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on 3 June 2015
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on 10 August 2004
In A GAME OF YOU the focus shifts from the Sandman to woman named Barbara, who gets drawn back into a world which she, as a child, had frequented. The cast of characters are wonderful. There are the inhabitants of Barbara's dream world who are suitably comical, noble and mischievous. There are also the residents in Barbara's block of flats: The feisty Wanda, a woman who was born in a man's body; Thessaly, a superior-acting witch; sensitive Hazel and tough Foxglove (who are a couple); creepy George and the listless Barbara. Gaiman does excellent work with these characters, as he explores them in depth and they each develop as the plot progresses.
The story grew on me as I read it. At first I didn't like it so much, there was a subtle menace and darkness and maybe I'm just a sissy but too much of that kind of thing wears me down. But the story was so interesting - quietly so - you know, in unobvious way. The mystery builds wonderfully and the intricate plot develops so gently and subtly up to its conclusion, which is beautiful and perfect. The end of the story leaves one with such a good feeling because it is somewhat of an epiphany, but not one of those brief, sudden, realisations - more a realisation that is complex and deep, one that has been building momentum for a long time and finally comes together in the end.
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Do you remember Barbie? Not the doll, but the creepily perky blonde from "The Doll's House" who had a matching husband named Ken. Well, she's the protagonist of the fifth "Sandman" collection, which is accurately titled "A Game of You" -- a haunting, fairy-tale exploration into a young woman's dreaming imagination, and the friends who are trying to save her.

Having split from Ken, Barbie has since moved to New York and is living in a small apartment building with a lesbian couple named Hazel and Foxglove, a kindly M-to-F transsexual named Wanda, a creepy guy, and a prim mystery woman named Thessaly. She also hasn't dreamed in two years.

But then she has a run-in with an imaginary creature from her childhood, who gives her the magical jewel called the Porpentine with his dying breath. And that night, she goes back into a fantasy world from her childhood -- a place of talking animals, haunted forests, and a mysterious enemy called the Cuckoo.

But as Barbie (aka Princess Barbara) sets out to defeat the Cuckoo, Thessaly wakes Foxglove, Hazel and Wanda, and reveals that Barbie is in desperate need of their help -- and uses her magic to open a gateway to the realm of dreams. But they may not be in time to save Barbie from the machinations of the Cuckoo -- or New York from the destructive magic being stirred.

In most authors' works, supporting characters are just window dressing for the main characters. In Neil Gaiman's works, every character has their own unique backstory and purpose in the plot -- Barbie was just one of the minor background characters in a previous story, but in "A Game of You" we discover her dreams, her past, her fears, and her own connection to the Dream King.

And in turn, the other characters are given well-developed backstories, problems and personalities -- the no-nonsense Thessaly, hinted to be an ancient witch or something; Hazel, who is afraid of what her pregnancy might mean for her relationship, and the sensitive, loyal Wanda who will never let Barbie down. Even the crazy dog-hating lady has a REASON to be here, and a history of her own.

Gaiman's storytelling here mingles an enchanted high fantasy world (reminiscent of Narnia) with a darker, more gruesome story. I mean, there's a skinned face with eyes and tongue NAILED TO THE WALL, having a casual conversation with Wanda. Ew. And even if things are worked out by the end, not everything turns out all right -- there are tragic losses, changes, and Barbie has left behind a part of her life.

And where is Morpheus in all this? He only appears in a few scenes, but his involvement is truly vital to the story. And no, I won't say how.

"Sandman Volume 5: A Game of You" will probably leave you with a little smile, but a tear in your eye. A magnificently powerful, haunting story.
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on 25 December 2013
I'd be lying, if I said I opened the pages of this book, the fifth story in the acclaimed Sandman graphic novels, with excited expectation. From what I had read, many considered this the weakest of the series. Gaiman, himself, has named it as his favourite and it isn't difficult to see why. 'A Game of You' follows Barbie, who first appeared in the 'The Doll's house', as she re-enters the world of her childhood dreams. One of Gaiman's greatest gifts as a writer is taking characters who could appear at first appear two-dimensional and turning them in to real human beings.
Despite the macabre and fantastical world Gaiman creates, the characters who inhabit it always feel real and more importantly the reader always cares about them. Like 'The Dolls House', we are in this story introduced to a whole cast of new characters who all feel flawed yet likeable for that very reason. Despite the fact many of them are unlikely to ever hold any significance in the Sandman universe, they are all as important as any other characters. Through their dreams, Gaiman shows us his characters hopes, fears and ambitions.
The ending to this story is perhaps the most touching moment and admittedly this is closest I've ever been to tears by a comic book. 'A Game of You' is about the nature of story-telling and the fact that all things must come to an end. Obviously, this is an absolute must for anyone who enjoyed the previous editions. It makes my mind boggle to consider that anyone considered it the weakest.
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on 20 March 2017
Impossible to put down until finished, if I didn't know better I'd say there was something hypnotic in the writing. There couldn't be, could there?
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on 1 March 2004
Further to what the reviews above say, this book is a story
identity, and while pretty dark, is really brilliantly written.
I won't give the story away too much, but this a kind of modern
Alice in wonderland type story, which sounds like it's been done
before, but not at this level, taking in modern feminist,social,
and gay issues. This book was suggested to me, and even if,
like me , youre not into comic books generally, this is well worth a look.
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on 1 February 2001
A Game of You forms part of the long-running comics series, The Sandman, but you knew that anyway. This is the only one that can really be read entirely on its own, without unexplained mysteries nagging away at you.
It's a story of Barbie, a woman who seems an airhead bimbo, but who lives the most wonderfully crafted and intricate dreams, in a land of danger and intrigue. The book shares its time equally between dreams and reality, dealing with Barbie's dream-companions - a parrot called Luz, a monkey named Prinado and a rat in a press-hat and trenchcoat called Wilkinson; in the real world Foxglove and Hazel, Wanda who wishes she was a woman and the odd Thessaly who is much more than she seems.
During the course of the book, themes are picked up and played on with great subtlety, the main one being one of identity and gender. The author pulls off the great trick of making the reader empathise totally with some quite off-the-wall characters and once we start to love them, begins to wield the axe.
Watchmen is the finest comic ever written, but parts of A Game of You come close; one of the few even of the much-vaunted adult comics that get you emotionally hooked.
And the dialogue - oh, how it sizzles. If you take a pencil to a Raymond Chandler novel and try to cut out any wasted words you can't do it, and the same is true of this. There isn't a single line of dialogue, a single word of description that doesn't carry its weight and hold additional resonance second time around.
Believe me, there will be a second time around.
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on 12 February 2017
I feel like my review is going to be redundant here. Many other reviewers have pretty much covered the general sentiment towards this book, which I happen to agree with, more or less.

This is reported to be one of the least favored installments in the Sandman series, and it could be because the Dream Lord barely makes an appearance, or because the story does not revolve around him, or maybe even because people simply don't really care for Barbie - whom this whole tale was basically about. Whatever the reason(s) may be, I liked it. I tend to take each Sandman tale in isolation, a book with its own set of characters, themes and storylines - that somehow, someway, end up being linked. That way, I am never really disappointed about the progress of the story or whether I feel it's moving fast enough, or whether I think Neil Gaiman is digressing from the main plot or whatever. Just enjoy each book as it comes, on its own.

This one revolves around Barbie. We meet Barbie in The Doll's House, when she was one of Rose Walker's housemates. She is now in New York City, and has obviously been through a lot as she goes through life jaded and disinterested in her surroundings. She has been unable to dream, and the dream world she used to visit has been taken over by evil forces, killing the animals and creatures that loved her and have been waiting for her return. One of them succeeds in jumping to her realm, in order to convince her to come back with him and save them all.

She does...and this takes us on a journey and adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed reading about. I loved the twist near the end, and thought the series of events that took place were exciting and fascinating.

I now have 4 more books to reach the end of this brilliant series.
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The fifth Sandman collection sees Gaiman tackle the traditional fantasy/fairy tale 'quest' story. This is an interesting tale, one of the most traditionally-structured in the series, and once again makes use of the history already established in the series whilst setting up elements for use in future stories.

Barbie, the young woman who was one of Rose Walker's housemates in The Doll's House, has relocated to New York City and now lives in an apartment block. Other residents of the block include a transsexual named Wanda, a lesbian couple named Hazel and Foxglove, a bookish young woman named Thessaly and a surly man named George. Since the events of The Doll's House Barbie has been unable to dream and in her absence the dream-kingdom she used to inhabit, the Land, has been overrun by an evil force known as 'the Cuckoo'. Only a few of Barbie's imaginary friends have survived, and using powerful magic one of these, a giant dog named Martin Tenbones, crosses over into the real world to enlist her aid in saving them.

A Game of You is, by some reports, the least popular of the Sandman tales. I'm not sure why that is the case, although Dream spending much more time off-page than normal (only really active at the beginning and end) may have something to do with it. The mix of high fantasy with harsh reality may have something more to do with it, and the somewhat bemused-rather-than-scared-into-catatonia reactions of the other residents of the apartment block to one of their number cutting off someone's face and pinning it to the wall strains credulity somewhat. But Gaiman again gives us an interesting, intricately-crafted story featuring some very well-realised characters and some fascinating fantasy concepts. A lengthy essay by Samual R. Delaney opens this collection in which he discusses some of the ideas and themes presented, and is an interesting read. A Game of You is, at its heart, a story about identity, about what people want to be versus the sometimes harsh reality of who they actually are, and about the role that fantasy plays in people's lives.

A Game of You (****) is another solid addition to the Sandman mythos, with a strong storyline and some interesting thematic elements making up for a slightly unsatisfying ending and a distinct lack of appearances by the Sandman. It is available from Titan in the UK and Vertigo in the USA, and is part of The Absolute Sandman, Volume II, available from Vertigo in the UK and USA.
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on 20 August 2003
This is the best Sandman book I've read: this is the best graphic novel I've read - it leaves even "The Watchmen" standing. The writing is moving and the plot brilliantly concieved: but this is a graphic novel and the illustrations are where the real real emotional punch is delivered (especially the "reaction shots" of characters to events).
The story is set in a fantasy world very reminiscent of Narnia - only here we have Barbie thrown in and her marriage to Ken has failed and there's no Aslan to sort things out: Gaiman's humanism is a pleasant contrast to Lewis's philosophy - I actually felt morally uplifted.
The subject matter for the book is nothing less than love, life and (especially) death - it feels as though the effects of AIDS may have inspired some of it. I think that this might not suit fans of the other Sandman stories where death and other grim realities are rather romanticised - this is a very adult book in the best sense of the term. If you like this graphic novel and fancy a big heavy, written novel, then you'll like Kundera's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being".
Read this book before you die.
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