A sequel to Neverwhere, thanks to Brexit

If there is one good thing coming out of the turmoil surrounding Brexit, it may be Neil Gaiman's new novel, The Seven Sisters.

The British author aims to finish by the year's end the long-awaited sequel to his 1996 novel Neverwhere, which fans have spent the past 20 years clamouring for.

"For the longest time, I had this plot and I didn't know why it mattered," says the 56-year-old. "Then Brexit happened and I started talking to friends about the way in which the refugee issues were affecting London itself.

"Then Donald Trump was elected (President of the United States) and I watched America harden its heart towards the defenceless, who could not help themselves and were fleeing intolerable situations.

"At that point, the book stopped being something I was wrestling with and became something I could write."

Bookcover of Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman  

Gaiman has visited refugee camps in Jordan under the auspices of UNHCR, the United Nations' refugee agency, to speak with those displaced by the conflict in Syria.

He intends in his new novel to tackle refugee issues through the lens of urban fantasy, in the same way that Neverwhere, set in an underworld beneath the streets of London, took a look at the plight of the homeless.

Asked which of Neverwhere's characters will be in the new book, he says cryptically: "It's fair to say that if you have a favourite character from the first book, they will probably make a reappearance - except for Islington, Croup and Vandemar. Anybody else is fair game."

The angel Islington and Croup and Vandemar, a pair of terrifying assassins, were sucked into a hellish portal of no return at the end of Neverwhere. As such, their absence will raise no eyebrows.

If Gaiman keeps to his deadlines, the book could be released as early as next summer.

In fact, if the world were to end tomorrow and he were stuck in London away from his wife and young son, he says he would keep writing the novel in a "weird fit of madness".

"That way, when aliens land and check out this burnt-out husk of a world, they'll go, 'Oh, we don't know where he was going with this, but Chapter Five seems pretty good.'"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'A sequel to Neverwhere, thanks to Brexit'. Print Edition | Subscribe