The Sandman, 5-8
By Neil Gaiman
- Date Finished: May 28, 2015
- Genre: Graphic Novels, Fantasy/Horror
- Year(s): 1993, 1994
- Project: n/a
- Reading List: Spring 2015, NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction Novels
- Grade: A
As I explained in an earlier review, I had very high hopes for The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. Based on the hype surrounding this series, and the author himself, I was expecting a masterpiece. As I explained then, what I found were four very, very, very good books. I found a great story, and one of the most imaginative authors I’ve ever discovered. But I wouldn’t say it was a masterpiece. I wasn’t obsessed with it. I wasn’t falling all over myself. I gave them an A-.
I have now upgraded my assessment of this series to a nice, solid A for many reasons, the chief of which being that, in my opinion, the second half of this series is far better than the first. Don’t get me wrong – there wasn’t anything specifically wrong with volumes 1-4. But oftentimes while reading the first four, I found myself losing interest in the stories. They weren’t bad stories, but they dealt far too heavily with human issues for my taste. No, what I wanted to learn more about was the sandman himself. Morpheus. Dream. He was the star of the first volume, yes, but I felt we, as readers, were only given a very small glimpse into his world. As he moved around from place to place during those first four books, readers were treated to similarly small snatches of his past and his interactions with the other immortal beings that exist in the universe Gaiman has created. I felt disappointed when I had to return to Earth to follow the humans around; instead, I wanted to hang out with Dream.
This is exactly what we get to do in books 5-8, and that’s why I loved them much, much more. I particularly loved Brief Lives since it delves directly into the “family life” of the seven Endless, including the much-alluded-to disappearance of their seventh brother. We finally get to learn more about the various personalities of Dream, Desire, Destiny, Death, Delirium and Despair, and what that means (metaphorically) for the human world and the way we engage with it. I loved the bit about how destruction defines creation, death defines life, and dreams define reality. Plus, I was finally given a small glimpse into one of my burning questions for the series (why did Delight become Delirium, and what does that means for our world?).
Because I felt like so many of my questions were being answered, I think I enjoyed the other stories even more. Unlike the first four volumes, though, these tales were less about the real world, and more fables and fairy tales, so to speak. They are the stories we tell our children are fantasy – full of hidden worlds, severed heads that do not die, and real monsters – but in Neil Gaiman’s universe, these stories are real, and they happened. The intersection of these worlds – and how these mythical beings interact with them – remind me strongly of Stephen King’s theory of the tower in his Dark Tower series. All the worlds we can possibly imagine are not fantasy, they’re real – they just exist elsewhere, in another time, another universe, another level of the tower. It’s one of my favorite themes in fantasy, and I’m so happy Gaiman runs with it in The Sandman series.