on 7 April 2001
This is the one that hooked me on Sandman. I now have almost everything Gaiman has ever written. So this was a good starting point for me. There is a large portion of the book devoted to the script for Calliope, which is probably annoying if you are a first-time reader of Sandman, but brilliant if you're an obbsessive, like me! There are four short stories, each of which is a fine example of why Gaiman has become so famous now. My personal favourite is 'Calliope' which reveals a few things about Morpheus, the Sandman of the title. If you're a first time reader of Gaiman's graphic work, then I'd start off with 'Preludes and Nocturnes', the first in the series, but if you've already read his work, you won't be disappointed. I only direct you to the first in the series because its annoying to read things backwards, and once you've read a bit of 'The Sandman' you'll read all of it. I guarantee.
One of the best things about the Sandman series is that it isn't actually necessary to have Dream -- or any of the other Endless -- in much of the story. Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country" demonstrates that beautifully, with four lusciously haunting, sometimes horrifying tales of magic, muses, cats and faerie royals.
In "Calliope," a struggling writer is willing to do anything if he can write his second novel, but he's got a wicked case of writer's block. So he gains possession of Calliope, the muse of literature, and rapes her so that he can write once again. Desperate to be free of her imprisonment, Calliope calls on the only one who can help her.
Then "A Dream of a Thousand Cats" shows a congregation of cats, one of whom tells a story of how her owners murdered her kittens. This led her into a journey into the Dream Country, so that she might see the truth about dreams and reality.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" takes place as Shakespeare and his company perform the titular play on a hillside. Morpheus appears, along with the Faerie Court of Titania and Auberon, and the origins of Shakespeare's talent are revealed at last as the play goes on.
And finally, "Facade" introduces us to Element Girl/Rainie, a retired superheroine who lives a reclusive life because of her frightening appearance. When an old friend calls her, she crafts a false face to hide her appearance -- only to have it fall off during their dinner. The devastated Rainie longs to die, but it will take a visit from one of the Endless to help her...
Despite the title ("The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country"), there's not much of either the Dream Country or Morpheus in this volume. In fact, there's only one foray into the Dream Country, and Morpheus makes two cameos, one major appearance, and is completely absent from the story "Facade."
Rather, this is a chance for Neil Gaiman to flex his storytelling muscles. Each of the stories is painfully bittersweet, and are shadowed by loss, loneliness and misery. There are some moments of wrenching horror (Calliope being raped for inspiration), but Gaiman also shows off his dark, witty sense of humor as well ("'I am that merry wanderer of the night'? I am that giggling-dangerous-totally-bloody-psychotic-menace-to-life-and-limb, more like it").
And the art is absolutely gorgeous. Charles Vess's delicately-drawn, colorful pictures make the entire faerie story come to life, and the muted, shadowed art of the cats and their vision of the Dream Country is entrancing. "Calliope" is brightly colored but clouded with shadows and darkness, as if the writer's heart is overshadowing the world around him.
"The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country" has small but significant connections to both the Sandman and the Dream Country -- four haunting, bittersweet stories from a master storyteller.
The third Sandman collection represents a change of pace from the first two. Whilst the first two were unified by a central story arc that ran through each one, Dream Country is essentially a short story collection, featuring four tales that although self-contained, do illuminate parts of the backstory and the ongoing overall storylines of the entire series.
The first story is Calliope. A young writer, Richard Madoc, has a bad case of writer's block following the success of his first novel. In desperation he turns to the occult to find a way out of his problem and enlists the help of Erasmus Fry, an elderly author and successful playwright. It turns out that Fry owes his success to his imprisonment of Calliope, one of the nine muses of antiquity (and the former muse of Homer), and he passes control of Calliope over to Madoc. By holding her hostage and abusing her, Madoc gains the inspiration he needs and becomes a bestselling writer, churning out novels, a poetry collection, screenplays and even becoming a gifted director. Unfortunately for Madoc, he is unaware that Calliope is also the former lover of one of the Endless...
This is an interesting story. The notion of 'the muse' is explored here, although the literal personification of Calliope can be substituted for whatever a writer uses for inspiration. The abuse and over-use of the muse resulting in a horrendous case of writer's block, perhaps permanantly, is an interesting idea to use for a story, but it works well. We also get some intriguing backstory for The Sandman overall, including the tantalising revelation that somewhere out there Morpheus has a son (although those who know their Greek mythology will be way ahead of the game here). For those interested in writing graphic novels and comics, the complete script for Calliope is included in the book as well.
The second story is much more straightforward and fun. The Dream of a Thousand Cats sees a cat travelling the world, preaching a message to all the other cats, and we see the impact of that message on a young kitten. This story has been called 'cute' but it really isn't. The dream the cat is trying to bring into reality really isn't very nice (especially for humans) and the final line and image are brilliantly contrasted with what is going on in the cat's mind. This is as self-contained as Sandman stories come, and shows Gaiman's wit and imagination in full flower.
The third story is the legendary A Midsummer Night's Dream. Back in Men of Good Fortune (included in The Doll's House), Dream and William Shakespeare made a deal whereby Dream would give Shakespeare access to a font of imagination in return for Shakespeare writing two plays for him. A Midsummer Night's Dream is the first, written for Dream to show as a piece of entertainment to the real faerie king and queen, Auberon and Titania, who return to the mortal plane with their retainers for the occasion.
This is a splendid, clever story which rightfully won the World Fantasy Award in 1991. As the play unfolds events offstage are illuminated by it: Titania's enchantment of Shakespeare's son (who died several years later), Robin Goodfellow (Puck)'s irritation at being portrayed by a mortal and the running commentary provided by several of the faerie court viewing the play, with some disagreement about whether they should congratulate the mortals for their art or eat them. There's also some more scene-setting for later stories (an invitation is extended to Dream who hasn't followed up on it by four centuries later). The highlight of the collection, this is an amusing story, although probably of most interest to established Shakespeare fans.
The final story is Facade, about an extremely obscure DC hero who finds herself lost and lonely, living in her apartment with a weekly conversation with the guy who signs her pension cheques as the highlight of her week. This is a somewhat bleak story about a hero with the power to save the world but who loses herself in the process, but it is given an uplifting ending by the arrival of Death, who is fleshed out a lot more here than in her previous brief appearances.
Dream Country (****) is an excellent addition to The Sandman mythos, although it can be criticised for being on the short side (collecting only four issues, compared to the previous two collections' eight apiece) and only padded out to a reasonable length by the Calliope script. But the quality of the actual stories more than makes up for it.
on 28 April 2001
Compared to the others in this series, I was very disappointed in this collection, lacking the depth and emotional involvement I am used to in Gaiman's work. Having said that, its still miles better than a lot of current comic book writing! This volume contains a very nifty tale involving a man searching for inspiration literally finding his Muse, A Dream of A Thousand Cats, which lots of people really love, but I just find sketchy, Facade, where Death makes a welcome appearance and the most complete story, the award winning A Midsummer Night's Dream. This is the tale of Shakespeare's first presentation of his play for a VERY special audience... So, not top-notch Sandman, but if you are a fan, there's a lot you will get out of this.
on 24 March 2013
Four seemingly unconnected stories, in the first Calliope who was Homers muse is enslaved by a writer and then passed onto another writer who has run out of ideas and subsequently becomes a huge success through the inventiveness she prompts. Raped and abused she seeks help and here we learn of a past relationship with Dream thousands of years ago and a son born to them. There is evidence that Dream has changed due to his imprisonment as he shows empathy with Calliope's situation. This was my favourite of the four stories with some truly disturbing moments as we see the writers euphoria when he gets all he wishes for, until its all torn away.
The second story is about cats which usually is enough to put me off straight away but here we see Dream in animal guise and a cat prophet.
In the third issue Dream commissions a play from William Shakespeare and they give a performance to the court of the Faerie, the play is intended as a gift to the King and Queen so they may never be forgotten.
In the final issue we see the return of Dream' sister Death who gives an indestructible but suicidal woman a way to end her miserable life. Dream is absent in this story but we do get his gothic sister who is an interesting character with alot of potential.
on 7 April 2014
I read this collection about ten years ago and I remember thinking it the weakest of the Sandman books. Having re-read it again now, I appreciate it a lot more! The story of Calliope is a great start to this collection with very strong artwork and her imprisonment echoes Dream's in the first collection. It's quite moving to see how Dream's character is already beginning to soften.
Dream of a Thousand Cats is a clever tale suggesting an alternate history of mankind (and catkind!).
Facade is a genuinely moving portrait of a 'has-been' super-heroine who can't have the only thing she wants... until the Sandman's sister pops in to chat.
Finally, A Midsummer Night's Dream... the best story of the collection, weaving together magic and theater! It also contains some of the best artwork of the whole series thanks to Charles Vess.
So, although this book doesn't reach the dizzy heights of the epic Kindly Ones or the twists of Doll's House or Seasons of Mists, it's a very enjoyable chapter in the Sandman's story.
on 12 March 2001
If you are looking for Spider-man or Superman, do not buy this book. Neil Gaiman's Sandman is far more profound and mature than that.
Around Sandman (Or Dream or Morpheus), Gaiman displays an unusual mix of fantasy, mythology and good literature. Indeed, he is an excellent storyteller.
This book is particularly interesting, because it lacks a certain sense of continuity in the Sandman saga (I highly advise you to read the other books), and yet it has beautiful, self-contained, stories. Gaiman's version of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is specially very provocative and interesting. "Calliope" is also very intriguing.
This is the kind of work that makes you think about the role of Dream(s) in human life.
At least, if you believe in it...
on 4 October 2013
The first two volumes in the sandman series was nothing less than perfect. They build up a vast universe, and sets almost limitless possibilities for the series. The third volume somehow manages to destroy all that. Luckily the following volumes makes up for a lot of that. Containing 4 short stories, with the first beign quite good, the last three disappoints greatly. They are simply too intellectual, too boring, but most of all, they add nothing to the sandman universe other than weakening it's existing parts. That, and the fact that a third of the book is Gaimans script for the first story makes this the weakest and most fragmented book in the series.
Unless you want to have all 11 volumes, theres no need to pick this one up at all.
on 8 January 2013
I must say that high quality comic books were waiting for the hi res splendour of tablets like the kindle. The sandman series of books are really fantastic and we'll worth the price ticket. Good job amazon for including these titles in your range of products. I might suggest amazon marketplace, introduce more of these titles like Preacher....
on 9 February 2012
Bought for my partner who loves Neil gamen. Thought I would give this series a try and he hasn't be able to put I down. He reccomends this for Anyone tha usually likes Neil gamens stuff. Easy to read lots in one go or to just pick up for a few pages at a time.