What an amazingly creative story Gaiman has written! A product of a profoundly gifted imagination, it will captivate readers who enjoy a bit of fantasy, a bit of science fiction. There are anthropomorphic creatures, monsters, and angels. There are characters whose names are symbolic of their special talent as in Lord Portico and his offspring, Door. There is pure evil as in Mr. Croup and his sidekick, Vandemar. Even the seemingly good characters have a touch of the “bad” in them. There is a fabulous character named Hunter, and she is aptly named. There is even an angel, Islington. The story seems to take place neither in the past, nor the present, nor the future. There are dreams and nightmares which exist in a time that seems outside of time. The locale seems to be around London, in Great Britain, but not a London we would recognize. Some of the characters live above in the world, and some live down under, below the world, in the underground.
Richard Mayhew is a retiring young man engaged to a woman of a much stronger personality. One evening, he is on the way to a dinner with her boss when he finds a wounded young woman lying on the street. Against the wishes of Jessica, his fiancée, he abandons her and blows off the dinner, instead carrying the injured woman home to his apartment, hoping to help her. This sets an entire adventure into motion, and it will take the reader on a journey that will constantly twist and turn with tension and humor, lightness and gravity.
The young woman’s name is Lady Door. Her family has recently been murdered by evil people. Door wants to find out who they are and avenge the brutal and senseless murders. Because Richard helped her, he has inexplicably become involved in her quest. He no longer exists in his world, above ground, and he is forced to seek Door, once again, in her world, which is part of the Underground.
There is a good deal of foreshadowing and no shortage of predictions which sometimes come true. Magic is often afoot. Many of the characters have special talents. Many are flawed characters who develop into better characters as the story progresses, and also the opposite is true; seemingly good characters have evil motives. Many scenes are brutal and violent. Gaiman’s imagination fills the book with sexual innuendo, and his creativity can run to the macabre; it is in these instances that the book loses its ability to be a crossover into the genre of Young Adult.
I recommend that the reader keep a paper and pencil handy. There are a lot of characters; notes will help keep the story straight. They are all developed well and all are fascinating. The audio, which is read very well by the author, contains some special effects. It sometimes sounds like he is in an echo chamber, and the words become difficult to interpret, but it may have been my particular audio that was at fault. As the chapters change, the background music is perfect.
Richard stepped into a world of his imagination, and he is not sure how to return to reality. The effort and experience will help him come of age and mature. He changes from his experience as he finds out the limits of his abilities, his strengths and his weaknesses. His courage, compassion, ethics, skills and intelligence will all be tested as he learns the true meaning of his life and the true nature of his desires; he learns what is truly most important to him and perhaps what should be most important to all. There is a moral lesson somewhere in here, as well.