Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Having read Gaiman’s graphic novel, Coraline, I was eager to dig into his adult fantasy, Neverwhere, but as I moved through this book, I kept experiencing déjà vu. I began rooting through my old paperbacks and found that I had read Neverwhere when it was first published in 1996. I felt good knowing this wasn’t a flashback like having a purple pony dance on your pillow. Not that I would know anything about that. It did happen to a friend of mine, though.

ANYWAY . . .

This is the story of Richard Mayhew, a young businessman in London, who has a good job, a grand heart, and a fiancé who rules him with an iron fist. It is also the story of London Above, London Below, and a girl named Door. (Dragon note: one day I’d like to know about Mr. Gaiman’s fixation with doors . . .)

On his way to dinner with his fiancé, Richard comes across an injured girl lying in the street, and though his fiancé demands that they leave the girl alone, Richard helps her by taking her to his apartment. When she awakens, she tells Richard that her name is Door and that he must find the marquis de Carabas, who owes her a favor and will take care of her. What she doesn’t tell Richard is that her family has been murdered, and that two of the most entertaining villains that I’ve had the good fortune to read are hot on her trail – Mister Croup and Mister Vandemar, who live by the motto: “Things to do. People to damage.”

Unfortunately, after his contact with the marquis and Door, Richard suddenly ceases to exist in London Above. Richard embarks on a trip to London Below where he hopes to find the secret that will allow him to return to his normal life in London Above, but London Below is a place fraught with magic and intrigue. Joining the marquis and Door in their hunt for the killers of Door’s family and pursued by the vicious Croup and Vandemar, Richard struggles to understand himself and the strange new world he inhabits.

Gaiman gives us a wonderful romp with delightful characters. At times laugh out loud funny, poignant, and just plain fun, Neverwhere takes the reader on a wild ride through London Below where nothing is sacred, neither angels nor death.

My Rating:    

College Girl by Patricia Weitz

Shy and awkward Natalie Bloom arrives at UConn, her dream school, as a junior after attending community college for two years.  The youngest of seven children, Natalie is the first in her family to seek a higher education.  Majoring in Russian history, Natalie spends literally all of her time in class or in the library studying, and just as studiously avoiding social contact with her fellow students.

One day she meets tall, handsome Patrick in the library (where else??) and soon she’s on her way to her first romance.  If you can call it that.  Patrick is interested in Natalie at first, but soon it becomes obvious that he is using her for sex and is really quite contemptuous of her modest circumstances and her blue collar upbringing.  Natalie remains awkward and uncertain, and it’s literally uncomfortable watching her spiral downward as she gets wrapped up in Patrick and loses her focus on school.

If you’ve ever been the one at school that hangs around on the periphery and never quite feels like you fit in, then you may well relate to Natalie.  I think her character was believeable to anyone who has been to college and struggled to find their way.  The other characters in the book were fairly one-dimensional and interchangeable and I never really understood why Natalie’s family, especially her six older brothers, treated her so badly.  A subplot focusing on the suicide of one of Natalie’s brothers when she was a child and how it affected her later wasn’t really fleshed out as well as it might have been either.

My Rating: 

The Vampire: A Casebook edited by Alan Dundes

Before I begin this review, let me say that all fans of either Bill – whose name is pronounced while simultaneously trilling like an idiot and shivering – or Edward Cullen – whose name is pronounced while sighing dreamily and simultaneously shivering – may stop reading here.  This review is for serious Wild Things. Adolescents who require their vampires spoon-fed to them with sugar, spice, and all things nice need not apply.

Well? All right. Now that the children are gone, the Dragon brings you goodies from she personal collection (hehe).

Alan Dundes (1934-2005) was an internationally known folklorist, who at one time was the professor of anthropology and folklore at the University of California, Berkeley. With The Vampire, he brought together a scholarly collection of eleven essays on vampires that will enlighten you and chill your blood. This informative book begins with an essay on the etymology of vampire by Katharina M. Wilson. The following essays depict the Slavic folklore that sent the vampire cult spreading throughout Eastern Europe and into the West. Vampire tales from Romania, Serbia, and Greece are graphically detailed with legends about this dread revenant.

For example: Did you know that vampires can turn into butterflies, not bats? A stake doesn’t kill a vampire; the Hawthorne stake pins the vampire to their grave so they can wander no more. Within these pages you will find the difference between living vampires and dead vampires, the strigoi and the moroii, in addition to acquiring fascinating insight into death customs of Eastern Europe that prevailed into the early twentieth century.

Untainted by popular cultural misinformation, this slim book is a fascinating journey into the vampire. In the final essay, Dundes, who confesses a definite Freudian bias, attempts to interpret the vampire legend with “The Vampire as Bloodthirsty Revenant: A Psychoanalytic Post Mortem.”

In bringing this magnificent nightmare to life, Dundes has given us a penetrating examination of the vampire, and if we look hard enough, insight into our own fears of death and dying.

 

My Rating: