

Islington has existed for tens of thousands of years. He walked through the Great Hall to get pure water. As he walked through the Hall candles lighted at his approach.

First the three stopped at a saxophone player named Lear and requested a special train schedule. De Carabas gave Lear a tune that would make people give him money. De Carabas told him to use the tune wisely. Lear provided them with the train schedule. Next they found their train station and Richard was almost caught by the tentacle of a beast that lives between the walkway and the train in the gap.

Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup got word from their employer just to scare Door for now. They were not to kill her. Mr. Croup reminded their employer that they were killers. They hand burned the City of Troy and hand killed five popes after all.

The three found their train and even though it looked empty and dark when de Carabas knocked on the passenger door, it opened from the inside and they entered the Earl’s Court. The Earl had terrible feelings toward de Carabas and forced him to leave the train. Door explained to the Earl that she wanted to understand what happened to her father so she could protect herself.

After de Carabas was kicked off the train and out of the Earl’s Court he found Lear the saxophone player and rescued him from a mob of people who were trying to give him money. De Carabas had warned him to be careful with the use of the tune. By saving Lear from the mob, de Carabas earned a favor from Lear.

The Earl gave Door directions on how to find the angel Islington. The Earl dropped them at the British Museum Station. Richard knew there was not a British Museum Station.

De Carabas met with Old Bailey to see if he recognized the stone carved creature de Carabas had taken from Portico’s office. Old Bailey said it was an underground creature that lived in the sewers. It was an old and nasty beast.

Hunter, Door’s body guard, could not go to the London Above. She stayed in London Below while Door and Richard made their way to a storage area of the British Museum. They ran into Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup who told them they could find them anytime because there was a traitor among them. Door and Richard ran and got in line to the British Museum. No one noticed them or paid any attention. They found a large room where a party was being held for an opening exhibition. The exhibition had hundreds of angels on display. Door ate a lot of food – no one noticed – as she searched for an angel to get entrance to find Islington. Richard ran into Jessica who was managing the event. At the reception they uncovered a huge cathedral door that had an angel on it. Door grabbed Richard’s hand. With only a touch from Door’s hand they walked through the cathedral door into the hall where Islington greeted them.

De Carabas met with Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup in person under the hospital.

The angel served wine given to him by Door’s ancestor’s thirty to forty thousand years ago from Atlantis. Islington told them the Black Friars are custodians of a key. Door was to obtain the key from the Black Friars and bring it to Islington. Once the task was complete Door would have her answers about the deaths in her family and Richard would know how to return to his real life. Then Door and Richard found themselves back in the British Museum.

De Carabas wanted to know who hired Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup to kill Portico. Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup said “their employer.” De Carabas gave them a T’ang Dynasty statue as payment for their information. Mr. Croup chewed up the priceless statue. De Carabas requested an hour’s head start before they started hunting him. But Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup did not keep their word. Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup chased de Carabas, knocked him out and dragged him off.

Hunter had taken Door and Richard to Serpentine’s place. Serpentine was one of Hunter’s previous employers. Door and Richard had a terrible hangover from the wine Islington had given them. At Serpentine’s place they were fed and made to feel better.

Old Bailey knew the marquis de Carabas was in real trouble because the silver box that de Carabas had entrusted to him was flashing red lights.

Everyone had a quest. Hunter’s was for the Great Beast of London Below. She said she had slain the beast of Calcutta, New York and Berlin. The three came into a thick yellow fog. Door explained it is the fog of old times.

At the Black Friars the abbot was waiting for the pilgrims. He was blind.

A Monk guarded the bridge to the Black Friars. Hunter had to fight him and she won. Door answered a riddle and Richard must now meet an ordeal to obtain the key for Islington.

Mr. Vandemar and Mr. Croup had de Carabas nailed crucifixion style. His wrists and feet were painful.

Richard entered the room where his ordeal waited. The Monks concluded he would be dead in two hours or left in pieces where he would not be really alive.

Richard found himself in the Black Friar’s Station and he was told by images of himself and Jessica that he had suffered a nervous breakdown three weeks ago. Now he was closer to sanity and reality than he had been for three weeks. Richard rejected this and remembered the ordeal he had to complete to obtain the key. He fought disorientation and ghosts of himself and Jessica. He did not go for one of his trolls that had fallen on the railroad tracks. A train came in with all kinds of dead corpses. He walked onto the train. When he woke up he saw the key and the Monks. He grabbed the key, asked for tea and had survived the ordeal. Reunited with Door and Hunter they left with many thanks to the Friars.

Islington was the employer of Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar. Islington called them and told them to keep Door safe as she has the key for him. Islington said it was ok to kill de Carabas. He was already dead.

The rats told Old Bailey about de Carabas’s death and Old Bailey gathered some items including the silver box, pocketed the rat and jumped over the side of the building.

The Sewer Folk dragged in de Carabas’s body and emptied the pockets. Now they had something of value to sell at the market tonight.

Old Bailey purchased de Carabas’s corpse from the Sewer Folk. Old Bailey placed the corpse on top of the Old London Wall and set the silver box on de Carabas’s chest. He flicked it open and broke and egg-like object. There was a terrible wind and then silence. De Carabas was alive again. He explained to Old Bailey that he had to die to get information about what is happening involving Door.

Lamia, a Velvet, joined the three as their guide to the end of Down Street and ultimately to reach Islington. They left the market before de Carabas made it there.

Lamia led them to an elevator down into a well and then they had to go down Down Street. Lamia held Richard behind and kissed him. She was sucking the life out of him. The marquis de Carabas strangled her and made her give back Richard’s life. Lamia ran away. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar laid in wait and Richard ran to warn Door and Hunter. He was too late. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar tied Door’s hands and Hunter kicked Richard in the stomach. Richard was sickened by Hunter’s betrayal. Hunter’s payment for her betrayal was a five foot spear to kill the London Beast. De Carabas came up with an arrow pointed at Hunter and she laid down the spear. Richard hobbled up on the spear and all three went down Down Street to the one behind this whole mess, to see Islington.

Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar took Door and told her they were going to deliver her safely to Islington. De Carabas told Hunter they had reached the end of Down Street and here was the labyrinth. This is where the Beast lives. Hunter told Richard that Islington is in a prison where he cannot leave. Hunter, Richard and de Carabas went into the labyrinth to face the Beast. The labyrinth was the oldest place in London Below. Door tried to attract the Beast by yelling but Mr. Vandemar put an historical handkerchief in her mouth. The marsh contained corpses and skeletons. The marquis punctured his heel on a rib bone and fell losing the little black statue that was guiding them through the labyrinth. The Beast galloped upon them. It had all kinds of swords, knives, and spears sticking out of it. The London Below Beast had red eyes, tusks and hooves. It was the size of an elephant. The Beast charged Hunter. Hunter’s aim was off a fraction and the Beast opened her side with its tusk and stomped on her. The Beast was gone in a flash.

Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar brought Door to Islington.

Hunter told Richard how to hold the spear and the Beast attacked. Richard speared it and it fell on Hunter. Richard rolled the beast off Hunter and she told him to taste the blood of the Beast on his tongue and put its blood in his eyes. Hunter died. Richard cried and ran on to Door leaving de Carabas to follow.

Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar were with Islington and Door when Richard arrived. Door was strung up between pillars. Mr. Croup broke Richard’s finger and then Mr. Croup disappeared. Mr. Croup returned with de Carabas in tow. Islington forced Door to open his door to freedom by having Mr. Croup cut Richard’s ear. Door agreed and opened a door with great white and purple light. Wind sucked Islington, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar into hell and the door closed. Richard, Door and de Carabas went to sleep.

Serpentine, Hunter’s old employer, came and retrieved Hunter’s body and took the spear.

Richard woke up at the Black Friars. As it turns out Richard had the real key in his pocket after Door had made a copy at the market. The Friars explained that Richard could go back home. After all he was the Warrior now and he held the real key. It was the key to all reality. The Monks took Richard to a train station after Door gave him a paper of instructions. Richard got on the train where the Earl declared his freedom from the London Below by tapping his shoulders with Hunter’s knife. Richard got off the train and the depot’s location looked like London but before there was a city. Door appeared next to him and she asked him to stay. He told her his desire was to go home and Door turned the key. Richard blacked out.

When he awoke he started to walk upward and heard loud traffic. He was in Trafalgar Square and he was recognized and seen by people – no longer invisible. Richard got a taxi and went to his office. There he discovered that he had been on vacation in Majorca and had become a Junior Partner in his absence. He went home finding his apartment rented to someone else. He found the landlord and received the Pent House as new living accommodations. They returned most of his personal possessions. But he only unpackaged his clothes. At his office, Jessica came by and gave him the engagement ring. He returned it to her and said he was sorry. Richard explained that he had not met someone else but that he had just changed.

Richard went out with friends from work to a show and out for drinks. He became overwhelmed with apathy and walked the streets. He took out Hunter’s knife and carved a door shape on a brick wall. Richard screamed for someone to let him in. De Carabas appeared and asked Richard if he was coming. Richard followed de Carabas through the door.


Book Reviews

by Brenda Krekeler
Neverwhere is a delightful adult fairy tale. Once you accept the concept of another world existing Below London, the adventure is a buddy trip/friend’s great adventure. The characters are fiendishly evil to wonderfully charismatic and generous. It is a tale of growing up and discovery of the essence of life. It is about learning the true definition for life for one human traveler. The adventures are fabulously creative and the elaborate places that are created for the back drop of the story are fascinating. As a reader and a believer you will experience the coldness of trickery and the warmth of family. You will find fear when horrified and the relief of success and the fulfillment of accomplishment. Neverwhere is an adventure through dangerous traps and traitors in a search to establish one’s life’s meaning. A great ride!