Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Prologue - Chapter 5
Stainless Steel Droppings.
In full disclosure, I admit that couldn't stop reading this book at Chapter 5 and ended up reading straight through to the end. I loved it and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. There is one thing--an unaddressed question that nagged me for maybe the last third of the book that keeps me from giving it five stars. I'm hoping other readers can help me understand that inconsistency later in our book discussion of the last chapter set. Maybe I missed something. Anyway, the discussion questions below and my answers do not reveal any spoilers past Chapter 5 in Neverwhere. Actually, they don't reveal much of anything about the specifics of the plot, so even if you haven't read Neverwhere, it's still pretty safe to read.
1. What do you think of our two villains thus far, Messrs. Croup and Vandemar?
My first impression of Messers. Croup and Vandemar was that they were a sinister version of Abbot and Costello. I picture their physical appearances to be very different, but their airs quite similar. In my imagination, Croup and Vandemar have this classic retro villain style to them in looks and in their behavior. Their actions and conversations are almost comical, but they're SO sinister and downright creepy that instead of laughing, you end up cringing and fighting the urge to vomit instead. Okay maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much! They're sly and creepy and enjoy gory things way too much. I would not want to bump into them in London Below, London Above or anywhere for that matter.. but they sure do make Neverwhere p-r-e-t-t-y interesting...
2. Thus far we've had a small taste of London Below and of the people who inhabit it. What do you think of this world, this space that lies within or somewhat overlaps the space the "real world" occupies?
London Below is a fascinating place both physically and conceptually. I suppose for the most part, London Below might just look like abandoned train or sewer tunnels, but somehow Gaiman paints it in a light that's a bit more magical than that. I suppose the people who inhabit London Below bring it to life with their different histories, talents and ambitions. Overall, though, I find London Below to be a rather melancholy place.
3. What ideas or themes are you seeing in these first 5 chapters of Neverwhere? Are there any that you are particularly drawn to?
I definitely see the theme of "finding your true self" going on with our protagonist, Richard Mayhew. He thinks he's on the path he's supposed to be on.. he's got good job, a beautiful fiancee--all leading him to a desirable future. But we all know that's not what life is all about, right? All of a sudden Richard gets thrown down a new path--a frightening one, one he doesn't want and you can't help but wonder and HOPE that this might just turn out to the best thing that's ever happened to him. Maybe he'll find himself along the way this time. If he doesn't get himself killed, that is!
4. We've met a number of secondary characters in the novel, who has grabbed your attention and why?
The marquis de Carabas has grabbed my attention for sure because I can't quite figure him out! Who is he to Door? And is he really looking out for her best interests? Can he be trusted? I really want to trust him, but I can't shake this feeling that he would betray his own mother without batting an eyelid!
I also really liked Anaesthesia and was rather upset over what happened to her on the Bridge.
5. As you consider the Floating Market, what kind of things does your imagination conjure up? What would you hope to find, or what would you be looking for, at the Market?
Oh, I imagine a strange myriad of items for sale or trade at the Floating Market including strange, unidentifiable edibles, unusual trinkets from times past, articles of clothing... anything really. If I were at the Floating Market, perhaps I would look to purchase a small piece of jewelry--an unique ring, bracelet or locket of some sort, by which to remember my trip.
6. If you haven't already answered it in the questions above, what are your overall impressions of the book to this point?
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first several chapters of Neverwhere and actually found it difficult to stop reading it... so I finished it! :)
Discussion questions and answers for Chapter 6 through Chapter 12 will be posted Monday, May 28th.
Want to join in on the read along? Grab a copy of Neverwhere and dig in!
Be sure to visit the sign up page HERE and let Carl know you're on board.
The Marquis de Carabas is a puzzlement. Why did Door contact him for help and what is their past connection?ReplyDelete
Exactly! I feel like we need to know their past connection so we can decide if we can trust him or not.Delete
I also wonder how and why Door chose de Carabas. He doesn't comfort her over her loss, but he does help her unravel a piece of the puzzle. The first time I read the book, i remember being a bit confused by him, trying to figure out if he was on Door's side or just after something for himself.ReplyDelete
He seems to be some sort of mercenary, although I wonder what favor he will want from Door in return for all his help.Delete
I agree nrlymrtl and Sue CCCP. de Carabas is helpful, but there's definitely a vibe of nothing comes for nothing.. so what's in it for him? I want Door to be more concerned about it, too, but she seems not to worry about him or his motives so much. Seems a little risky.Delete
I'm with you on the marquis de Carabas ... don't know whether to trust him or not, but I'm feeling better now that Hunter is hooked up with the marquis and Door (and Richard). I somehow feel that Hunter and the marquis balance each other out ... and I trust Hunter. Gosh I hope my gut feeling is spot on as faras she goes!ReplyDelete
Oh yes, me too! My feeling is that the Marquis is really out for himself, and if his interests and Door's don't coincide, then there will be trouble. Funny how we instantly (instinctively?) trust Hunter though...Delete
I'm intrigued by the inconsistency you mention, Christine, and wonder if I'll spot it!
Susan... Hunter does come across as much more straightforward doesn't she? And who couldn't use a kick ass Hunter on their side, right?Delete
Geranium Ca.. It is interesting how we trust Hunter yet feel the Marquis is sketchy. I guess it's because she's so straightforward and he's so elusive.
I don't know if "inconsistency" is the right word.. more that something doesn't add up to me regarding someone's motives and their actions to get what they want. It doesn't make sense to me. But like I said in my post.. maybe I just missed something or maybe it doesn't HAVE to make perfect sense, but it did give me pause. I'll bring it up in Part 3 discussion for sure.
Poor Anesthesia... her name made me laugh, and I was sad to see her vanish like that.ReplyDelete
bookswithoutanypictures... I was tickled by the name Anaesthesia, too. I like how Gaiman gave such well suited names to his characters. She did have a calming effect on Richard, after all.Delete
Now I'm wondering what the inconsistency is that you noticed and whether or not I missed something. Odd how that works both ways...ReplyDelete
logankstewart.. As I stated above in my reply to Geranium Cat, the inconsistency that bugs me is a gap in someone's motives and actions. I don't quite understand it.. hopefully you guys can all help me figure it out when we get to that part of the story.Delete
I can understand not wanting to put the book down. Gaiman's novels always seem to draw me in and not want to let go.ReplyDelete
I loved the Abbott and Costello comparison. It hadn't occurred to me but now that you say it, I will probably see those two along those lines when I read further.
nashvillebookworm... I don't know where that Abbott and Costello comparison came from, but I just "saw" it. They almost have this slapstick sort of mannerism.. but totally creepy instead of silly.Delete
I'm looking forward to reading more Gaiman novels, that's for sure! :)
Ah, a sinister version of Abbot and Costello! That is too fun! I can see that, I really can.ReplyDelete
There is certainly a melancholy air to London Below, at least of that we've seen thus far. I think it has the potential to change depending on how one looks at how the story unfolds. But given the fact that in the world of this novel those are "real" people living that way, people whom the world above ignores, it is very sad.
The Marquis is a slippery one to be sure, hard to get a handle on him. I definitely consider him a character who looks out for himself first and would be clever enough to give you what you asked for and yet somehow get one over on you at the same time.
I love that you were so taken with the book that you had to keep reading. I know the feeling. And I think a 4.5/5 is a very fair assessment. I know the book has some flaws, but it is a cherished story for me all the same.
Carl V. .. You know, I maintain that London Below feels melancholy to me throughout the whole novel, yet the people who live there aren't so sad. For the most part they seem to be pretty accepting of their world and pretty content to be living in it.Delete
The Marquis is definitely slippery! I think it wise to keep one eye open around him, for sure.
Thought you all might be interested to know Neil Gaiman recently gave an inspirational speech at The University of Arts 2012 graduation. I found this link via @DelRaySpectra on twitter and clicked to it, thinking I'd listen to a minute or two. I ended up listening to the whole thing. I guess once I start something with Gaiman I finish it! ha!ReplyDelete
Here's the link: http://vimeo.com/42372767
It's a great speech.
So, a book I should read at some point? *grin*ReplyDelete
orannia.. I say yes. Add it to the library queue. OR .. you read the next Gaiman book on my list WITH me and we can discuss. Stardust perhaps?Delete
I loved that you aren't the first person I've seen who just couldn't help but keep reading. Awesome! I love your idea of finding your true self -- what an awesome theme and spot on! I'm laughing because so many of us find Croup and Vandemar such interesting characters -- I thought of Laurel & Hardy, you thought Abbot and Costello and someone mentioned Tweedle Dee/Dum. Too funny.ReplyDelete
I totally agree that Hunter is Gina Torres --- thanks for commenting on my blog!
Amanda.. I guess it's a testament to Gaiman's characterizations that we all kind of saw the same "comical but NOT" in Croup and Vandemar.Delete
Thanks for commenting back! ;)
Christine, I agree with you that despite established career and beautiful fiancee, Richard was not following his true path. What I like about what Gaiman did was that Richard himself opened the door (so to speak) to his true destiny. No deus ex machina here, thank goodness!ReplyDelete
Deb Atwood... Yes! I like that Richard opened his own door to his future as well. Even if he is rather spooked by this path into London Below, it is his own path.Delete
Your description of Croup and Vandemar is perfect! They do kinda make me want to throw up, but they're so comical, too! I'm almost afraid to laugh at them, though. I'm pretty sure they'd kill me if they knew . . .ReplyDelete
The Marquis de Carabas is such a puzzle, isn't he? I want to know more about his backstory and why Door trusts him.
Emily ... Yeah, Croup and Vandemar would kill us for laughing at them for sure!Delete
I'm not too trusting of marquis de Carabas...he always seems to want something for the things he does and that makes me very nervous. People like that aren't very faithful.ReplyDelete
I like your concept that Richard is on a quest to find himself and to see what he's really made up. In London Above, not too many people believe in him, including himself. And yes, let's hope he doesn't get killed.
I'm looking forward to the next set of questions.
TBM..You're right. Not too many people at all believe in Richard in London Above. I think he needs someone to believe in him. I think Door has the potential to believe in him. In fact, she already does in a way since he helped her when she needed someone and she was earnestly appreciative of him.Delete
"Classic retro villain style"? That's perfect, that is.ReplyDelete
I absolutely love the Marquis, and part of the reson why was because he offered the most challenge in the book. I couldn't figure him out for the most part. Even though my instincts turned out to be right, I'd love to spend a day inside his head just trying to understand what goes on in there.
Tanya.. I'm enjoying the Marquis' character too. He certainly has secrets and keeps the reader on his/her toes!Delete
Christine, first of all thank you for visiting my blog.ReplyDelete
I have to say I agree with most of what you've written, except Croup and Vandemar -- surely London Below would be pretty interesting even without them, yes?
Scribacchina.. Thank you for the return visit! :)Delete
Oh London Below would definitely be interesting with or without Croup and Vandemar. But in this story? They are the comic relief AND horror all rolled up into one. A pretty unique and interesting entity!