You know those books that you want to read and you want to like? Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere has been one of those for me. I first picked this up probably almost a decade ago with every intention of reading it. Honestly. I was going to read this book. Except I wasn't into it, and put it down. Then I watched (and read) Stardust and loved it and simply had to give Neverwhere another try. Except I just couldn't do it. Couldn't get excited.
Finally American Gods did me in. The book was so amazing, and I loved Gaiman's imagination and writing style and it just seemed obvious that if I could just get started I would enjoy Neverwhere. Plus I had the damn book sitting around, it was obvious that I just needed to read the thing. I also have the mini series waiting on the computer to be watched, and am now even more excited about it than I was before. (We went on some series binges that prevented me from watching, and racing is back. Dangerous.)
So I did.
I'm not sure why I had so much trouble with it before. Certainly Gaiman's style isn't as developed as with his later works and maybe the pacing could have used some work ... but the book is beautifully written. The atmosphere is palpable, the use of metaphor is so extensive that it becomes a natural part of the storytelling. It's a bit myth, a bit fantasy, a bit of reliance on fictional archetypes and a whole lot of good.
Really the only issue here is just how long it takes to get going. It's just a touch too much set up, even though it's all important to the story. Once the story gets going, though? Watch out.