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Neil Gaiman – Death: The High Cost of Living

June 17, 2009

72. Death: The High Cost of Living by Neil Gaiman, Chris Bachalo, Dave McKean, Mark Buckingham, Steve Oliff, Todd Klein, Tori Amos (1994)
The Sandman: Death spin-offs, Book 1

Length: 104 pages

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy

Started: 14 June 2009
Finished: 14 June 2009

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? This rounds out the Sandman-related material that the library is willing to buy for me.

Death, as a human,
is even more awesome… if
that is possible.

Summary: Once every century, Death of the Endless must spend one day as a human, so that she knows what life, and what mortality really feel like. On this one day, she encounters Sexton Furnival, a jaded and bored sixteen-year-old. Sexton thinks she’s just some strange girl with a tenuous grip on sanity, but as he tags along, he can’t help but be charmed by her joyful, whimsical, open approach to life. The day is not entirely full of wonderful things, however: Mad Hettie is pestering Death to find her heart, which she hid over a hundred years ago, and a creature who calls himself the Eremite is trying to steal her ankh, and so gain the source of her power. This collection also includes a brief PSA about AIDS entitled “Death Talks About Life.”

Review: I don’t know how anyone could read this and not come out smitten with Death. She’s been my favorite of the Endless since her first appearance in the Sandman series, and seeing her actually getting to experience life as a mortal is thoroughly charming. There’s something reassuring, too, in the idea that Death is a cute and perky Goth girl, someone who already knows you, and welcomes you, and is kind and will listen to you and cares about your life.

As a story… I don’t know. Not all of the plot threads are thoroughly woven in, particularly about the Eremite, which you might think would leave things feeling somewhat unresolved. At base, there’s not a whole lot to this story other than watching Death bubble her way around New York City trailing Sexton in her wake… but she’s so charming that it’s just about enough.

Again, I wish I’d read this one a little closer to where it falls in the timeline of the main Sandman series – not because it doesn’t make sense out of order, but because I know many of the characters in this volume (Mad Hettie, for one) have shown up elsewhere, and it’s been long enough that I can’t remember the details. There’s also a scene involving Hazel and Foxglove that gets shown in flashback/memory in Death: The Time of Your Life, so that was a neat little connection to what I’d already read (out of order). 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Most enjoyable as a character piece rather than a story proper, but if you haven’t yet met Death, this can be picked up independent of the main Sandman volumes, and she’s sure to charm your socks off.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Valentina’s Room, Jenny’s Books, Nothing of Importance, Rhinoa’s Ramblings
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: “Mad Hettie? We got it for you.”

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 17, 2009 9:37 am

    I agree with everything you’ve said. The story bits of this book are not, perhaps, quite so good as they could be, but Death more than makes up for that. She’s such a wonderful character.

  2. June 17, 2009 12:38 pm

    I just finished this one yesterday! And I loved it. I’ve been meaning to reread the Sandman series from the start and go all the way through to the ones I never got to, but this seemed like a good one to read in the meantime, and it was. It will be interesting to see these characters reappear when I do my reread. And I agree – who wouldn’t be smitten with Death? So charming. :-D

  3. June 17, 2009 12:53 pm

    Memory – She’s also proven to me that my tolerance for perky goth kids is higher than my tolerance for mopey emo kids. :)

    Darla – What timing! I’ll keep an eye out for your review, but if I don’t remember to add it to this post, yell at me and I’ll fix it.

  4. thekoolaidmom permalink
    June 17, 2009 6:27 pm

    I love Neil Gaiman, and am currently reading the first Sandman book. It’s a new experience for me to read Graphic Novels. The premise of this book is intriguing :-)

  5. June 18, 2009 9:39 am

    thekoolaidmom – Sandman was only the second series of graphic novels I picked up, and it was weird… obviously Neil Gaiman’s mindset, but so different from his novels. If you can get a hold of this one, though, I’d really recommend it… I think it would go best read shortly after A Game of You.

  6. June 21, 2009 6:45 pm

    Oh how I love, love, love, love this book!

  7. June 22, 2009 10:32 am

    Mostly, I just love, love, love Death. :) (That sounds so terrible, and yet, in this case, so true!)

  8. June 23, 2009 12:54 pm

    I actually love the story itself too, but yes, it wouldn’t be as special as it is without Death :)

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