Last month we had Marg over to review Stephen King’s It. This month’s victim? The unsuspecting Graeme from Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review! After Graeme admitted to us that he had never read Neil Gaiman’s epic Sandman comics, we had to Dare him. (Yes, again. We know this is the third Preludes and Nocturnes review here, but it’s really just that damn good).
The catch, of course, is that Graeme then turned around and dared to Dare US! We are over Graeme’s blog today, with our review of the fantasy novel The Briar King.
Title: The Sandman Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy/Horror
Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics)
Publication Date: December 1993
Trade Paperback (softcover): 240 pages
Stand alone or series: The first graphic novel in a 10 volume series.
Why did we RECOMMEND this book?: Is this really necessary? WE. LOVE. GAIMAN. (And how fitting considering the announcement yesterday that his The Graveyard Book won the Newberry Award!)
Summary: (from NeilGaiman.com)
A wizard attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. Fearful for his safety, the wizard kept him imprisoned in a glass bottle for decades. After his escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On the way, Morpheus encounters Lucifer and demons from Hell, the Justice League, and John Constantine, the Hellblazer. This book also includes the story “The Sound of Her Wings” which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl, Death.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we give you Grame!
It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve started reading comic books again, I used to read them at college until I got completely sick of constant ‘Marvel Crossovers’… (a man only has so much money to spend!) I’ve got a bit more money these days so it was inevitable that my comic book habit would start up again and now it consists of anything with zombies in it (‘Quick Gratuitous Plug’ coming up for my two favourite series! Check out ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘The Goon’, well worth your time!)
One series that I’ve never picked up is Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’, partly because I wasn’t sure my wallet could stand the commitment of picking up all those trade paperbacks and partly because the only people I’ve ever seen reading ‘Sandman’ all have long black trench coats and interesting hair (I don’t have a long black trench coat, my hair is always interesting but not for the reasons that you might think… dammit…)
Being a fan of Gaiman’s novels (‘Neverwhere’ and ‘Stardust’) the ‘Sandman’ series has always interested me and when Thea and Ana dared me to have a read of ‘Preludes and Nocturnes’ I just knew it was time to go for it. There was also a bit of male pride happening… I’m a man dammit! Your puny dares cannot harm me! ;o)
Having said that though, I still got my Mum to pick ‘Preludes’ up for me as a Christmas present. If I didn’t like it then at least I wouldn’t have spent any money on it ;o) As it turns out, while I’ve saved myself some money on ‘Preludes’ the sheer act of reading it means that I’m now going to have to go out and buy the rest of the series. I’m now a fan…
In 1916 an occult sect sought to trap Death and gain immortality (for their leader in the process). The ritual didn’t quite work though; Dream (Death’s younger brother) is summoned instead and imprisoned in a glass globe. It would be a very boring book if Dream didn’t escape; he does and must regain his stolen possessions if he is to stand any chance of rebuilding his kingsdom. A journey into Hell (and Hell on Earth) awaits…
The bottom line is that I was completely blown away by ‘Preludes and Nocturmes’. It’s usually books that have me spellbound in this manner (comics are good fun but easy to put down) but there was just no way that I was going anywhere, or doing anything, until ‘Preludes’ was finished. Neil Gaiman knows how to tell a good story and he’s more than happy to share them with the rest of us, ‘Preludes’ is no exception to this rule. You wouldn’t have thought that there would be an awful lot of tension and story around a guy sat in a glass cage would you? I wouldn’t have thought so but Gaiman proves us all wrong by telling the story of the people outside the cage instead, setting events up for the future. When Dream finally escapes he takes his revenge in some particularly horrifying scenes that stayed with me right until I went to bed (and while I was asleep too, stupid dreams…), the mark of some truly masterful storytelling. Full of power and impact…
Dream must then go on his travels to regain his stolen possessions and this is where things went a little bit wonky for me… One thing I hate when I’m reading is the ‘video game effect’ where it gets really obvious that the hero must complete a stage (and fight an ‘end of level boss’) before he can go on to the next level. Because ‘Preludes’ collects the first few issues of ‘Sandman’ it sometimes feels very repetitive in this respect.
This is only a small concern though when placed against the story that Gaiman tells. It’s epic in scope (taking in Earth, Hell, Earth again and the Realm of Dream) but still manages to give us a look into all the characters that left me almost thinking of them as real people. Dream delivers justice to those who would seek to control him, and his realm, and in doing so shows that there may be a hint of humanity about him after all.
The world of The Dreaming isn’t one that I wanted to leave and it will only be a short farewell as I’m off to my local comic shop on Friday. It’s frequently unsettling, and occasionally horrifying, but ‘Preludes and Nocturnes’ is just gorgeous and stunning the whole way through. Like I said back at the start, I think I’m now a fan! If only all dares could be like this…
Thanks Graeme for the fabulous review–and we’re stoked that you too are now enamored by The Sandman! As for all Dares being this way, I’m sure we can figure something out…
Victim Guest on The Dare: Kristen of the always wonderful Fantasy Cafe will join us in February! Kristen admitted that she hadn’t really read much female protagonist centered Urban Fantasy, so we Dared her to give Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking a read!
The Hollows, as you may know, is Thea’s numero uno all-time favorite Urban Fantasy series–so we are excited to see what Kristen thinks of it!
And wouldn’t you know it, she had the nerve to pull a Graeme on us! Next month we will be over at Kristen’s spot, reviewing one of her favorite novels: Melusine by Sarah Monette.
That’s all for now folks. See you again later on another Guest Dare! And remember: YOU COULD BE NEXT.