Richard Mayhew, Neil Gaiman's cleverly conceived hero in Neverwhere, is everyone's idea of a dull, milquetoast Englishman. He has a moderately good job at a generic London firm, a driven and demanding fiancee, and a neat and unremarkable apartment. All in all, he's a decent sort. When he almost literally stumbles over a girl bleeding on the sidewalk, he naturally stops to help her, and finds his life changed. He's now invisible, it seems, to almost everybody. People who recognize Gaiman's name from the excellent Sandman comics series will be pleased with the imagination of this impressive book; Gaiman has a talent for interfacing the mundane and the fantastic. Unlike many comic writers, his talent has translated perfectly to his first novel. As Mayhew descends into the strange, subterranean mirror-London where the strange girl lives—where odd creatures fight for control of a strange underworld, and where the girl is a princess in exile—we recognize it as an extension of the creepy basements of our childhood. The story provides a similarly well-crafted mix of new and familiar. Of course, the girl is forced to grow up and assume responsibility before she wants to, and Mayhew realizes some hidden potential trapped within himself to save her. But the way Gaiman makes it happen is clever and vastly entertaining. Neverwhere is a masterful, well-rounded story, and best of all, it's not quite like anything else out there.

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