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Not good enough for the Sandman
on 6 September 2016
This wasn't up to standard when compared to the previous two installments in the series, and it seems many reviewers share the same opinion. It is a bit of a step back, and almost acts like a filler between books, as it has little to no Morpheus (Dream) in it and is seemingly unrelated to the overall events of the Sandman series.
Dream Country basically features four short stories with no connection to each other or the overall storyline. The first is "Calliope", which was quite dark in comparison to the other stories in the book, where an author suffering from writer's block is offered Homer's "muse" to overcome his problem and he ends up locking her in a room for many years as he rapes her regularly, achieving both fame and fortune in the process. Only problem is, we soon discover that Calliope is actually Morpheus's ex, and mother to his child! Having just been released from a very long captivity himself, he is not pleased (to say the least) to find that his ex has been suffering the same fate, if not worse...
The second story is about cats. Enough said. I have never been a huge fan of "talking animals", be it books or films or anything related, and this came off as a bit silly and unlike Gaiman's usual style of writing in the context of the Sandman series. I couldn't understand why this was included in the series, or what it was supposed to add - if anything. One reviewer mentioned the idea that this was the "first time we see Morpheus live up to his name, shape-shifting from his human-ish form into a Dream cat, showing that he is Dream for all beings, not just humans", and perhaps that was the point, but it still didn't impress and was quite forgettable.
Then, there's Gaiman's take on Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, which was quite interesting, and has apparently won him the World Fantasy Award. In this story, Dream is seen to have requested that Shakespeare perform this play, with the promise that his work will be remembered forever. This play is performed to an audience of faeries and other creatures, who are reflected in the play itself, and you see them interact with the actors before, during and after the performance in bizarre and creepy ways. An interesting take, but not as remarkable as I hoped it would be.
Finally, the series ends with Death - Dream's sister. "Facade" is a story about a woman depressed and desperate to die, but cannot, and that is where Death makes an appearance. Again, it was entertaining to read, but not gripping enough.
This book works well as a standalone perhaps, and it might have been rated differently had it been so, but given that it is a part of an overall (and so far) brilliant series, it felt off and just not good enough.