Neil Gaiman’s ‘Neverwhere’ radio adaptation audiobook review

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This BBC Radio adaptation sees the story receive the attentions of audio wizard Dirk Maggs. With a career making “audio movies” for iconic characters such as Batman and Superman, as well as his work adapting Douglas Adams’ later Hitchhiker’s books back to the parent medium, we can think of no-one better suited.

The story is fundamentally a quest narrative that begins when our hero, Richard Mayhew, falls into a netherworld beneath the city streets. After an act of kindness, stopping to assist a wounded girl, his life unravels. He becomes one of the dispossessed, mostly invisible and soon forgotten by those he encounters.

The girl in question is Door, a fugitive noblewoman possessed of the ability to open anything and create doors where there are none. She seeks to find the villain behind the murder of her family and enlists the help of the outlandish Marquis de Carabas to assist her.

At Door’s side, looking for a way back to his former life, Richard finds himself immersed in a frighteningly literal London. He crosses the Knights Bridge and meets the Black Friars, as well as encountering the Earl of Earl’s Court, Hammersmith and Old Bailey himself. London Below is also a world full of those who have slipped between the cracks; homeless people who survive though barter and live in a feudal society of baronies and fiefdoms.

The principal roles of Richard and Door go to bona-fide movie star James McAvoy (X-Men) and Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones), with David Harewood (Homeland) as a magnificent Marquis de Carabas, Sophie Okonedo (Doctor Who) as the intimidating Hunter and a delirious Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) as the Angel Islington.

The smaller roles round up an embarrassment of talent. Bernard Cribbins (Doctor Who) plays Old Bailey while Anthony Head (Merlin) and Paul Schofield bring the murderous Croup and Vandermar to life. Romola Garai (The Hour) plays Richard’s difficult fiancé Jessica and Christopher Lee (Dracula) is the doolally Earl.

Although the story is 17 years old, it remains fundamentally timeless with only a few subtle references to Jedward and The Shard teasing it towards the present day. Additional tracks in the release include a 10-minute sequence of bloopers and outtakes, as well as two extended scenes: the first is the meeting with the Earl and the second a lengthier take on the final confrontation.

Beautifully produced with stunning sound design, haunting choral music and superb performances throughout, Neverwhere is hilarious, thought provoking and macabre.

Now we just need that long overdue sequel!

Released on Thursday 5 September 2013 by AudioGO.

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