This third Sandman collection contains four tales that stand on their own, plot-wise, while still connecting to the same characters and situations as the previous books.
The collection opens with "Calliope," a dark, disturbing and ultimately very satisfying story about one of the muses, captured by an aspiring writer, and held captive in order to assure him a majorly successful career.
The next story, "A Dream of a Thousand Cats" is a whimsical yet bleak tale about what cats really dream of - and it's not a new toy mouse to play with! The illustrations are wonderful in this one, really giving a sense of the wildness and otherness we so often ignore in our beloved pets.
In "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (which won the World Fantasy Award in 1991), Shakespeare and his players perform a play for the very faeries who are featured as characters. Charles Vess is one of my favorite illustrators, and his artwork is a perfect match for the story. His rendition of Bottom with the donkey's head made me laugh out loud. I enjoyed watching the faeries watch the play, and it was delightful to eavesdrop on their commentary: "Besides -- if you ask me, none of those women are women at all. They're males, I can tell," says one of the fae in the audience. "Human males taste more like rabbit than the females - and they stick in your teeth. Oh yes."
The final story, "Facade," is about Urania Blackwell, a superhero who's no longer working because of difficulties with her superpowers. I'm not sure if this is a known superhero from previous comics, or one made up for the purpose of the tale. At any rate, her situation of isolation and depression is grim and unsettling. Death happens to be passing by, and she and Urania have an enlightening discussion - one that gives Urania some food for thought, while also revealing some fascinating insight into Death herself.
This is my final reread of this series before I move on into new territory with the rest of the books. I am enjoying myself immensely - first-rate storytelling, intriguing characters, excellent artwork, and a nicely dark and creepy tone that echoes through the stories, making them perfect autumn reads.
Books in The Sandman series:
1. Preludes & Nocturnes (collects The Sandman #1-8)
2. The Doll's House (collects The Sandman #9-16)
3. Dream Country (collects The Sandman #17-20)
4. Season of Mists (collects The Sandman #21-28)
5. A Game of You (collects The Sandman #32-37)
6. Fables and Reflections (collects The Sandman #29- 1, #38-40, #50, Sandman Special #1 and Vertigo Preview #1)
7. Brief Lives (collects The Sandman #41-49)
8. World's End (collects The Sandman #51- 56)9. The Kindly Ones (collects The Sandman #57-69)
10. The Wake (collects The Sandman #70-75)
The Sandman: The Dream Country (#3 in the Sandman series) by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Kelley Jones Malcolm Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran (Vertigo, 1990, 1995)
Also reviewed at:
Once Upon a Bookshelf: "Since each of the comics were standalones, it didn’t really give much time to really get into a story, and you didn’t get any character development. The only thing that was really really good were the illustrations in the comics."
Jenny's Books: "Anyway, the other three stories are very, very good. I like “Calliope” the best. It’s not that I don’t like the other two – I do – but I just like “Calliope” way the best. "
Rhinoa's Ramblings: "My favourite story was "Dream of a Thousand Cats". It was a great idea that humans changed the world and all concept of the world by dreaming the same dream at the same time."
The Wertzone: "an excellent addition to The Sandman mythos, although it can be criticised for being on the short side....But the quality of the actual stories more than makes up for it."