I’m enjoying this year’s Adult Summer Reading Program, “Unmask”, at the library! You didn’t know the adults have their own Summer Reading Program? Well, we figured “Why should kids get to have all the fun?”, so designed a program especially for adults.

It is simple to participate. There is a list of categories of books. (You can find the list on our Facebook page, our website, or just pick one up in the library.) This isn’t a list of TITLES you have to read, but a general list of genres or other characteristics.

It includes ones like: A book you can finish in one day; A book with a blue cover; A mystery or thriller; A classic romance, and many other fun choices. After reading the book, just complete a card with your name and contact number, info on the book, and a brief rating of it. Then, put the form in a special box for prize drawings to be done each week.

A winner will be drawn each week from these entries. Prizes include all kinds of goodies – from prize baskets to gift cards to doo-dads with the “Unmask” theme.

I selected “A book by an author you’ve never read before” for my book review this time. I selected “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman. and this one was available on downloadable audio, so I picked it.

When I began to listen and Gaiman was listed as the narrator of the book, I almost audibly groaned. I’ve listened to too many audiobooks read by their author, and as a general rule, even good authors are lousy narrators. They tend to read woodenly and without much characterization.

Not so with Gaiman’s narration. His characters came to life with their personalities bursting through his renderings. Each character has a distinct dialect and tone. Just by hearing their words, one can envision how they look, speak, and act.

In “Neverwhere” Richard Mayhew leads a good, but unexciting life. His life is unsurprising. He has a good job, but one I’m not convinced he loves. He has a beautiful fiancée, but one I’m not convinced he loves. Life is predictable. Life is good.

Until one evening when he is accompanying his fiancée to an important dinner with her boss. While walking down the sidewalk, he encounters a bleeding, hurt girl who is asking for help. Against his fiancée’s wishes he takes the girl to his apartment to care for.

This one decision costs him everything in life as he knows it. He “falls through the cracks” of London. Passersby on the street do not see him. His ATM card will not work. His apartment is rented out to others. He simply does not seem to exist any longer.

The young girl he rescues goes by the name Lady Door. She is from London Below, an alternate reality to which Richard now belongs. London Below is a parallel civilization, beneath the current day London. It is seemingly medieval, but has some trappings of today’s world.

London Below is filled with a cast of unique, and sometimes odd, characters: unstoppable, immortal villain assassins, a “Marquis” who will do anything for large favors, a rat-worshipping society, a female bodyguard extraordinaire, and the waif-like Lady Door for a start.

Richard has no choice but to join Lady Door on her quest to figure out who murdered her entire family, and why. Along the way they meet angels, vampire-like creatures, and danger around every corner. The unassuming Richard discovers things about himself surprise even him.

Lady Door’s quest takes the travelers to solve riddles, fight danger, face evil, and learn what they truly want from life. In so doing, they also manage to save London Below from the evil that wants to claim it.

Gaiman brings the book to a satisfying conclusion, but one that would equally support a sequel. He claims one is possible, but seeing as this book was first written in 1997 and there is none yet, I tend to doubt it. I would love to see one, however.

Through the years, various versions of this book have surfaced in both the UK and the US. This summer, however, “Neverwhere: Author’s Preferred Text” is due to be published. It contains the author’s reconciliation of these versions and reinstates a number of scenes cut from the original published books. Joplin Public Library has this book on order.

You will enjoy reading this book, AND I can count at least eleven Summer Reading Program categories this book might qualify for!

(NOTE:  The image shown above is for the new version that is on order.  As of the date of this posting, it has not yet been received.  An alternate version is available, however.)

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