Well, I started the book a fortnight ago, and by golly, I couldn't help myself. I finished the whole thing, not in one sitting, mind you, but I could have. Goodness gracious, that Gaiman sure can tell a mean story. Anyway, I'm still participating in the Group Read, but with the unique position of a first-time reader, but having already finished the darned thing before we even started.
You can check out Carl's post here with his questions. Other's'll be linked from there, I gather.
1. What do you think of our two villains thus far, Messrs. Croup and Vandemar?
"Her days are numbered, and the number in question isn't even in the double digits."
Mister Croup and Mister Vandemar are fiends, impeccable and charming, ruthless and lethal. I love the banter between the two, but their amorality is truly terrifying. I'd never want to meet the gents, that's true.2. Thus far we've had a small taste of London Below and of the people who inhabit it. What do you think of this world, this space that lies within or somewhat overlaps the space the "real world" occupies?
I don't see this as anything unique or original, but the way that Gaiman does it is nevertheless very Gaiman. I definitely want to know more about London Below and the whys and wherefores of the place, that's for sure. It kind of reminds me of parallel universe theories and whatnot, only with a fantastical skew.3. What ideas or themes are you seeing in these first 5 chapters of Neverwhere? Are there any that you are particularly drawn to?
One major theme I immediately picked up on was the descriptors used for the London Belowers. Gaiman describes characters as animals--all of them--and in my mind I can't help but see some amalgam of animal and human, twisted and alien, yet familiar. I really like the way Gaiman describes things, and Neverwhere represents this wonderfully. I think I highlighted pages worth of wonderful prose and language. Some of my favorites are below.
"Her skin was the color of burnt caramel, and her smile would have stopped a revolution."4. We've met a number of secondary characters in the novel, who has grabbed your attention and why?
"Door said nothing, fairly meaningfully."
I was immediately struck by the marquis de Carabas. His roguish demeanor and charm make me immediately suspicious, but at the same time I can't help but like the guy. I love how he bargains with favors and how he's always pulling out things from his many pockets.5. As you consider the Floating Market, what kind of things does your imagination conjure up? What would you hope to find, or what would you be looking for, at the Market?
I picture a bazaar like place, crowded with all sorts of people (some clean, others awfully dirty) and goods. I also picture a flea market like place, where there's so much treasure buried in the junk that it's hard to have a go through it all in the short amount of time allotted. Me, I'd be happy with a nice bowl of curry and a comfy bench, just to sit and watch the people all around.6. If you haven't already answered it in the questions above, what are your overall impressions of the book to this point?
I think my intro answered this, but I'll repeat. I was so hooked by the first few pages that I couldn't help but finish the book. There was no putting it down and reading it at the pace of the Group Read.
One thing that I should remark on about Gaiman is that, at least to me, every one of his novels take some time to get a handle on what exactly is going on. I think fondly of American Gods, but I know that there's a lot that I didn't get or understand. To a degree, this is true with Anansi Boys and The Graveyard Book, too, and the same goes for his short story collections. The first several pages of Neverwhere had me hooked, yes, but I was also confused, not able to fully comprehend a picture of Door or Croup or London Below or the marquis or so many other things. Richard made sense, and I related to his lack of understanding and wanting to question things. Things are simply presented as truth, and the Reader is simply forced to accept it. (This especially rings true with American Gods. I'm going to have to re-read that one of these days and see if it makes more sense now.)
I guess my point is that I've noticed this trend in many Gaiman stories... and I like it. It's fun having wool over the eyes from time to time, and maybe that's part of the reason why I love Neil Gaiman's writing so much. Perhaps I'm not alone. Anyone else have trouble with a first time experience with a Gaiman book?