Posts Tagged ‘neil gaiman’

#CBR4 Cannonball 31: The Sandman, Volume 5: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of YouThe Sandman Vol. 5: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Despite the fact that Dream himself isn’t much in this volume of The Sandman, it’s still a great exploration of the world of dreams. We get to see some nightmares in this volume, and they’re truly disturbing.

I love how Gaiman blurs the lines between dream and reality in this one. It leaves you looking at the room around you and wondering, “Is this real life?”

We find Barbie in New York City. When last we saw her, she was living with her boyfriend, Ken, in Florida, boarding at a house with Rose Walker, who turned out to be a living dream vortex (stay with me). She’s now living in a small apartment with a motley crew of neighbors: George, a seemingly innocuous man with a dark secret inside; Hazel and Foxglove, a lesbian couple about to face an unexpected crisis, and half of which we’ve met before; Thessaly, a “vanilla” girl who’s a lot deeper than she looks; and Wanda, who used to be Alvin.

We’ve seen into Barbie’s dreams before. But we’d never expect Barbie’s dreams to affect the “real” world she lives in.

Gaiman has found a clever and creative way to pose the question of how our dreams affect our everyday lives. It may be unconscious or conscious, but our dreams do play a part in shaping how we view the world around us. What’s important to us at the moment may actually be as insignificant as dust that will blow away in a moment, yet it leaves a lasting impression in our hearts and minds — much like Gaiman’s graphic novel.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 30: The Sandman, Volume 4: Seasons of Mist by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of MistsThe Sandman, Vol. 4: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, wow. Just… wow.

Season of Mists moves the story of Dream along. He is one of the Endless, along with his siblings, Death, Desire, Despair, and Destiny. Destiny calls them all together and, as a result of this meeting, Dream goes to Hell to free someone that he wrongfully condemned there ten thousand years ago. But the going won’t be easy because he offended Prince Lucifer (often referred to as “Satan”) the last time he was there.

Things aren’t difficult in quite the way that Dream expected. This volume subtly makes the point that the harder option isn’t always the punishment that we expect it to be, and that the easy road isn’t always the boon we think it is, either. Gaiman tells a very subtle allegory here, and it’s beautifully told.

Neil Gaiman is a serious genius. I can’t wait to see what the next volume is like.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 29: The Sandman, Volume 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream CountryThe Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy cow, I had no idea just how good this series would be. Dream Country doesn’t even do all that much to move the plot forward, but it’s so compelling that it’s still nothing but a pleasure to read.

There are four unrelated stories told in this volume. The first is “Calliope,” about Richard Madoc, a writer who captures the Muse (like, I mean, the Muse, Calliope) and holds her captive in order to write brilliant things. She calls out to the Grey Ladies (the Fates) for help, and they tell her to ask Dream (known to her as Morpheus). We then see the terrible price of compromising integrity in the pursuit of success.

“A Dream of a Thousand Cats” tells the story of the world before recollection, when cats ruled the earth and humans were merely their pets. This all changed when, one day, a human started to dream of ruling the earth himself. This dream spread until a thousand people dreamed it, and it then became reality. A Siamese cat now roams the earth, telling her story and urging other cats to believe and dream, that they might rule the earth once more.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was a really fun one. It shows the first-ever performance of Shakespeare’s famous play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was implied earlier in the series that Shakespeare struck a bargain with Dream in order to become a famous writer. This performance of Shakespeare’s play is put on for the fantastical characters in his play, many of which are real, and friends of Dream’s. It’s a nice bit of meta.

midsummer night's dream

Oberon, Titania, & co. arrive to watch the debut performance of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

“Facade” is about Urania “Rainie” Blackwell, who is transformed into a half-goddess, half-human by coming into contact with the Orb of Ra. She’s lonely and desperate, unable to interact with humankind because of her grotesque, half-human appearance, and she can’t even kill herself because she’s part goddess. Death (Dream’s younger sister) happens upon Rainie as she returns from taking a woman in the building who fell off a stepladder. She can’t take Rainie, but she gives her some helpful advice that allows her to find release from her suffering.

The stories don’t appear to be linked in any way, but they help you to get a bit of a feel for some of the main characters in the story. It doesn’t do so by direct revelation, but rather by showing you the effects that they have on others, which shows the reach of their influence and presence.

Dream Country is a heady read, and could stand alone as its own work.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 28: The Sandman, Volume 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll's HouseThe Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I said in my review of Preludes and Nocturnes that I trusted that the foundation laid therein would be put to good use. Well, Gaiman exceeded my highest expectations.

We already know that Dream is the king of the dreamworld, but he was imprisoned by an occult group for seventy years. Now that he’s escaped, he’s trying to rebuild his kingdom. But there’s a complication: a girl called Rose Walker. The girl is a human dream vortex, and unless she’s destroyed, Dream’s kingdom could be destroyed. That sounds so much simpler than it actually is, which is a testament to Gaiman’s genius for storytelling.

There are also some dream beings who have rebelled against Dream, and are trying to create kingdoms of their own. They’re trying to interfere with Dream’s attempts to rebuild his kingdom.

There’s little I can say to adequately praise the beautiful artwork and breathtaking narrative in this volume. Suffice it to say that I couldn’t wait to read the next one.

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#CBR4 Cannonball 26: The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

Preludes and Nocturnes (The Sandman, #1)Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Sandman is an interesting premise, and the first volume of the graphic novel has a lot of promise. I hear it gets even better as the series deepens, so I’m looking forward to getting into Volume 2.

An occult group, in an attempt to capture Death, accidentally traps and imprisons Dream instead. He escapes after seventy years, and his kingdom has since fallen into disrepair. He has to regain his tools for rebuilding his kingdom: a pouch of sand, a helm, and a ruby.

That’s such a gross oversimplification of the beauty of the first book that I’m rather disgusted with myself for not being able to describe the intricacies and nuances of it. But it’s clear that Gaiman, while still finding his direction in these first few books, is taking his work seriously and really trying to weave a tale like none other ever seen in comics. It can be at times macabre, at other times humorous, and at still other times truly magical.

The first volume does a solid job of laying the groundwork for the rest of the series. It’s really whet my appetite for more. While it didn’t quite blow me away as a standalone volume, I appreciate that Gaiman is taking the time to lay the framework of the series, and taking his time introducing us to Dream so that we’re encouraged to invest in the character, instead of getting cheap and immediate payoff.

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Cannonball 25: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, WitchGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, I loves me some Neil Gaiman, and everyone tells me that I will also love Terry Pratchett. And I did enjoy this book, but I guess I just didn’t think it was quite as LOLworthy as other people did.

Good Omens outlines the fulfillment of a Doomsday prophecy made by Agnes Nutter, a witch. The prophecy is mainly revealed to the reader in bits and pieces by the characters, who are themselves trying to make heads or tails of it.

The cast of characters in colorful and quite charming. Aziraphale, the angel whose job it was to guard the gate to Eden with a flaming sword, and Crowley, formerly known as Crawly, the demon who tricked Eve into biting into the forbidden fruit, have both grown rather attached to mankind and have even grown an unspoken liking for each other.

Adam Young, the Antichrist who was switched at birth, and his hellhound, Dog, are blissfully unaware of Adam’s powers until the Apocalypse draws near.

Anathema Device, a descendant of Agnes Nutter herself, is the latest in a long line of descendants trying to decipher Agnes’ accurate but somewhat trivial prophecies.

Newton Pulsifer, a descendant of the man who led Agnes’ burning at the stake, is a witch-finder who winds up being attracted to Anathema.

Then, there are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, represented in this book as a biker gang.

the teutuls

They're missing one.

I enjoyed reading it, and found the story quite clever and charming, but it just didn’t really stick with me. Maybe it’s because it was rather sacrilicious, and I happen to believe that the end of the world will be far less charming than this book portrays it. I know it’s just fiction, but in the same way that some people will never be able to laugh at a Holocaust comedy because they can’t laugh at something so terrible that really happened, I can’t really laugh at an end-times comedy because I can’t laugh at something so terrible that I believe is going to happen.

If you don’t believe a word of the Book of Revelation, you’ll probably enjoy Good Omens. I mean, I believe Revelation, and I still enjoyed parts of it and found it to be well-written. But it does make me pray harder for the people I know who don’t believe that the Bible is true.

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Cannonball 28: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This review is super-way-overdue, since I read it for the Pajiba Book Club way back at the end of March. But I’ve gotta write the review in order for it to count towards my Cannonball, so, despite the myriad reviews already written, I’ll throw my hat in the ring.

The Graveyard Book is the only children’s book I can remember that begins with a triple homicide. While that made me instantly hesitant to recommend this to any children that I knew, it certainly did the job of drawing me in and getting me invested in the story.

From the very first sentence, Gaiman sets his tone: eerie, but beautiful. An assassin introduced to us simply as “the man Jack” has just murdered a man, his wife, and their daughter in their beds. He’s looking for their son, but the boy has toddled out of the house and into the graveyard across the street. As Jack goes looking for the boy, a ghostly couple, the Owenses, take him under their wing. Their friend Silas, a mysterious figure, helps to convince Jack that the boy must have gone elsewhere.

After the rest of the graveyard’s denizens agree to allow the boy to stay, the Owenses adopt him, naming him Nobody — “Bod” for short. They love him like a son, and become his surrogate family. Silas acts as his protector, and as the only non-ghost in the graveyard, he is able to slip out regularly and get food and clothes for Bod.

As the story progresses, Bod meets new people, makes new friends, experiences some harrowing adventures, and comes to terms with who he is and the fact that he has to go out into the world and live his life someday.

Despite the murder that begins the book, I still have to recommend this book to every kid I know. This book is beautifully written, and every kid should experience writing like this.

What sets Gaiman’s writing apart from the Stephanie Meyers and J.K. Rowlings (yeah, I said it) of the world is the presence of subtlety. Blessed, blessed subtlety. Bod doesn’t scream at his friends; he doesn’t lose his temper at the drop of a hat, and the fate of the entire world doesn’t rest on his shoulders. He’s important, sure, but he’s no savior. He’s just a regular kid trying to survive a cruel world.

That’s one of the things I really appreciated about Bod as a character: he was refreshingly normal — perhaps not so much in his circumstances, but certainly in his attitudes and his reactions to things. At the end of the story, what makes Bod truly remarkable isn’t his abilities or any special powers he has, but the fact that he has been raised by such a remarkable family: this motley crew of graveyard dwellers.

The relationships that Bod has with his adoptive parents and the rest of the graveyard community are another strong part of this book. Gaiman gives them a real sense of community. We’re seeing most of the story from Bod’s point of view, but the reader still gets the sense that there’s a community here that’s greater than he is. He’s not the center of the universe like some other main characters I could mention.

There’s a haunting silence that fills most of the book, in stark contrast to the yelling and explosions and Mexican standoffs that many children’s authors have taken to depending on to keep their young readers turning pages. And the quiet beauty of Gaiman’s writing is far more effective than the in-your-face gaudiness of most children’s lit today.

God bless you, Neil Gaiman. I’d begun to give up hope that children’s lit could be gripping and well-written. But Gaiman crafts his story with great care and skill, and presents his audience with a chilling tale that still touches the heart.

Stephanie Meyer and J.K. Rowling: bow to your master. Gaiman owns you both.

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