Even though I’ve been reading other books in between, I’ve really been going through a whole Neil Gaiman phase. It started when I let talks of how I would love this guy, how his writing was nothing like I’d ever read before, how positively awesome he is get to me. So I finally picked up Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett (who I have yet to read). And then I read Neverwhere. Next on the list – The Graveyard Book.
So, do I love him? Yes.
Does he write like anybody else I know? No.
Is he absolutely, positively awesome? Beyond a doubt.
Why, then, have I been avoiding Sandman? Erm.
Quite honestly, I don’t know. Usually, when I hear about a graphic novel, I look up the premise, get excited, and find some way to devour read it. And I’ve loved almost every single graphic novel that I’ve read to date (well, except Blankets). So, you’d expect me to jump up and down like a crazy Oompa-Loompa at the mention of a marriage between Neil Gaiman and the glorious art of storytelling that is the graphic novel, yes? No.
Before I read Volume #1, if you said the word “Sandman”, I’d picture a weird hybrid of the sand man/monster from that pathetic excuse for a superhero movie (*cough* Spiderman 3 *cough*) and the actual Sandman (the dream kind) from a Powerpuff Girls episode. Does anybody remember that one? Creepy guy in striped pajamas? Broken teeth? Can you blame me for not wanting to read it, especially when Neil Gaiman can disturb the hell out of you without even trying?
I was re-arranging books in the store, and it was the comic section’s turn. Tentatively, I picked up the first volume. Turned a few pages. Started reading. Finished reading. My shift had gotten over, and I had stayed for two extra hours. Without even noticing. Lucky for me, it had been a slow day.
I was expecting it to be a whole lot of things. I was expecting the Sandman himself to be a lot of things. What I wasn’t expecting was this.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, may I introduce you to Dream a.k.a Morpheus a.k.a The Sandman- King of Dreams, and one of The Endless – He Who Wears Black T-Shirts And Leather Jackets And Does So Many Things That Leave You Blubbering Like An Idiot And You Want To Cry In Frustration Because You Don’t Know Him Personally And/Or You Want To Be Like Him?
If you’ve read my reviews (if you can call them that) of Good Omens and Neverwhere, you’ll know that I have a problem with how they both end. That I was craving that staring-blankly-at-the-wall-with-the-what-the-hell-just-happened feeling that I thought each book deserved. With the Sandman series, Gaiman hits that feeling on the head with every issue. I’ve read four volumes so far, I’m just starting the fifth, and it leaves me gaping like a fish every five minutes. That man is a genius, and I don’t use that term lightly. He’s a factory of ideas, producing them in such overwhelming detail that I’m half grateful that he exists and writes like he does and half extremely jealous of his ability to.
And the illustration! Yow! I loved the first two volumes more than the others so far, but all of them are incredible. They’ve got to be, anything less and the whole series would come crumbling down.
They’re addictive, these books. And even though you want to just gobble them all up, you realise how important it is to stop – and savour every panel, every moment you spend reading. I can stare at Morpheus’ cloak for a whole ten minutes. And after every few pages, you are forced to pause, shut the book, and think. Because this is not just a book. They are not just stories. Oh, no. You get the feeling that something of consequence is happening. That these books are changing something inside you, somehow. That you have to acknowledge the change, lest it slip away and forever be lost to you. That the way you see things is going to be very different the moment you accept that tentacle the books are extending to you and all that the invitation implies.
You know how people sometimes ask you if there was one book/book-series that you could read for the rest of your life – that and nothing else – which book(s) you would choose? And you think, “What? What is wrong with you? I can’t pick a favourite, go away and stop asking me these rubbish questions”? Yeah, well. I’d choose Sandman.