Sandman 4 -> 10
As an adult, I’ve found that much of the magic I used to see in books was gone. Sure, I appreciate them on a more cerebral level – as I should, I guess – and that sparks a different kind of magic (am I the only one who starts humming Queen after this? 😀 ). But sometimes I miss the raw pleasure and engagement I used to feel when I was a kid. And the reason I’m bringing this up so convolutely is that I’ve found an occasional glint of that feeling in a lot of books, but it hasn’t quite been the same – probably because you can never really go back. But, strangely enough, with Mr. Gaiman’s fantastic (amazing, brilliant, dazzling, wonderful – any synonym would do, really) writing I can fully recapture that joy and excitement; I can simply revel in a story perfectly told. And you’d better believe it, Sandman is Neil Gaiman at his best. I probably sound like I’m exaggerating – but, at the start of every volume, there are a few words from the likes of Clive Barker, Stephen King or Peter Strauss that do nothing but go over and over how incredible these stories are. This cocktail of myth, folklore history and fiction probably comes along once in a generation – maybe even less. And I would say something laudatory about the art – if I knew anything about it except that I liked it, and I enjoyed the differences in style that various illustrators have brought.
Quite frankly – I don’t know how this man does it: I close every one of his books with a sigh and heavy heart. I still have to read The Dream Hunters – I’ll do that tomorrow, since it arrived only a couple of days ago. There’s also Hy Bender’s Sandman Companion lying around, but, like Cain says, it’s the mystery, not the answer, that endures – so I don’t know whether to check it out or not. In the meantime, here are a couple of words on the plot of volumes 4-10 (for 1-3, if you want to, you can read here) – I wish I could have written more & better but, as I’ve noticed before, the more I like a book the less coherent are my posts on it.
Season of Mists – hell goes from the hands of a retired Lucifer to the Creator’s new emissaries and Morpheus, our dream king, is in the middle of it all. One of my favorite Sandman stories.
A game of you – “In the pale light of the moon, I play the game of you. Whoever I am. Whoever you are.” In Barbie’s dream, she’s a princess and, together with a giant dog, a rat (Wilkinson, one of 17 children all named Wilkinson), a monkey and a treacherous bird, she fights the cuckoo (which turns out to be a representation of her younger self). It all takes place on the fringes of Morpheus’s land and dreams end up disrupting reality so much that her friends from her NY apartment building get sucked into her world.
Fables and Reflections – “It is sometimes a mistake to climb, it is always a mistake never to make the attempt.” This is a series of 9 self-contained short stories, each featuring the lord of the dreaming, each taking place in different eras. Some are made up tales featuring historical figures (St Just and Robespierre, Octavianus Augustus, Marco Polo, Norton I) and some reinterpret old myths and legends (the best of these is the story of Orpheus, but also Adam and Eve or Haroun al Raschid).
Brief Lives – Dream and Delirium travel to seek Destruction (the brother who has left his realm) and perhaps persuade him to return. Successful in the first endeavor, they fail at the second and, as Desire puts it, no one sees Destruction and remains unscathed: Dream kills Orpheus (the first step towards his own downfall) and we learn that lives, no matter how long, are always too brief.
World’s End is a Chaucerian tale of travelers seeking refuge from a storm in the inn at the world’s end and their various tales. I enjoyed (and fully agreed with) Stephen King’s little food simile in the introduction – “You come at the end feeling that you’ve had a meal, not just a meaningless assortment of high cholesterol appetizers”.
The Kindly Ones –Characters we’ve met through the span of 8 volumes come together in this penultimate installment. War is started by a missing child, Loki and Puck conspire against the King of Dreaming and we need the kindly ones who are…well…anything but kindly, since they are the furies, ready to avenge the spilling of family blood. So it goes to show that even the Endless must have an ending in order to be reborn and start a new era. “We do what we do because of who we are. If we did otherwise, we would not be ourselves.”
The Wake – “How can you kill an idea, the personification of an action?” Following the events of book 9, the title of this last volume is pretty self-explanatory. Everyone gathers to say goodbye to Morpheus, the incarnation of dream we got to know so well and the Endless get together to meet the new Dream.