The Written Image: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere

From the September/October 2017 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

Neil Gaiman’s first solo novel, Neverwhere, takes place in a shadowy underground world filled with a fantastical set of characters: an elfin young woman with a magical power to open doors, an imperious marquis inspired by Puss in Boots, a man who speaks to rats (pictured below), and a pair of slimy assassins, to name a few. A new edition of the novel—published last year in the United Kingdom and this month in the United States by William Morrow—brings these characters to life with artwork by illustrator and U.K. children’s laureate Chris Riddell, whose black-and-white illustrations take up full pages and adorn the margins of the text. “One hopes it creates a mood—it’s a little bit like some good stage lighting,” Riddell says in a video filmed by the U.K. bookstore chain Waterstones, adding that the illustrations help the reader “concentrate on the very heart of the book, which of course are the words.” Gaiman originally published the book in the United Kingdom in 1996 as a novelization of a BBC television miniseries of the same name. The new edition, the author’s preferred text, also includes an alternative scene and an additional short story about one of the characters. “I wanted to talk about the people who fall through the cracks,” writes Gaiman in the book’s introduction. “To talk about the dispossessed, using the mirror of fantasy, which can sometimes show us things we have seen so many times that we never see them at all, for the very first time.”

(Illustrations copyright © 2016 Chris Riddell, from "Neverwhere" by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell.)