Varney took a step back: a mistake. There was a knife at his temple, the point of the blade next to his eye.I first read Neverwhere around the time that the TV series was broadcast in 1996, though it was years before I actually saw it. I am eagerly anticipating the star-studded radio version which apparently will be out in the next few weeks. (The contrast in star level between the 1996 and 2013 broadcasts is an indicator of just how much Gaiman's profile has risen in the meantime.)
"Further movements are not recommended," said Mr. Croup, helpfully. "Mister Vandemar might have a little accident with his old toad-sticker. Most accidents do occur in the home. Is that not so, Mister Vandemar?"
"I don't trust statistics," said Mr. Vandemar's blank voice.
The basic concept is superb, that there is a parallel London where there is a real Angel Islington, where the sinister Black Friars guard a secret, where Old Bailey and the Earl of Earl's Court and Night's Bridge all have their realities. London is a city which exercises a strong fascination, with its layers of history, architecture and literature, and Gaiman - who is very comfortable writing about slipping between our world and Elsewhere - is on a winner by exploring that. The descriptive passages are excellent, both in terms of attention to detail and atmosphere; one can practically smell Earl's Court in its decrepit nightmare Tube carriage.
However, this is minor Gaiman. It was his first solo novel - and novels are not his forte. It is an adaptation of quite a visual script. The plot, a basic quest runaround complete with a sudden yet inevitable betrayal, doesn't really match the excellence of the setting. And I found the most memorable characters to be the sinister Croup and Vandemar, themselves based presumably on Oak and Quill from the Doctor Who story Fury from the Deep, but realised much better as a concept in the single character of the Man Jack in The Graveyard Book. Of the good guys, the most interesting is the Marquis de Carabas (memorably played by Paterson Joseph in the original TV series) and the nominal protagonists are rather flat on the page. It is entertaining enough, but not the top rank.
Scrapes through the Bechdel test with a conversation between Door, Hunter and Serpentine on pages 167-168 where they all ignore Richard and talk about each other.