Book Review: the Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

This is the last of the books that I read in the last week that I am catching up on reviews for, and the first graphic novel that I’ve reviewed so far. I borrowed the Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes (graphic novel, 234 pages) written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcom Jones III a few weeks ago and finally sat down to read it last weekend. I had very high expectations of this story and my expectations were easily met and exceeded.

As something of a disclaimer, I don’t like to give away too many spoilers when I do book reviews because I don’t want to give away what happens in the book. Sometimes, it’s really hard to talk about the things that really affected me without giving away plot points and character interactions. This is one of those reviews where I’m likely to give away parts of the story just so I can clarify some of my points. If you dislike spoilers, you’ve been warned.

I knew when I picked up the book that it was going to be dark and have an adult focus but I didn’t really know what the story itself was going to be about. I was considerably interested when the story starts out in 1916, as that’s not really what I was envisioning at all. I’m not really quite sure what I was anticipating but the capture of the Sandman by Magus and his people nearly a century ago was not where I thought the story would start. As the story progresses, I realized that it had to start that early because of how the story links into world events. But when the Sandman first shows up in the circle on the floor, my first thought was, “ALIENS!!! I didn’t know this was a book about ALIENS!” I think it was the helmet and the cloak that made me think that.

He remains imprisoned until 1988, which is 72 years. He is finally identified as Dream, younger brother to Death. In an interesting connection to my book review from yesterday on Test of the Twins by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Dream returns to his home kingdom and finds that everything has changed in the time he’s been gone. Again, here is the concept that you can’t ever really go home. It won’t be how you remember it or how you think it should be. As Dream progresses through his home, you start to truly feel how large of an impact his captivity has been to the world as a whole, and not just our normal real world, but the other realms as well. This becomes even more pronounced as Dream travels to reclaim his stolen helmet, bag of sand, and ruby, his three items of power.

I think if I paid more attention to the world of DC comics, I might have gotten more out of some of the passing references. As it was, I just saw them as other characters that I might know more about or care more about if I actually had any idea who they were supposed to be. Dream finds his castle in ruins, the library vanished, and those that live in the dreamscape to be different than he remembers. His home is not what it should be. He asks for help from the three muses and I was absolutely thrilled at the mythological references.

The battle of wits/wills with the demon was one of my favorite parts of the whole story. Morpheus’ travels into hell was such a balance between the horrors of hell and how important dreams are to everyone. “What power would hell have if those here imprisoned were not able to dream of heaven?” So very, very true. But what Dee does to the cafe filled with people was just heart-breaking. Humanity at its absolute worst.

I have to cut this review short, as work has just called and I need to earn money to live my lavish lifestyle. Overall, this story was very well done and emotionally engaging on every level. I am curious to see if I will read the other books in the series.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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3 Responses to Book Review: the Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

  1. harlotbug says:

    My first impulse is to give you context you didn’t ask for regarding just how different/important The Sandman is when talking about comics. I’ll try to limit myself to saying how much I hope you don’t just read it as the point when comics stopped being just for superheroes but when comics started being about everything.

    • harlotbug says:

      Blah. I hated that response. Mostly I hate how excited I get whenever I smell a new recruit to the ‘comics aren’t just superhero stories for kids’ crowd. I’m really happy you enjoyed it and can’t help but suggest Promethea if Sandman wasn’t enough to give you the comic bug ;P

      • C.A. Jacobs says:

        Oddly, this was not my first venture into the world of graphic novels. I own quite a few that are currently in a shipping crate somewhere over the ocean right now. This was just the first graphic novel that I felt motivated to do a review on. I’m a little bit torn on my overall view of graphic novels. I do believe they are likely to be one of the future really big things in books, but in some ways, it’s disheartening to not be able to use my own imagination to its fullest. There was a lot more I wanted to say about the Sandman, but work has been kicking my butt in the last several days. It’s not supposed to be like this when I am four days away from being completely done here. I liked the dark content of the Sandman and I think that telling the story through the media of graphic novels was the absolute correct option for this series. I may or may not continue reading the rest of the series, which will mostly depend on the availability of other reading options once I get to my new place. I think I might be more motivated to read the rest of the series if I was more of a DC Comics fan who would understand all the smaller references. Without that background, I feel like I’m missing tiny parts of the story that might combine to a greater total comprehension.

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