Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere Comes of Age in America

Neil Gaiman is undoubtedly one of the modern masters of fantasy writing. His Sandman comic book series is one of the greatest of all time in the medium. The art is beautiful, the writing is intelligent, and the stories created over its seven epic years are being consumed by multiple generations of fans thanks to many reprints and collected volumes. In 1990, Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett released Good Omens, an absurdly funny novel that represents one of the rare occurrences where a pair of writers published an excellent joint effort. At that time, Pratchett was already an established novelist, but Gaiman, known as a writer of comic books, seemed to be the apprentice in the art of novel prose. Over the course of Gaiman's illustrious career, he has demonstrated his talents in a wide variety of writing mediums.

He has adapted his work to film and television, read his own books for audiobook releases, and developed a grasp of fiction writing that has made him one of the most versatile and respected writers of genre fiction. When BBC was developed Neverwhere for a miniseries, an idea conceived by Gaiman and Lenny Henry that Gaiman scripted, he began writing a companion novel in tandem during the four months that the show was in production.

In the introduction to Gaiman's Neverwhere: Author's Preferred Text, which will be available in America for the first time this Tuesday, he describes how each time the producers decided to cut a scene from the show, he would remark, "Not a problem, I'll put it back in the novel." At one point, after removing a scene and presumably anticipating Gaiman's usual response, the producer said, "...and if you say I'll put it back in the novel I'll kill you." While quite obviously not a serious threat, Gaiman realized at that point that he did not have total control of his creative vision with the way he pictured the story versus what audiences would see on screen. He comments that "A novel seemed the easiest way to get what I had had in my head into the insides of other people's heads. Books are good that way."

The novel was first released by BBC in 1996. When it gained steam and Avon books wanted to republish Gaiman's first solo novel, he spent a week in the World Trade Center hotel excitedly rewriting the parts of the novel that he previously was not able to include when it was first published. He added roughly twelve thousand words, removed a few thousand from various points in the story, but still, when it came to the American version of the novel, Gaiman was unable to release his definitive edition. The reasoning was that some of the jokes and references to its London setting would not appeal to a portion of American readers or go over their heads, taking them out of the magical, Alice in Wonderland inspired novel for adult readers.

For whatever reason, it has taken many years for his ideal version of the novel to be published in the states. His appeal as a British author is massive overseas, but in the states, while being highly successfully for many years, apparently a rerelease of a novel from the mid-nineties did not seem like a slam dunk in terms of profitability. Fans of Gaiman have likely read Neverwhere already, but as younger fans are starting to experience adult books for the first time, now seems like a perfect time to introduce these readers to Gaiman's first novel, in its best and authorial version.

The Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker award recipient, is also the first author to win the Newbery and Carnegie medals in the same year for his 2008 young adult novel, The Graveyard Book. Along with his 2002 novel for young readers, Coraline, Gaiman is not only one of the premier authors in adult fantasy fiction, but also of fiction for young readers of all ages. The Graveyard Book is one of the best young adult novels in modern fiction, and in 2015, readers who were preteens or in their early teenage reading years, are now at an age where Gaiman's adult fiction is appealing. His 2013 slim novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was somewhat of a hybrid work in that it was right on the borderline between young adult and adult fiction, which is a testament to Gaiman's storytelling power. He creates worlds that are full of childhood wonder for not just young readers but also for adults who grew up with stories like Alice in Wonderland.

The definitive edition of Neverwhere includes an additional prologue at the end of the text and a short story that was published last year about one of the novel's main characters. For those who have not read Neverwhere, the new edition is the one to read, and is a fitting introduction to Gaiman's adult fiction for readers who grew up with The Graveyard Book before traversing into his greatest novel, American Gods. He is an author who states that he does not write sequels, but numerous hints have been dropped in the years since its original release that he wants to return to London Below again. The additional story at the end provided him with even more of an urge to write a followup, and after writing that, he states, "But soon it will be time to go back for a much longer journey." It remains to be seen if we will get to travel back to London Below again despite these declarations, but in the meantime, American readers can experience this spellbinding, magical world the way that Neil Gaiman wanted us to all along.