PrintE-mail Written by Alister Davison

Neil Gaiman’s debut novel tells the story of Richard Mayhew who, after an act of kindness on the streets of London, finds himself drawn down into the depths of the mysterious world that lurks beneath the city. It's a place full of the memorable characters that Gaiman is so good at bringing to life; it is intelligent without losing any of its charm, and remains emotional while being technically brilliant.

Gaiman's prose is like a whisper in the ear, enticing the reader to continue until that final page is finished. He's able to get us into Richard’s head right from the opening line, creating sympathy and then empathy as he works his way through the twists and turns of the plot, making sure we feel all of the protagonist’s fear, doubt and wonder; the latter especially, as the fantastical becomes more acceptable, making our own world appear strange and somewhat unappealing. It's a book with a message, one that says we’re all special in some way, and that you cannot judge by appearances, nor should we take for granted those who go unnoticed by society. Every life is, and should be, precious.

This new edition from publishers Headline is a compact hardback, roughly the dimensions of a paperback and, as well as the bonus tale How The Marquis Got His Coat Back, features brand new illustrations from Chris Riddell. While they may not entirely match the visions of the characters formed in the reader’s head (after all, they're another person’s interpretation of them) they don't distract from the story. Far from it; as well as full pages, there are fragments of drawings that curl around or frame the text Lewis, giving it an otherworldly beauty as words and pictures complement each other.

It says something about the strength of the story that it's crossed multiple forms of telling (TV, book, graphic novel and the latest audio drama) and, given the favourable reviews of the latter, there’s probably not a better time to release this beautiful new addition. It's a volume for existing fans to cherish, possibly to replace a battered paperback version, while for those who are yet to read the book, it's an opportunity to take that enviable first step into London Below and join Richard on his quest, and discover that, even twenty years ago, Gaiman was one of literature’s great fantasists.



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