Friday, December 25, 2015
Neverwhere (audio drama) by Neil Gaiman, narrated by a full cast
My first exposure to Neverwhere was via the book. I read it ages ago, but I remember enjoying it quite a bit. Sometime after that I watched the TV series, and I've been wanting to listen to the radio drama since I first heard it existed. I bit the bullet and picked it up during a recent Audible sale.
Neverwhere stars Richard Mayhew, an ordinary man whose life is turned upside down when he helps an injured young woman named Door. Soon after Door leaves his life, Richard discovers that he seems to have become invisible. His apartment is rented out to someone else without anyone asking him for permission, and his coworkers and girlfriend no longer remember who he is or that he ever even existed. Richard's quest to get his life back takes him to London Below, where he joins up with Door, who is trying to find out why her entire family was killed and why their murderers, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar, are after her.
Although I had read the book and seen the TV series, I'd done both so long ago that I'd forgotten most of what happened. I remembered the fantastical setting, which I both enjoyed and felt somewhat uncomfortable about, because its efforts to highlight homeless people seemed to erase them instead. I also remembered a few story events and that at least one of the characters couldn't be trusted. That was about it. When Door and Richard were able to find the angel Islington fairly easily, I was surprised, because I had vague memories of that taking much longer. Instead, it was the end of a tiny quest and the beginning of a larger one, as Islington sent them after an item that he (it?) wanted.
There was dialogue, sound effects, and nothing else – no unnamed narrator describing things the listener couldn't see. I adapted to that fairly well, but it's one of the reasons why I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as a person's first exposure to the story. You can't really get a good feel for the setting.
Plus, the radio drama format resulted in some odd bits. The fight scenes never seemed to work for me. Either the sound effects were kind of goofy, or the way the dialogue was worked in didn't sound natural. For example, Hunter, Door's bodyguard, was able to talk at length while supposedly in a battle for her life. I know Hunter was supposed to be incredibly skilled, but her opponent wasn't exactly a newbie either. Fighting him should have required more of her attention.
I can't remember how much of the original story was left out, but I do know that several parts felt rushed. Richard and Door's relationship barely had time to develop, and the ending was such a jumble of revelations and sound effects that it was a little hard to follow. I felt that the extended ending (included as part of a series of bloopers and extended scenes) was a bit clearer.
That said, one of the benefits of this format was the voice acting, which was really good. The casting decisions were fabulous. I particularly liked James McAvoy as Richard, David Harewood as the Marquis de Carabas, Sophie Okonedo as Hunter, and Romola Garai as Jessica.
I'm glad I got this, and I'm sure I'll listen to it again, although I'd like to reread the novel first.
At the end there's about half an hour's worth of bloopers and extended scenes. I wish that 1) this section had been announced as such and 2) that the bloopers and extended scenes had been separated into two distinct parts.