Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Sandman: A Game of You

Reading the Sandman books in their collected form, rather than as they originally appeared (in comic-book-size installments), makes me wonder how my experience differs from that of the readers who read them one at a time as they were released. This volume collects stories that form a single narrative arc, rather than separate stand-alone stories, and I honestly cannot say which I prefer. The stand-alones are fun, intriguing glimpses into Dream's world and workings. The longer stories are gripping and connect more intimately and at greater length with the various characters. Being able to read them all at once, rather than serially, as they were published, must make for a less frustrating experience for the longer stories!

This volume features Barbie, a character who was originally introduced as a secondary character in The Doll's House (Volume 2). Barbie had a very intricate dream world when she was a little girl, and it seems that this world is very real - in Dream's realm. An evil force known as the Cuckoo has taken over and is harming all her beloved old friends. One of them, an enormous dog-like creature, breaks through into the real world where Barbie lives, trying to get her help. Barbie lives in an old apartment building, and one of her neighbors is aligned with the cuckoo and launches an attack on Barbie - as well as the other residents of the building. Her other neighbors include a lesbian couple, a transgender friend named Wanda, and a quiet, intellectual young woman no one seems to know very well. These people are not the usual companions a dream princess might expect to go on a quest to help her, but they are all she's got. My favorite character of them all is Wanda, who is strong and complicated, definitely unforgettable.

This tale is dark and fantastical, with an interesting combination of the magical as well as the bleaker, more violent elements of fairytales and fantasy quests. I am always amazed that the artwork, while created by so many different artists, maintains such a consistent feel throughout. At the same time, each artist's style contributes in its own unique way to each particular story. I continue to enjoy the Sandman series, and I'm looking forward to reading the next volume soon.

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: A Game of You (#5 in the Sandman series) by Neil Gaiman; illustraed by Shawn McManus, Colleen Doran, Bryan Talbot, George Pratt, Stan Woch and Dick Giordano (Vertigo, 1993)

Also reviewed at:
Fyrefly's Book Blog: "Whereas the first volume of the Sandman collection interested me but didn’t bowl me over, this one drew me in, rolled me around in a stew of mythology and pathos and poignancy, and spat me out a Fan."
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist: "The author's hybrid of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Stephen R. Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and C. S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia was quite a treat!"
The Wertzone: "Gaiman again gives us an interesting, intricately-crafted story featuring some very well-realised characters and some fascinating fantasy concepts."


  1. It's so funny that you bring up the serials vs. collected volumes issue. When I first bought the Sandman, I decided I wasn't going to read more than one issue a day - I did okay for the first few volumes (only one issue a day! it was torture during Season of Mists!), but I cracked when I got to A Game of You. It was too much suspense!

  2. Jenny - That is funny! I was so thankful as I read through this one that I could just keep going through them all at once. I so would have cracked, too!

  3. I couldn't handle one-issue-at-a-time - both because I am impatient and hate waiting, and because my memory can be slippery and a lot of times I don't remember the beginning of a story by the time I get to the end. (I have the same problem with long-delayed sequels.)

    While Seasons of Mists was what fully converted me to Sandman afficionado, A Game of You was the first time the series evoked any really strong emotion. So good!

  4. Fyrefly - I know exactly what you mean! I was very teary-eyed at the end of this one. They just keep getting better and better!

  5. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this series. I like the dark fantasy elements and glad to see this delivers more of it :)

  6. Rhinoa - This is definitely dark, and it is intriguing to see how the stories move forward in ways that are always so surprising to me.


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