Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Sandman Volume X: The Wake

First line: And it came to pass that a message was sent out to each member of the family.

Why you should read this book: It takes an entire volume to tie up all the filaments in this denouement, in which all remaining characters cope with the losses of the previous book. It's a testament to the power of the series that, even after the story is over, there is more story to tell. Endless stories, one might say.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You hate goodbyes.

The Sandman Volume IX: The Kindly Ones


First line: There’s a dream in which huge faceless women with wolves astride them are chewing at my entrails and legs. 

Why you should read this book: Countless threads come together in this fast-paced volume, which is much thicker than the others, and carries the combined impact of them all. Mistakes have been made, and consequences will be faced; everything changes. Books like these force the reader to confront how close we can actually feel to fictional characters. 

Why you shouldn't read this book: Sadness. 

The Sandman Volume VIII: World’s End

First line: Looking back on it, the thing that still surprises me is my own reaction to it all.

Why you should read this book: There’s a Canterbury Tales type frame story that involves a massive reality storm, one which strands hundreds of travelers from all different times and places in a cozy inn, the only place they can take shelter until the storm passes. While there, the travelers, some of whom we’ve met in other volumes, are all compelled to tell their own story, and, as the book progresses, we see that all the stories concern death in their own way. Finally, the climax, in the form of a gigantic piece of foreshadowing, frees the travelers to continue their journeys.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: Easily the goriest part of the series. 

The Sandman Volume VII: Brief Lives


First line: It is, of course, a miracle.

Why you should read this book: Delirium really, really, really wants to seek out their prodigal brother, Destruction, and Dream really, really, really doesn’t know how to deal with failed relationships, so he agrees to go with her. They travel together through the mortal realm, trying to track him down, and have all kinds of fantastic adventures. Eventually, Dream needs to get out of his own head start thinking about how other people feel for once in his life.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You have ever been troubled by illusory insects.

The Sandman Volume VI: Fables and Reflections

First line: It was getting late, and I was losing it fast.

Why you should read this book: It’s another collection of one-shots, many of which deal with historical incidents in which Dream’s interference in the mortal realm affected the course of human history. There’s also some nice development of the family drama along with some bits and pieces that demonstrate Dream’s interaction with and affect on ordinary citizens. Here and there, recurring characters and their important come a bit more into focus.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You were happy about the lack of Greek mythology in book four.

The Sandman Volume V: A Game of You

First line: What will we do, Prinado?

Why you should read this book: It turns out that a minor character from volume two is a major player in backwater corner of the Dreaming, but she’s been unable to return since Dream destroyed the Vortex. Barbie’s waking life and her dream world are in utter turmoil in her absence from her distant skerry, but her return might not improve either situation. It’s all very classically adventurous, plus you get a really fun sequence where a witch nails a dead guy’s face to a wall and makes it reveal its secrets.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: The thing with the dead guy’s face is kind of gross. 

The Sandman Volume IV: Season of Mists


First line: Walk any path in Destiny’s garden, and you will be forced to choose, not once but many times.

Why you should read this book: For myriad reasons, primarily that he has a terrible job in a terrible location, Lucifer decides to quit, kicking all the demons and damned souls out of Hell and locking the door. As his final blow, he chooses to leave Dream the key to the gates, basically to punish him for making him look stupid in volume one. Now the dead are walking the earth, everybody and his mom wants that key, and Dream can’t enjoy a moment’s solitude until he figures out who’s getting Hell, who’s getting redemption, and who’s getting revenge.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’re disappointed that the Greek gods didn’t show up. 

The Sandman Volume III: Dream Country

First line: So, what is it?

Why you should read this book: This is a shorter volume, comprising four stand alone stories in the Sandman universe, two of which figure to varying extents later in the series. “Calliope” is the tale of a kidnapped muse, “A Dream of a Thousand Cats” is entirely about what cats want, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” offers a nice spin on an old classic, and “Façade” is a Death story that wonders what becomes of invulnerable superheroes who are just done with life. Satisfying tales that reframe the real world and the comic book one.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You crave continuous arcs. 

The Sandman Volume II: The Doll’s House


First line: There are tales that are told many times.

Why you should read this book: We meet more of Dream’s extended family, including his sister-brother Desire, whose machinations form a complicated and irritating tapestry. Dream, chasing after a couple nightmares who escaped from the Dreaming during his absence, finds himself embroiled in another conundrum that could result in the death of an innocent girl. There’s also a nice bit about a convention of serial killers; a character who becomes immortal just by deciding not to die; a fairy tale; a drag queen; and a kid who has a ghost, a pregnant woman, and two nightmares living in his head.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’re sick and tired of your siblings meddling in your affairs. 

The Sandman Volume I: Preludes and Nocturnes


Written by: Neil Gaiman

First line: Wake up, sir.

Why you should read this book: Volume one in one of the best fantasy stories to be told in any medium introduces the Sandman, Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, who has been imprisoned in the mortal realm for seventy years. That’s OK; Dream has all the time in the world to wait for his revenge, which is swift and satisfying when it comes. He spends the rest of the story cleaning up all the catastrophes that took place in his absence, and, as a bonus, we get two pages featuring Martian Manhunter. 

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You don’t care to become immersed in one of the best fantasy stories to be told in any medium.

The Mary Celeste: An Unsolved Mystery from History

Written by: Jane Yolen and Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple

First line: When I grow up I was to be a detective, just like my dad.

Why you should read this book: A little girl explains the known details of the historical case of the ghost ship Mary Celeste, which left New York on November 5, 1872 and was discovered abandoned in the middle of the Atlantic ocean a month later. With no signs of mutiny, piracy, or disease, the disappearance of the entire crew remains a great nautical mystery. This book sets the case up so that it is accessible to young readers, with vocabulary words on the page and theories stated factually, along with criticism.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You’re not going to say it was aliens, but it was aliens.