Neil Gaiman announces Neverwhere sequel, The Seven Sisters

Author says the new fantasy novel has been inspired by his work with UN refugee agency and ‘the shape London is in now’

Neil Gaiman, whose latest book Norse Mythology is set to top the bestseller lists this weekend, has announced his next project: the sequel to another hit, Neverwhere, more than 20 years after it was first published.

Neverwhere tells the story of Richard Mayhew, an ordinary young man drawn into the fantastical landscape of London Below, an otherworldly city populated by real landmarks and legends personified, including the Old Bailey, the Black Friars and the Angel, Islington – among which the lost, homeless and dispossessed of London move. The idea came from a chat with Gaiman’s friend, the comedian and actor Lenny Henry, who suggested the concept of tribes of homeless people living beyond the notice of “ordinary” people in London.

The Neverwhere story is perhaps Gaiman’s most various work. Beginning life as a BBC TV series in 1996, Gaiman released a novelisation of his own script later that same year. In 2005, it was turned into a comic book by writer Mike Carey and artist Glenn Fabry and in 2013, a BBC radio adaptation with Dirk Maggs at the tiller was broadcast. The story has also been adapted for the stage several times.

Gaiman has hinted previously that he would write a sequel and the FAQs on his website already indicate a title: The Seven Sisters.

But at an event at London’s Southbank Centre this week, Gaiman closed the show by announcing – to rapturous applause – that he’s “a solid three chapters” into the novel and confirmed: “So that will be the next book.”

Gaiman said that he had been prompted to write the sequel both by the changes in the world over the past 20 years and his work with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). Under the latter’s auspices, he has visited refugee camps in the Middle East and spoken to people displaced by the conflict in Syria.

He told the Southbank audience: “When Lenny Henry and I came up with the original idea for Neverwhere almost 25 years ago, what attracted us was the idea that we could talk about the homeless, talk about the dispossessed, talk about the people who fall through the cracks, and do it in a way that was exciting and fun and interesting and also relevant and might change people’s heads.

“Neverwhere for me was this glorious vehicle where I could talk about huge serious things and have a ridiculous amount of fun on the way. The giant wheel has turned over the last few years and looking around the work I have been doing for UNHCR for refugees, the kind of shape … London is in now, the kind of ways [it] is different to how it was 20 years ago, meant that I decided that it actually was time to do something.

“Now I had things I was angry about. I cared about things I wanted to put in and I’m now a solid three chapters in to a book called The Seven Sisters.”

The title of the sequel takes its name from an ancient area of the real north London replete with myths and legends. The name comes from seven elm trees planted in a circle there, with suggestions of pagan places of worship dating back to Roman times. The area was also known, four centuries ago, as Page Greene – which might be a good name for a new protagonist.


David Barnett

The GuardianTramp

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