Read in a day.
Not my first Gaiman novel, despite what I initially thought; I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane a few years ago, which I also loved. I’ve had this sitting on my bedside table for about three quarters of a year, from a workmate….
Man accidentally gets involved in things beyond his ken. Weird things are happening in the part of the world that ordinary people know nothing about. People are not all they seem. British Museum features. Prose is incredibly page-turn-y. There’s not much else to say, really.
This is a love-letter to London, in some ways, and for that reminded of China Mieville’s Kraken. There is little else of similarity, but it does amuse me to think of reading these two together as a guide to the Weird of London. It’s also, as Gaiman himself suggests, a fantastical way of pointing out the forgotten and ignored in society. There is a romantic aspect to London Below that means you maybe envy those people – but then you remember what Anaethesia experienced to get to London Below, and then what happened to her, not to mention a few others, and you realise: this is no party. London Below is a tough and unpleasant place.
The book also reminded me of Michael Scott Rohan’s Cloud Castles, Chase the Morning, and The Gates of Noon. Richard is not as unpleasant as Stephen Fisher, but there’s still the drawn-into-weird-things-against-his-will aspect, as well as the refusing-to-believe thing. I think I like Richard a bit more, though, because he’s more self-aware overall. He also reminded me of Richard Macduff, from Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Again with the bewildered thing.
By the end, all I could think was how much Richard was going to be in need of Miss West’s school for those who find their way to fairyland and then have to cope with reality (in Every Heart a Doorway).