Jun 8, 2007

The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman & Yoshitaka Amano

The Dream Hunters by Neil Gaiman & Yoshitaka Amano

This book was not originally a part of my Once Upon a Time reading list. However, Chris’ review really made me want to read it, and I thought that now would be the perfect time. Neil Gaiman is my favourite author, after all, plus I love The Sandman and, being a huge Final Fantasy fan, I also love Yoshitaka Amano, who is responsible for the book's gorgeous illustrations.

I think that this book would be a fine introduction to Neil Gaiman. It is a Sandman story, but you don’t need to be familiar with "The Sandman" to read it. You may not identify certain familiar characters if you’re not, but that doesn’t interfere in the understanding of the story at all.

I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say that The Dream Hunters is a retelling of a Japanese folktale named “The Fox, The Monk, and the Mikado of All Night’s Dreaming”. It is, according to what Neil says in the afterword, a faithful retelling, and the fact that it fits the Sandman universe so well is an almost alarming coincidence. But we're all human, after all, so it’s natural than people’s imaginations follow similar paths independently from time to time.

This tale is a shape-shifter tale, a tale that deals with fox-women, which seem to be common in Japanese folklore. It is also a story of love and courage and sacrifice and loss. I am not too familiar with Japanese folklore, but, after reading this book, I realize that I need to do something about that as soon as possible. I want to start by reading the original folktale this book is based on (hopefully it won’t be too difficult to find), and then read a full collection.

One of the things that impressed me the most about this book is how flexible Neil Gaiman’s storytelling voice is. Like I said, I’m not too familiar with Japanese folklore, but the tone he used seemed just right to introduce readers to this universe. There was nothing foreign or alien about it. He weaves the tale with such confidence you would think he’s been immersed in tales of Old Japan all his life.

To give you a taste of it, let me share this quote:
Now in those days there were many things walking the earth that we rarely see today. There were ghosts and demons, and spirits of all kinds; there were beast gods and little gods and great gods; there were all manner of entities, beings, and wraiths and creatures, both kind and malevolent.
Also, this book has the best description of Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, I have ever seen. It describes him as:
…one who shaped, who moulded and formed things from chaos and from nothing, who transmuted things from formlessness and shapelessness into that-which-was-not-real, but without which the real would have no meaning.
And of course, no post about The Dream Hunters can be complete without the proper amount of praise for Yoshitaka Amano’s absolutely stunning artwork:


Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams


The Baku, the Dream Eaters


The Fox and the Badger

This book is a very quick read: my edition is only 126 pages long, more than half of which are full-page illustrations. So if you ever have a bit of money to spend and a few hours to kill, considering getting this. I honestly believe that spending time with a thing of such beauty will make your life better.

Other Blog Reviews:
Stuff as Dreams Are Made On
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Fyrefly's Book Blog

7 comments:

Chris said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I couldn't stop just staring at the pages in this book. It was just such a beautiful book. The story and writing were beautiful, the illustrations were gorgeous. Two of my favorite creative forces combined into one...doesn't get much better than that.

I love Japanese folklore. You could pick up just about any anthology and get a good introduction. I had a great text in an Asian lit. class that covered traditional writing from Japan, China, and India and I can't remember the name of it. Let me think on it and I'll get back to you.

Chris said...

Oooh, but if you do want to read a wonderful Japanese writer, I suggest Yukio Mishima...Confessions of a Mask is a beautiful book. And I just found the anthology...It's Masterpieces of the Orient and it's edited by George Lincoln Anderson. Really great collection of Asian Literature. I think you'd enjoy it.

Literary Feline said...

This does sound like a good one. I've added it to my wishlist. Thanks for the great review!

Nymeth said...

Thank you, Chris, I really appreciate the recommendation. There are many anthologies out there and I have no doubt that all are pretty good, but it's good to have an idea of where to start. I'll look for Mishima as well!

literary feline: thank you. I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Like Chris said, one could merely stare at the pages of this book for ages.

Rhinoa said...

Oh I will have to get this as I love Neil Gaiman and Final Fantasy. The story sounds really interesting, cheers for the review :)

Melissa said...

Neil Gaiman is my absolute favorite. I have been reading lately Alex Webster and The Gods by David Dent who's work is very similar to Gaiman's. I absolutely love it.

Anonymous said...

I remember the first time I read this book. It touched me so deeply I literally wept.

I don't want to spoil anything for anyone but it deals with love and loss in a way that I can totally relate too.

and the artwork is simply gorgous.

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