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On Friday I had a job, a fiancee, and a life that made sense. (Well, as much as any life makes sense.) Then I found an injured girl bleeding on the pavement, and I tried to be a Good Samaritan. Now I've got no fiancee, no home, no job, and I'm walking around a couple of hundred feet under the streets of London with the projected life expectancy of a suicidal fruitfly.
There are hundreds of people in this other London. Thousands, maybe. People who come from here, or people who have fallen through the cracks. I'm wandering around with a girl called Door, her bodyguard, and her psychotic grand vizier. We slept last night in a small tunnel that Door said was once a section of Regency sewer. The bodyguard was awake when I went to sleep, and awake when they woke me up. I don't think she ever sleeps. We had fruitcake for breakfast; the marquis had a large lump of it in his pocket. Why would anyone have a large lump of fruitcake in his pocket? My shoes dried out mostly while I slept.
Neil Gaiman was asked to do a television series for the BBC. Lenny Henry helped, too. Unfortunately, they fiddled with it, and while the end result was good, it was not entirely true to Gaiman's vision. So he went home, and used his days off to write the story he wanted to tell.
It was later adapted by Mike Carey and Glenn Fabry as a miniseries for Vertigo Comics. It was not well-liked.
There's a movie coming out. It's been in Development Hell since the book was written, but someone may be digging it up...
Lancaster University Theatre Group recently performed the first stage adaptation, adapted for stage by Peter Slaney.
Tropes used in this work include:
- Above Good and Evil
- Accidental Truth
- Action Survivor: Richard by the end of the story, to the point where the Marquis would like to keep one of his bones after he dies as a good luck charm.
- A God Am I: Islington has issues.
- Affably Evil: Islington.
- Afterlife Express: An especially gruesome variant in the form of a subway car filled with the rotting corpses of suicides.
- Amazing Technicolor Population: For no real reason, the comics show Anaesthesia (an otherwise normal human, mind you) as being blue. An otherwise normal human who was born in London Above. In that same comic, the Marquis, described as having very dark skin, has solid, pitch black skin. Like Papa Lazarou.
- Ambiguous Gender: Islington, being an angel, has no biological sex.
- And the Adventure Continues...: Assuming Richard didn't just go nuts at the end.
- Animal Stereotypes: Croup and Vandemar are described as giving very clear impressions of "a fox and a wolf". The Ratspeakers are sneaky and live in the sewers with the rats they serve. Lady Serpentine is, well, serpentine. Hunter is often compared to a lioness. The Marquis de Carabas is generally described in catlike terms, even being compared to a panther at one point. And, of course, his name comes from Puss in Boots. And he has more than one life, in a fashion.
- Apothecary Alligator: In Lord Portico's study.
The stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling; the leather-bound books, an astrolabe, convex and concave mirrors, odd scientific instruments
- Arc Words: Sometimes, there's nothing you can do.
- Badass: Hunter is generally recognized to be the most badass London Belower around.
- Badass Boast: Hunter has slain the great alligator who lives in the sewers of New York, the bear that lurks beneath Berlin, and several others before going after the Beast of London.
- Bad Dreams
- Batman Gambit: Three of them. One by the Marquis, a second by Islington, and a third, anticipating the second, by Door, with help from Hammersmith.
- Belly of the Whale: The Ordeal. May overlap with Journey to the Center of the Mind.
- The Blacksmith: Hammersmith
- Blue and Orange Morality: Apparently Islington, who has "traveled so far beyond right and wrong he couldn't see them through a telescope on a nice clear night."
- Big Bad: Islington
- Book Ends
- Bodyguard Betrayal: Hunter. Bait And Switched with Varney, who we see being bought by Croup and Vandemar.
- Brains and Brawn: Croup is a sesquipedalian schemer, Vandemar is The Brute. Both of them are very skilled assassins, though.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Black Friars. In both versions.
- Bury Your Gays: The subtlety of Hunter's sexuality wasn't enough to save her from this trope, apparently.
- Butt Monkey: Richard.
- Captain Obvious : Richard Mayhew, when Door awakes. Lampshaded: he thinks about how much he hates saying obvious things, but can't help it.
- Character Name Alias: 'The Marquis de Carabas' isn't his real name - he says he got it from a "lie in a fairy tale", a reference to Puss in Boots.
- Chekhov's Gunmen : Old Bailey and Hammersmith. That's all we're sayin'.
- Comically Missing the Point: Vandemar's response to Croup's knife-throwing practice. "What's so clever about that, then? You didn't even hit one finger."
- Cool Key: The key kept by the Black Friars.
- Cool Gate
- Crazy Prepared: The Marquis always seems to have something handy available.
- Including, oddly, a large piece of fruitcake.
- Cryptic Background Reference: Shepherd's Bush and Raven's Court, among many other things.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: All the people of London Below swear by "Temple and Arch". It's never quite explained what this refers to, but it is thematically appropriate, given the deeper meanings of the other place names.
- The House of Arch is Door's family, but "Temple" is still left vague.
- Probably Temple Tube Station on the Embankment. It's not far from the Outer and Inner Temples which are the professional associations for barristers and judges in the City of London. Arch may be for Archway Tube Station or for Marble Arch.
- The House of Arch is Door's family, but "Temple" is still left vague.
- Darkness Equals Death: Night's Bridge
- Dark Is Not Evil
- Dark-Skinned Redhead: Hunter, in the book.
- Dark World: Right after Richard notices and saves Door and thus involves himself in the mess of Neverwhere, he suddenly finds that his ATM card no longer functions and people in his life act as if he was missing or never existed at all. And while a good deal of Neverwhere does take place underground, there are moments where it's clear that aboveground London has activity that's unseen by the average human being in the 'real world', especially on rooftops. Near the end, once Richard returns to the 'real world,' his ATM card is shown to function normally once more and those same people who forgot about him at the beginning recognize him and welcome him back from vacation.
- Debt Detester: The Marquis de Carabas.
- Delusions of Eloquence: Croup and Vandemar. Croup lampshades it.
- Development Hell: The Film of the Book, which may yet grace the silver screen.
- Gaiman's own follow up works - The Seven Sisters and "How the Marquis Got His Coat Back" - haven't materialized yet.
- Dissonant Serenity: Islington, most of the time.
- Dragged Off to Hell: The final fate of Islington, Croup and Vandemar.
- Dramatic Necklace Removal: Inevitably, Islington rips off the key Door had on a chain. She winces, but seems fine for all that it was made by a master blacksmith.
- Dreaming of Things to Come
- Egomaniac Hunter: Hunter.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Hunter is exactly what you might expect.
- Evil Gloating: Invoked by the Marquis, who lets himself be (temporarily) killed because he has no doubt that someone like Croup would tell him their entire plan before killing him.
- Evilly Affable: Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar. Mr. Croup even Lampshades that they may be quirky and amusing, but that doesn't stop them from being dangerous and terrifying.
- Also Islington after the reveal before his Villainous Breakdown - "I didn't kill your family, Door. I had them killed...
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: there really is a Knight's Bridge, there really is an Earl's Court, there really is an Angel Islington, etc. This is all a lot more potent if you know the station map, ie, live in London.
- Also, guess what Hunter does for a living.
- Door opens doors. And sometimes chests.
- Exact Words: In the comic, the Marquis gets Croup and Vandemar to give him an hour's Mercy Lead - except they only promise not to touch him for an hour. This doesn't mean they can't follow him, or tear a ladder off a wall while he's climbing it.
- Expy: Gaiman has said that creating the Marquis de Carabas was his opportunity to write a pseudo-Doctor character.
- Extreme Omnivore: Mr Vandemar.
- The Faceless: The Marquis de Carabas in the comics is an odd example: he has eyes and lips, but no other features, as the rest of his body is just a silhouette. He was described in the book as having extremely dark skin, and it is to be assumed the artist took it literally and gave him ink-black skin.
- Although after he gets killed and brought back to life, the ink-black is streaked in places, revealing skin of a lighter shade underneath, so it may be some kind of costume or disguise.
- Fallen Angel
- False Innocence Trick: The Angel Islington seems to be a trusted ally to the heroes and informs them that he is tasked with protecting London Below due to his previous failure to adequately defend his previous city, Atlantis. They should have asked more detail about that before helping to free him. He destroyed Atlantis because he wasn't satisfied with their worship, and he's basically a Fallen Angel in the tradition of Satan with A God Am I pretensions, aiming to storm Heaven and declare himself God.
- Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The world of London Below appears to be this, consisting of angels, giant beasts, ice vampires, people who can talk to rats, rats who can talk to people, ancient roman legions, and all kinds of crazy stuff.
- Fate Worse Than Death: What will happen if you violate the truce of the floating market also if you fail the test of the black friars, some could say the test itself implies it also
- Five-Finger Fillet: Mr Croup places his hand against a wall and throws several razor blades at it, landing in the spaces in between. Mr Vandemar is unimpressed with the fact that he missed all of them.
- Fridge Logic: In-universe- Door wonders, in a dream, who put away her father's journal after he was killed, but forgets this by the time she wakes. The answer turns out to be significant.
- Full Boar Action: The Beast of London. Other cities are stated to have similar giant animals (a bear in Berlin, an alligator in New York). Or rather, had - they're mostly mentioned in the context of Hunter having killed them.
- Gave Up Too Soon: Door agreed to meet up with the Marquis at the floating market. They could have touched him, had they known where he was. Dead. By the time he got better, they had already left.
- Glamour Failure: Islington, when asked about Atlantis.
- Grand Vizier: Richard describes the Marquis as one, as the page quote demonstrates. He's not evil, but this was definitely trope invocation (it's entirely possible London Below has someone calling themselves, or being called, a grand vizier, but the Marquis is not that someone, except in this one description.)
- Harbinger of Impending Doom: At the beginning, Door drops onto the sidewalk in front of Richard, out of nowhere and half-dead. His life abruptly gets a lot weirder.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: Opening doors. To anywhere, whether there was a door there or not. And the first way we see Door use her power is to open up an assassin's chest.
- Heel Face Turn: Hunter makes one near the end in the labyrinth.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Hunter distracts the beast in order to give Richard the opportunity to kill it. Although it's implied that she was essentially dying anyway before doing so, so this may be more of a Dying Moment of Awesome.
- Also, the marquis.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: In a weird villain example, Croup and Vandemar. Richard isn't even particularly surprised at the end when Vandemar allows himself to be sucked into the vortex at the end because Croup has already fallen in.
It made some sort of sense, Richard thought: they were a team, after all.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Malcolm Tucker is an angel!
- Home, Sweet Home
- Hot Amazon: Hunter is easily the most physically capable of the principal cast, wears leather (but not much) and is described as the most beautiful woman Richard has ever seen.
- Humanoid Abomination: Croup and Vandemar. Whatever they are, they only look human, and have the ability to cross space and time.
- I'm a Humanitarian: the exact fate of the hired thug Varney is probably best not examined too closely. Then again, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar both seem to have some Extreme Omnivore tendencies.
- Inelegant Blubbering
- It Is Dehumanizing: Averted. The narration, and most of the characters, use "it" to refer to the sexless Islington.
- Jedi Truth: Mr. Croup's claim that he, Mr. Vandemar, and Door are siblings. "All men are brothers."
- Leaving You to Find Myself: Possibly
- Light Is Not Good: Islington
- Literal Minded: Mr. Vandemar.
- Living MacGuffin: Door, due to her status as ~The President's Daughter~ and abilities.
- Living Legend: Hunter has hunted and will hunt anything.
- MacGuffin: the Black Friars' Key.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: A few hints are laid down that all of Richard's experiences in London Below might really be a huge psychotic delusion, most especially the Ordeal, but this is not given special credence.
- Meaningful Name: During the Victorian era, Henry Mayhew did an in-depth study of the darker side of "London Above". Also, the Marquis de Carabas is the fake title given by Puss in Boots to the miller's son he assists, although the character in Neverwhere has more in common with the cat than with his master, in both de Carabas' scheming and his multiple lives. The Marquis is stated to have picked his name deliberately. Realizing that the world runs on lies, he decided to become a lie, taking the name of a character whose life ran on a lie.
- "Anaesthesia" is suspiciously similar to "Anastasia", especially considering that she disappears. But she might be coming back some time after the book is over.
- Door's family, in line with their inherited ability as "Openers", all have names that suggest a door or entrance: her mother and father the Lord Portico and Lady Portia, her sister Ingress, her brother Arch.
- Lamia is named after Greek Demons which have a lot in common with vampires.
- All of the Black Friars have names related to the color black, shadows, or darkness.
- And Hunter. Guess what she does for a living...
- Mind Screw: Richard is subjected to this during their visit to the Black Friars. Arguably, he's subjected to this for most of the book.
- Mister X and Mister Y: Mister Croup and Mister Vandemar.
- The Mole: Hunter.
- Murder, Inc.: "Croup and Vandemar, the Old Firm, obstacles obliterated, nuisances eradicated, bothersome limbs removed and tutelary dentistry."
- In the comic adaptation, this tends to get abbreviated to "Croup and Vandemar, bespoke violence."
- My God, What Have I Done?: Hunter experiences this after the Beast mows her down, leading to her Heel Face Turn.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: He trusted Lamia?
- Hunter seems to have this sort of reputation in-universe - at one point the characters are each being made fun of in turn by a jester as they introduce themselves. When Hunter professes her name, everybody gets really quiet.
- Also, Serpentine. The moment Door realizes they're in her house, she goes nuts.
- New Weird
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: This is how Richard gets unpersonned.
- Odd Couple: Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are pretty much opposites, apart from their fashion sense, powers, and love of killing things.
- Oh Crap: The first indication we get that freeing Islington is not a good idea. After the trio leave the Black Friars upon winning the ordeal and the MacGuffin: 'We have lost the key. God help us, we have lost the key.'
- Only Mostly Dead: Did we mention what an awesomely Magnificent Bastard the Marquis de Carabas was? After conning the villains into killing him, gaining vital info in the process, it turns out he'd hidden his life in a box and left it with one of the supporting characters all along.
- The Only One I Trust: Old Bailey would appear to be this for the Marquis. The Marquis quite literally trusts him with his life, and rather touchingly when you consider he'd probably be better off if he didn't, Old Bailey earns it.
- Although it should be pointed out that the Marquis trusts Old Bailey not for any reason of comradeship or sentimentality, but because Old Bailey has no choice but to return the Marquis's favour. "I was a fool ..."
- Only the Worthy May Pass: The only way to get the key is to go through the Ordeal.
- Our Angels Are Different: Islington.
- Our Doors Are Different: And how!
- Our Werewolves Are Different: Possibly. Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar are described as merely "human shaped, two arms, two legs, one head" are functionally unkillable, and run on Animal Stereotypes so strongly that "the Fox and the Wolf" may not be mere nicknames. They are also not above making accomplices who fail them disappear in a flurry of teeth, claws and small knives. Borders on Our Ghouls Are Creepier and Our Demons Are Different. What they are is never made clear. Whatever they are, it ain't human.
- Our Vampires Are Different: They're called Velvets, they dress like elegant Gothic aristocrats, are apparently all women, and suck the heat out of the body of whoever's dumb enough to kiss them. The Velvets actually have a good bit in common with the Japanese yuki-onna (snow woman) folk monster, down to the freezing kiss.
- Portal Door: The Portico family's power.
- Portal Network: The "associative house" of the Portico family.
- The President's Daughter: Everyone wants a piece of Door.
- Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Richard has nightmares about the Beast of London long before he ever hears of it.
- Psycho for Hire: Croup and Vandemar.
- Red Pill, Blue Pill: Richard spends most of the story striving to find the way to get back to his old life. When he does, he regrets it.
- Red Baron: Richard gains the nickname The Warrior after killing the Beast.
- Red Herring: The end of one chapter makes it look like the Marquis will be revealed as Croup and Vandemar's employer.
- Redemption Equals Death: Hunter.
- Rescue Introduction: How Richard meets Door when he takes her home after finding her lying and bleeding on a cold London Above street.
- Rich Bitch: Jessica, although the book makes a point of noting that she does give to charity.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: "Oh, Mr Vandemar, if you cut us do we not bleed?" "... No."
- Room 101: The room the Black Friars put Richard in for "the ordeal."
- Rule of Three: Getting the key from the Black Friars requires passing three tests - and coincidentally, there are just three people in Door's party by then. Also the requirements for Islington to be freed from its prison; as Islington describes it, "A key. A door. An opener of the door. There must be the three, you see: a particularly refined sort of joke."
- Rummage Sale Reject: Door's wardrobe is described as follows:
She was dressed in a variety of clothes thrown over each other: odd clothes, dirty velvets, muddy lace, rips and holes through which other layers and styles could be seen. She looked, Richard thought, as if she'd done a midnight raid on the History of Fashion section of the Victoria and Albert museum, and was still wearing everything she'd taken.
- Somewhat averted in the comic; Door's clothing is still somewhat hodgepodge, but it's at least in some sort of noble style.
- Scenery Porn / Scenery Gorn: The TV adaptation uses London's hidden and grimy underside practically as an extra character, and has some spectacular shots of the Royal Mail tunnels, the Greathead Shield, Down Street Station, St. Pancras/Midland Grand Hotel and Bazalgette's sewers.
Mr. Croup: It is saddening to reflect that there are folk walking the streets above who will never know the beauty of these sewers, Mister Vandemar.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Okay, so it's more like "Sealed Evil in a room full of candles".
- Sequel Hook: Door's sister, who Islington left alive. Though Gaiman says he "doesn't do sequels".
- Senseless Sacrifice: the Marquis allows himself to be tortured to death (temporarily) by Croup and Vandemar, so that they will let slip info on their employer and purpose, but by the time he gets back to the rest of the characters, that particular cat is already out of the bag.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Mr Croup. To a lesser extent, the Marquis.
- Ship Tease: Richard and Door. If they do ever get together, it happens after the book is over.
- Shout-Out: "Sometimes they come back."
- "The sky was the perfect blue of a television, turned to a dead channel." - played with, since the quote in the original work was meant to evoke a grainy grey colour, but then TV Technology Marched On.
- Sinister Subway: London Below.
- Soul Jar: The box that the Marquis de Carabas gives to Old Bailey.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: What emotions do you associate with "Cheek to cheek" by Irving Berlin? Utter, utter terror? You do now.
- Spot of Tea: The Ordeal of the Key is preceded by the Nice Cup of Tea.
- Stealth Hi Bye: Mr. Croup has this as a supernatural ability in the miniseries.
- Steampunk: The way Door's father's journal works is extremely Steampunk. Other technology of London Below seems to tend toward it as well.
- Stock Unsolved Mysteries: Atlantis was destroyed by a vengeful angel, and The Lost Legion fell into a time pocket.
- Stripperific: In Neil Gaiman's audio commentary on the DVD release of the miniseries, one of his complaints is that Hunter was meant to be stripperific and she didn't turn out that way due to the aforementioned Executive Meddling.
- Straight Gay: Hunter.
- Stranger in a Familiar Land Richard realises that his old job and fiancée mean nothing to him and returns below
- Thanatos Gambit: The Marquis arranges his own death at the hands of Croup and Vandemar, in order to profit from the inevitable Evil Gloating. Subverted, though, in that the Marquis had also arranged to return from the dead afterward.
- Theme Naming: Door's family are all named after entrances to buildings (Ingress, Arch, Lord Portico and Lady Portia), the black friars are named after synonyms for black, and most of the other characters are named after buildings or neighbourhoods in London - or rather, buildings or neighborhoods in London have been named after most of the other characters.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Croup and Vandemar.
- Time Abyss: The Labyrinth of the Beast of London is said to have lain there under the site on the Thames before the legendary King Lud himself founded the first village. It was built to keep a Sealed Evil in a Can. Though the Beast only arrived in the 17th century.
- Ultimate Evil: Not a big part of the plot, but it's still pretty creepy.
Richard: There are no shepherds in Shepherd's Bush. I've been there. It's just houses and stores and roads and the BBC. That's all.
- Knightsbridge. It's a stationary nightmare in the middle of a bridge.
- Unfazed Everyman: Richard. The original Trope Namer is given a shout out with "Richardrichardmayhewdick."
- Unperson: Richard, who unwittingly causes his own disappearance through an act of kindness.
- Villainous Breakdown: Islington, when asked about the fate of Atlantis:
They deserved it!
- Wacky Wayside Tribe: London Below is apparently inhabited totally by these; the ones who fish through the sewers and have the smell to match, the various bodyguards, the "Shepherds of Shepherd's Bush", the Renfair nuts who live on the Earl's Court train...
- Meanwhile, Door herself apparently is the sole survivor of the massacre of her family because she ran into a Wacky Wayside Tribe of timelost Roman legionnaires.
- Whack a Mole: "You have a cuckoo in your nest!"
- And what a Lovable Traitor.
- Wicked Cultured: Mr. Croup's efforts to acquire an exquisite porcelain statuette look like this at first. And then he eats it with a terrifying amount of glee. Seems he just likes to destroy beautiful, precious stuff.
- Word of Gay: Or rather, word of Gaiman. Gaiman has stated that there are two gay characters among the principal cast, but has not elaborated further. Hunter is generally considered to be one of them. Hunter's dream is about her hunting a giant weasel to give the pelt to a girl who had caught her eye, and the girl is mentioned as having been "appropriately grateful". This is stated to have actually happened - it's only the particulars of the dream that differ. She also has subtext with Serpentine. A lot of fangirls really want the Marquis to be the other.
- You Can't Go Home Again
- "tutelary" = "to teach a lesson..."