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The Sandman: Book of Dreams
edited by Neil Gaiman and Ed Kramer
HarperPrism Books, 287 pages

A review by Alex Anderson

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A tree is a beautiful thing. We cut trees to make paper and that paper is used to make books. It is not necessary to get pedantic about this in a simple book review so suffice to say that the greatest measure of a book is its worthiness of the tree's sacrifice.

Writing stories based on characters and concepts explored in a comic book doesn't strike one as challenging. All you really have to do is come up with a story -- everything else has been done for you. And it's true that you can now find novels exploring the adventures of Batman, Spiderman, and the Incredible Hulk littering the shelves of your local bookstore like so much been-there-done-that chaff. These books are generally not worthy of the sacrifice.

The Sandman: Book of Dreams is the exception to that rule.

Not all comic books are of your average superhero variety, but dealing with the adult themes of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series still shouldn't be too hard. But where The Sandman: Book of Dreams outdoes all those other pulpy superhero-saves-Gotham-distractions is in the feel of the stories. Every offering in this anthology captures the eerie, otherworldly, X-Files meets The Twilight Zone atmosphere of the Sandman. And the Sandman may be the best comic book written in the past 30 years.

Gaiman charted new ground with the Sandman, writing a 75-issue serial novel that was of interest to readers over the age of fourteen, and the Book of Dreams continues to explore that ground. It was Gaiman's graphic novel The Books of Magic that nearly single-handedly revived the comic book industry. Following that, DC approached him to breathe life into one of their old Second World War era characters. In the 30's and 40's the Sandman was a playboy who donned a gas mask and prowled the night with a gas gun, putting crooks to sleep until the cops showed up in the morning. From this Gaiman extrapolated sleep and Dream, the teller of stories -- thus the reinvention of the Sandman. He then invented Dream's family, the Endless: Delirium, Despair, Destiny, Death, Destruction and Desire -- seven states of human consciousness personified and nearly omnipotent.

The Sandman: Book of Dreams consists of eighteen stories about these characters written by some of science fiction and fantasy's best writers: George Alec Effinger, Gene Wolfe, Tad Williams and Nancy Collins are just a few of the names appearing on the table of contents. One of the masters of horror, Clive Barker, serves up a forward and pop musician Tori Amos an afterward, bracketing a tremendous body of work.

So, based on the rather romanticized scale of value established at the beginning of this review, The Sandman: Book of Dreams is worthy of the tree's sacrifice, and definitely worth reading.

Note: Those who read and like this anthology might want to check out the Sandman comics, which are still in print in graphic novel format.

Copyright © 1997 by Alex Anderson

Alex Anderson is a long-time SF reader just pompous enough to believe other people may want to read the meanderings he scribbles down between fits of extreme lethargy he calls contemplation.

The Sandman: Book of Dreams
Neil Gaiman Related Links
Dreaming
Magian Line
Magician's Study
Neil Gaiman
Pages of Magic
Index - Neil Gaiman
Usenet - alt.fan.neil-gaiman
Sandman Related Links
Death
Death
Death and Sandman Images
Endless Whispers
Gallery of Dreams
Hangin' out with the Dreamking
Heart Of The Dreaming
Palace Dreaming
Sandman
Sandman
Sandman Annotations
Voice of Her Eyes
FAQ - Sandman
Past Feature Reviews


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