Jan 24, 2012

[Books] The Sandman: Book of Dreams

The Sandman series of comic books remains to be a landmark achievement in storytelling and is definitely one of those titles that "everyone" is expected to have read at one point in their lives. And it's not because the comics were so universal, but more because they're just that good and you're doing yourself a major disservice if you wander through life without having read at least one of the issues or have gone through one of its story arcs.

Thanks to my partner, I finally managed to scratch this item off my bucket list a few years ago, but it took some more time before I finally got around to reading this collection of short stories based around the Sandman comics. I can't exactly explain why - anyone with a large collection of books can probably relate the random nature of how one title gets ignored while others move quickly through the pipeline, as it were.

The book has proven to be quite the delightful experience - a lovely return to the tales of the Endless and somewhat related adventures. And yet the stories don't wade too deep into the established continuity, making the book highly accessible to non-fans of the comics and others.


The Sandman: Book of Dreams is a short story collection edited by Neil Gaiman and Ed Kramer. The collection contains 18 stories written by 18 different writers all set in the world of the Endless and the Dreaming or thereabouts.

Now it's hard to provide a synopsis for an anthology, which is my typical format for these reviews. After all, the stories aren't exactly connected to one another in some form of a chronological sequence or logical flow nor are they firmly tied to particular events in the original comics. Some mentions are made that will be easily recognized by fans, but those new to the world of Sandman won't exactly feel left out not knowing this little details.

But to give you a sense of what you might find here. Allow me to try to very, very briefly summarize some of the tales that interested me most without giving too much away.

Desire (DC Comics)
Image via Wikipedia
Stronger Than Desire is a lovely piece written by Lisa Goldstein. Here the protagonist, Aimeric unknowingly falls in love with Desire, one of the Endless. Thus the tale follows his struggle to prove his love to Desire, who in turn expects everyone to fall in love with her person and thus does not see the value. Splatter by Will Shetterly is definitely more of a fan nod story that involves a writer who gets invited to a particular notable convention in the comic book series. Needless to say he gets a lot more than he bargained for, but that's also part of the fun of meeting your fans.

Then there's Seven Nights in Slumberland by George Alec Effinger where six year old Nemo keeps having recurring dreams involving a magical place known as Slumberland and a quest he must fulfill. It's an interesting story that naturally involves the magical realm known as the Dreaming. And it's ultimately resolved in a rather interesting way. The Writer's Child, a rather complex tale by Tad Williams that takes place in both the "real" world and the Dreaming. And the jumping between the two settings (and the presented overlap) makes for very interesting plot potential all throughout.

But hey, you may or may not agree with the stories I highlighted - I've read other reviews that panned some of them. But that's the fun part of any short story collection. You get a mix of the good, the bad and everything in between but the fun is going through them all to find the ones that you like. And that can certainly differ based on your individual tastes and of course what stories resonate with you or not.

The stories tend to focus more on the Dreaming in order to avoid too much continuity baggage and on a similar note center around the dreamers and not the Endless and related characters. Thus you see minimal interaction / involvement from them apart from a few clear nods here and there. Dream gets a good amount of face time, of course, but surprisingly so does Desire. I guess s/he truly remains a fan favorite or something.

Overall, The Sandman: Book of Dreams is a lovely set and a nice way to return to the world of Sandman. It rates 4 tales of witches falling in love with wolves out of a possible 5.




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