“The Sandman, Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes” by Neil Gaiman

Last weekend I attended a performance by the Unchained Tour (click here for their website). The performance included musicians and storytellers, and their goal was to promote independent bookstores. At this particular performance, Neil Gaiman was one of the featured raconteurs. Having read and enjoyed several of Gaiman’s novels, I picked up a copy of  Preludes and Nocturnes, the first volume in The Sandman graphic novel series.

While I do not consider myself a comic nerd, I have certainly read and enjoyed comics and graphic novels. This one I found especially interesting and thought-provoking. Be forewarned, this is a very dark book with disturbing images and subject matter which may not be for all readers. I confess to having some strange nightmares after my first evening reading this, which, as a horror buff, has not happened to me since I read The Exorcist as a teenager.

The premise of the story is that a black magician tries to use a spell to ensnare Death, thereby granting eternity to all mortals. Instead, the magician captures Dream (aka The Sandman), who is Death’s brother, a clear reference to the literary metaphor of sleep as death. Think Hamlet: “To sleep. Perchance to dream.” After a long imprisonment, The Sandman escapes and goes on a quest to retrieve the three mystical tools that were stolen from him.

This tale is steeped in literary and mystical references. A reader with a strong background in magic and literature will catch a lot of interesting nuances. But you do not need that level of background to enjoy this book. The story is really engaging, well written, and dramatically illustrated. Any fan of graphic novels or dark fantasy will love this book.

I could write on and on about this book, since I really found it that fascinating, but I will abstain so as not to include spoilers in my review. I will, though, conclude an amazing quote. One of the characters in the story is a writer who writes in secret, and this writer’s gift is the ability to know when to end her stories to ensure  happy endings, because… “If you keep them going long enough, they always end in death.”

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