There are four simple ways for the observant to tell Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar apart: first, Mr. Vandemar is two and a half heads taller than Mr. Croup; second, Mr. Croup has eyes of a faded china blue, while Mr. Vandemar’s eyes are brown; third, while Mr. Vandemar fashioned the rings he wears on his right hand out of the skulls of four ravens, Mr. Croup has no obvious jewelery; fourth, Mr. Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing at all alike. — Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere
There are any number of editions, many in the author’s preferred edition, of Neverwhere from inexpensive paperbacks to really costly hardcover editions signed by Gaiman. And of course, it exists as a digital publication in the same author’s preferred edition, not to mention as a graphic novel, a BBC series which is interesting if flawed, and a full cast audio-drama, which is splendid. But the edition I own, well, aside from the audio-drama and an ebook, is the illustrated edition with artwork by Chris Riddell.
Now I’ll admit that I don’t really actually collect paper books anymore as I prefer reading these days on the iPad as I can set the font and such to what suits me best, and being in and out of hospital because of a serious knee injury means I always have all my current reading on the iPad. But this edition of Neverwhere is as much an art object as it is something to be read. An art object that I couldn’t find in the genre area of Books-A-Million as they’d shelved it in horror, which is appropriate, actually. That said, I will read it as it looks wonderful as something to be read on an Autumnal evening.
It’s not a big hardcover book, measuring just eight inches by five inches. It comes sans dust jacket but has a front cover of Door (and I’m assuming that you’d not be reading this review if you’ve not most likely already read Neverwhere several times so I won’t be saying who the characters are in this review) standing on a sidewalk in London Above with a Doorway showing London Below in the background. And yes there’s a rat shown. Not a cute rat. The back panel has a quote from Croup of Croup and Vandemar asking Richard where Door is. And there’s another rat there. There’s lots of rats illustrated here. Very appropriate.
I‘m reasonably sure that you already know about Gaiman so I’ll talk about Riddell. He’s a British illustrator and occasional writer of children’s books and a political cartoonist for the Observer, the left-leaning newspaper. He’s won many an award for both his work and that of others for whom he’s provided the illustrations. As far as I can tell, this is his first genre undertaking. He’s lauded for his drawings which make very good use of actual pen and ink craft.
So here we get hundreds of his illustrations, including of course all the major characters such as Croup and Vandemar, who are even more scary as he envisions than I had thought in my mind’s eye, as you can see to the left here; The Marquis is splendid in his medieval looking garb; Richard looking, well, lost and needy as he is in the novel; Lamia looking properly vampirish; and even Jessica, who I never liked. Why there’s even the Great Beast coming off looking a lot more horrifying here than he did in the video series where he just looked silly.
(Oh that the Jim Henson Company had exercised their film option on this novel — imagine their Great Beast! Alas it was not be. However we did get Farscape instead.)
There’s full border wrap-arounds showing London Below folk, And of course as I noted lots of rats, most looking not at all charming.
So if you’re looking for a new edition for yourself, I wholeheartedly recommend this edition. Indeed if you’ve got a fan of dark fantasy and horror, this is a perfect gift for them as well. With Halloween needing new traditions this year with the lockdown screwing it over, why not give yourself or them this book? Riddell has also illustrated The Neil Gaiman Coloring Book and Coraline too. The last should be a tasty treat indeed, another perfect gift for yourself or to give on this Halloween.
(Williams Morrow, 2017)