Thursday, March 8, 2012

[BOOK REVIEW] The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes Volume 1: by Neil Gaiman

Title:  The Sandman:  Preludes and Nocturnes Volume 1

Author:  Neil Gaiman

Artists:  Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III

Genre: Horror / Supernatural / Fantasy

Year Published: 1989

Year Read: 2012

Series: The Sandman #1

Publisher: Vertigo Comics

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 16+ (Some Graphic Violence and Disturbing Scenes)

“In a fairy tale story, once all the children are asleep, the Sandman will come in and sprinkle magic dust in children’s eyes and give them sweet dreams.”

At least, that is the interpretation we get about the Sandman.  However, in this graphic novel, we are about to enter a world where the Sandman is a magical being of the Dream world, but the world of the Sandman is much darker and more disturbing than you can ever imagine!  “The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes” is a comic series written by none other than Neil Gaiman himself and it details the beginning of how the Sandman came to be and his mission in retrieving his lost tools.

The story starts off with a man named Roderick Burgess who wanted to prevent death from happening around the world by summoning Death and then imprisoning it.  When Burgess starts his summoning spell, he ended up getting Death’s younger brother Dream and ended up imprisoning him for seventy years, while stealing Dream’s three tools.  When Dream is finally released, he wrecks his revenge on Roderick’s son, Alex who was the surviving family member of the Burgesses and he sets out on finding his three tools which were: a pouch of sand, the helm and the ruby (moonstone). Can Dream find all of these items before the world fall into turmoil?  There are a total of eight stories in this novel and they are:

Sleep of the Just
Imperfect Hosts
Dream a Little, Dream of Me
A Hope in Hell
24 Hours
Sound and Fury
The Sound of Her Wings

To be honest, I have never heard of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” series until I had read so many positive reviews on it on Goodreads and I have decided to give this series a try.  Well, I have the honor to say that I was totally blown away by this introductory novel!  Neil Gaiman has done a brilliant job at writing this collection of stories about the Sandman as the stories are dark yet engaging to read at the same time!  I loved the way that Neil Gaiman put a new and disturbing spin on the classic children’s fairy tale of the Sandman by actually portraying the Sandman (who is called Dream in this version) as a powerful being who is able to rule the Dream world and even has a powerful influence on the surreal worlds he visits when he was on his mission to retrieve his stolen items.  I also loved how the mythology of dreams is fitted in perfectly in this story, which gives this story an extremely creative and authentic feel to the dream world. Neil Gaiman also gives the Sandman a somewhat dark personality throughout this whole novel, which is greatly justified by the fact that he was captured and kept prisoner for over seventy years and he had to deal with the fact that his tools were stolen from him.  I also enjoyed the way that Neil Gaiman made the narration of this book somewhat surreal since most of the time, the plot tends to jump around in the story so many times.  However, this is to be expected since the majority of the story takes place in the peoples’ dreams and most of the time, dreams do not usually make any sense.  Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III’s artwork are extremely effective and haunting at the same time.  The artwork sort of reminds me of the older DC comics back in the 80s and I loved the realistic and retro style of the characters in this novel as it gives the stories in this novel a sort crime noir feel.  I also loved how the artwork is dark and surreal at the same time as there are many images of people being killed in their dreams and many images of demons when the Sandman goes to the Underworld.  The image that really stood out to me was the image of the Sandman himself as he looks like a young man with a pale face and rock star hair that sticks out in all places.  His appearance sort of reminds me of Edward Scissorhands as he also has spiky hair and a pale face.

Surprisingly, this graphic novel has many disturbing scenes of people getting killed in their dreams.  Some of the disturbing images in this book has scenes of the Sandman being surrounded by demons when he goes to the Underworld and some images of people being killed in their dreams such as a person’s head is suddenly cut off and the severed head is still talking and a person stick nails in their eyes.  If you are uncomfortable with violent and disturbing images, then this book might be a bit too difficult to get through.

Overall, “The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes” is a fantastic read for fans of Neil Gaiman’s work and readers who love dark and gritty graphic novels! I would recommend this series to teens ages sixteen and up since there is so much dark subject matter in this graphic novel.  Now I am off to read the second volume, “The Doll’s House!”

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