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Neil Gaiman – Sandman: Book of Dreams

April 9, 2010

35. Sandman: Book of Dreams edited by Neil Gaiman and Ed Kramer (1996)
Sandman, Short Stories

Length: 293 pages

Genre: Short Stories; Fantasy

Started: 28 March 2010
Finished: 01 April 2010

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? More Sandman, hooray!

Summary and Review: Sandman: Book of Dreams is a collection of short stories by various authors, all of which take place in the Sandman universe. Despite the title, not all of them are stories about Dream, and not all of them take place in the Dreaming. Many of them do, but some of the stories star one or more of the other Endless, or some of the peripheral characters of the Sandman universe, and take place entirely in the real world. It’s a rich universe to be mined for stories, and this collection gives a fascinating look at what other authors can do with it. Because the stories have to fit into the existing framework, none of them really have the depth of the series’s core story arcs. However, they do work wonderfully well in the short-story format, giving us glimpses into corners of Gaiman’s universe that had been heretofore unexplored.

There are love stories, horror stories, fables and legends, one very well-crafted sestina, post-apocalyptic sci-fi-esque stories, stories from the beginning of human history, and at every point since. There were stories to make you smile, stories to make you cry, and stories to make you think; light stories and very dark stories and just about everywhere in between. Almost all of the Endless pop up at one point or another, as do Lucien, Matthew, Wanda (née Alvin) Mann, Cain and Abel, the sleeping sickness of Preludes and Nocturnes, and the Cereal Convention of The Doll’s House. I enjoyed almost all of the stories, and can’t pick an absolute favorite, although highlights for me included “Chain Home, Low” by John M. Ford, “The Writer’s Child” by Tad Williams, “A Bone Dry Place” by Karen Haber, and “The Mender of Broken Dreams” by Nancy A. Collins. The only story I really wasn’t a fan of was “The Witch’s Heart” by Delia Sherman; I tried three times and just couldn’t get into it. Almost all of the authors in this collection were new to me; the only author that whose work I’d read before (other than Tori Amos, whose introduction to Death: The High Cost of Living is reprinted here) was Susanna Clarke, and it was kind of surprising to read the author’s biography and realize that this story was written before she got famous for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell; it reads similarly, and you can see a lot of the seeds of her later work.

Overall Review and Recommendation: I’ve come to accept that none of the spin-offs are going to measure up to the main Sandman volumes, but this one came pretty close. The stories are wonderfully varied and arranged, and while none of them has the same tone as the Sandman proper, each of them still feels legitimate and true in its own right. I also don’t think that reading the main Sandman books are an absolute prerequisite for enjoying Book of Dreams; there are some spoilers in the preface, but not really elsewhere, and folks more familiar with short stories might enjoy this collection, and then become curious enough about the characters that walk its pages to seek out the graphic novels. 4 out of 5 stars.

“Preface” by Frank McConnell
“Masquerade and High Water” by Colin Greenland
“Chain Home, Low” by John M. Ford
“Stronger than Desire” by Lisa Goldstein
“Each Damp Thing” by Barbara Hamby
“The Birth Day” by B. W. Clough
“Splatter” by Will Shetterly
“Seven Nights in Slumberland” by George Alec Effinger
“Escape Artist” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
“An Extra Smidgen of Eternity” by Robert Rodi
“The Writer’s Child” by Tad Williams
“Endless Sestina” by Lawrence Schimel
“The Gate of Gold” by Mark Kreighbaum
“A Bone Dry Place” by Karen Haber
“The Witch’s Heart” by Delia Sherman
“The Mender of Broken Dreams” by Nancy A. Collins
“Ain’t You ‘Most Done?” by Gene Wolfe
“Valóság and Élet” by Steven Brust
“Stopp’t-Clock Yard” by Susanna Clarke
“Afterword: Death” by Tori Amos

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

Other Reviews: Couldn’t find any! Hey, Sandman fans! Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: How do gods die? And when they do, what becomes of them then?

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 22: “It was known as Wych Dyke, and was said to be Roman, or Druid, or a Roundhead artillery revetment.” – a facing of masonry or the like, esp. for protecting an embankment.
  • p. 62: “The suddenly mollient floor gripped their boots, tripping them if they tried to flee, holding them when the tried to rise, drinking them, drinking them, pulling the flesh off their bones as they tried to rip clear their arms and legs…” – softening.
  • p. 63: “ But here she was, kneeling in the women’s section of the Blue Mosque, crowded shoulder to shoulder with those veiled women in the black polyester chaddurs she saw in the markets in the old part of the city…” – the large head-to-tail veil woman were forced to wear to cover themselves in a traditional Islamic society
  • p. 63: “She couldn’t see who was reading, up in the mimber, under the rings of low-hanging lamps.” – a pulpit in the mosque where the imam stands to deliver sermons.
  • p. 71: “Kilderkin, the Manifestation of Supreme Order, was predictable and ostensibly not to be feared, but the endless intensive legalism, the meticulous pilpul of splitting rules into finer rules, definitions into yet more exacting definitions, exhausted him, and in his heart he understood intuitively that the Manifestation of Supreme Order did not approve of him.” – a method of disputation among rabbinical scholars regarding the interpretation of Talmudic rules and principles or Scripture that involves the development of careful and often excessively subtle distinctions.
  • p. 175: “The pain of losing them to older dreams was softened by the new spirits who welcomed him into their small lambent hearts.” – dealing lightly and gracefully with a subject; brilliantly playful.
  • p. 232: ““Oh, the smartest clipper that you can find, / A-hee, a-ho, ain’t you ‘most done? / Is the Marg’ret Evans of the Blue Cross Line, / So clear the deck and let the bulgine run!”” – a slang term for a train engine.
  • p. 255: “Stephen Brust is a swashbuckling gypsyish individual of Hungarian extraction; a wearer of fine hats; a sipper of fine whiskies; a player of the drum and the doumbek; and a novelist.” – a goblet shaped hand drum used mostly in music originating in countries near the Middle East.
9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2010 3:54 am

    This book has been on my tbr pile forever! I actually read some of the stories when I first got it, but that was before I’d finished the Sandman series and I was worried there’d be spoilers for last few volumes. I’m glad to hear it’s good! I’ll definitely have to return to it.

    • April 9, 2010 2:17 pm

      Nymeth – The preface was spoiler-tastic, but I don’t remember anything in the rest of the book that would give anything away later than about A Game of You. The stories are mostly too tangential to the main story arc to have spoilers.

      Of course, you’ve read the whole thing by this point, so it’s moot now anyways. :)

  2. April 9, 2010 9:38 am

    I haven’t read the main Sandman, but it sounds like I should start with that one.

    • April 9, 2010 2:15 pm

      bermudaonion – Definitely! Although this wouldn’t be a terrible place to start if you’re leery about graphic novels.

  3. April 9, 2010 2:09 pm

    I’ve heard of this but I thought it was a graphic novel too. No?

    • April 9, 2010 2:14 pm

      Jenny – No. There’s a frontispiece by Clive Barker, but otherwise it is 100% text.

  4. April 9, 2010 2:29 pm

    Sandman is one of my all time favorites but I haven’t read this yet! Thanks for the review.

  5. April 9, 2010 2:35 pm

    Have to read the Sandman, thanks!

  6. April 9, 2010 3:40 pm

    I’ve been meaning to reread this for years and years. I read it a looooong time ago, before I’d read The Sandman, and I remember enjoying it even then.

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