May 28, 2008

The Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman

“If this is your first encounter with the world of the Sandman, it is worth bearing in mind that the Endless are not gods, for when people cease to believe in gods, they cease to exist. But as long as there are people to live and dream and destroy, to desire, to despair, to delight or go mad, to live lives and affect each other, then the Endless will be there, performing their functions. They do not care a jot whether or not you believe in them.”
From the Introduction

Endless Nights is a collection of seven stories, each about one of the Endless, and each illustrated by a different artist: Glenn Fabry, Milo Manara, Miguelanxo Padro, Frank Quitely, P. Craig Russell, Bill Sienkiewicz and Barron Storey. Of the seven stories, only two – Delirium’s and Destruction’s – are set after the events at the end of the Sandman series. But the references to what happened are subtle enough to make the stories spoiler-free for anyone new to the Sandman. And I actually think that this book would be a very good introduction to the series – better than the first volume, Preludes and Nocturnes.

I kind of knew from the start that I would find this book perfect. How could I not? My favourite author, what is probably my favourite of the things he’s created, and wonderful artwork. And yet I avoided it for five years, the reason being that it was comforting to know that there were Sandman stories out there that I hadn’t yet read. That there were some corners of that universe left for me to explore. That it wasn’t over yet. And you know what’s funny? Now that I’ve read the book, I still haven’t lost that feeling. I still don’t feel that it’s over. I think of the world of the Sandman and I get the same old feeling of elation and longing. It feels like those stories exist, and it doesn’t matter if they ever get written or not. I guess that’s what happens with the best of fictional worlds. They gain a life of their own. They become a part of our own personal mythologies.

I think my favourite stories are Dream’s, Death’s and Desire’s, but there wasn’t a single one that I didn’t like. In Dream’s story, “The Heart of a Star”, Lord Morpheus first learns that love and vulnerability cannot be disentangled. “The Heart of a Star” sheds light on the enmity between Dream and Desire, and it also gives us a glimpse of Delight. This story also has my absolute favourite artwork in the book. Miguelanxo Prado did a splendid job, creating soft-coloured and dreamlike imagines that suit the story perfectly.

In “Death in Venice”, we are told of an island whose inhabitants sought to deter the course of time – and thus to stop Death. Desire’s story, “What I’ve Tasted of Desire”, is about the life of a woman whose desire “burned like a forest fire”. “Fifteen Portraits of Despair” is gut-wrenching, especially the fourth portrait, which involves terrible things happening to cats. I read it at my own peril, really. I had been warned back in 2003, when Neil said,
If it's any consolation (and I'm sure it won't be), the story of the cats is one of those things that really happened; I ran into in a local newspaper, and I couldn't get it out of my head, so I wrote it as fiction, to see if that made it any better, and it didn't really.
I think knowing that it really happened only makes it worse (but then again, I think I'd have known it has happened in reality even if he hadn't said it. I have heard of similar things happening to dogs). This is a story that will haunt me for a very, very long time, and part of me really wants to erase it from my mind. But I don’t regret having read it, because terrible though it is, it’s a very powerful story that conveys despair perfectly. And what would fifteen portraits of Despair be, if not gut-wrenching?

I could go on and on about the other stories on Endless Nights, but I think I’ll stop now. I’ll just add that this book perfectly illustrates the reasons why I love The Sandman so much. These stories are intelligent, powerful, and relevant. It’s what Neil said in the introduction – they are stories about people who dream and desire and destroy and despair and all the rest. They are stories about what it means to be human.

Other Blog Reviews:
Deep Thoughts (warning: contains some spoilers)
In Spring it is the Dawn
Fyrefly'a Book Blog

(Did you review it as well? Let me know and I’ll add your link to this list)


  1. Sounds good! I don't have this one yet so I will have to add it to the wishlist!

  2. My husband usually has a gigantic smile on this face when I read something that he's really liked and already read. There are a couple of authors he likes sooo much and has therefore read everything written by them. If a new book comes out by one of those authors, he'll get it and then let it sit since he doesn't want it to be over. One of his favorite authors is getting pretty old and it doesn't look as though he'll be writing any more books (Jack Vance). Sad husband.

  3. I am glad you enjoyed it. It has been so long since I've read it (I did so when it first came out) that I barely remember it. I do remember that I enjoyed it, however. It has a prominent place in my Neil Gaiman collection on my work bookshelves.

    I too hope for occasional forays back into this world and am loving re-reading the series as the Absolute Editions are coming out. Sandman was the series with which I first discovered Gaiman and you never quite get over that first love.

  4. Yet another lovely review...
    "The Heart of a Star" is one of my favorite Sandman stories - and this is collection has some of my favorite Sandman art.
    Your thoughts on the reluctance to read this book are spot on - the fear is that a door is closing on something you love, but if the book is justing sitting there unread, isn't the door already kind of closed? And then you find out that nothing's really closed at all - "They become a part of our own personal mythologies."
    Thank goodness I've read this - my tbr list needs a break!

  5. Jaime, I hope you enjoy it!

    Terri B: I can definitely relate, lol

    Carl: I really should start saving up for those Absolute Editions. They definitely sound worth owning. And I know what you mean about that first love!

    Ken, you're absolutely right, the reluctance is silly... not reading a book closes more doors than reading it ever could. I'm very glad to have given in at last.

  6. Sheesh. I've got to start reading the Sandman novels, but damn. I don't even know where to start! And boy are they expensive!! I wonder if I can get them from the library.....

  7. Great review, Nymeth!
    Oh no...don't get me started on this, but you know I'll end up succumbing to the tempation because it's by Neil Gaiman! :)

  8. I need to finish the series. I recently read the first two again and plan on getting up to date including this one. I just got a book of Fables that is like this using different artists to tell each story and it looks beautiful (1001 Nights of Snowfall) which you might like too. I think it is set before they come to Fabletown.

  9. I'm a bit wary because of that one story, but it's nice to have the heads up. I tend to get really worked up about things like that, but hate to let it stop me from reading something good. Aside from that, this really sounds excellent! I, of course, knowing nothing about these, didn't realize that I could read this one without having read the whole series. I suspect I'll pick this one up next trip to the library. And reading your review here, finally made me get off my lazy butt and order The Doll's House through inter-library loan. (Okay, it didn't literally make me get off my lazy butt, as I did it sitting right here at the computer, but you know what I mean.)

  10. Stephanie: That's true, they are expensive. But you should be able to find them at the library, even if you have to use inter-library loan. I do think you'd like the series! The first one is Preludes and Nocturnes, but that one is more horror than anything else, and until the very end it doesn't quite show you what the series was to become. So, as I always tell people, if you don't like it all that much don't give up!

    Melody: You should give in! You'll be glad to have done so :P

    Rhinoa: I've flipped through 1001 Nights of Snowfall at bookshops before and I thought that the artwork was absolutely stunning. I learned from Andi a while ago that it could be read out of order, and I've been wanting to get my hands on it ever since!

    Debi: I won't lie, that story made me cry for a good 15 minutes. But you can always skip it. It's the 4th of the 15 Portraits of Despair, and they're all individual little stories, so you don't need to read it to make sense of the whole, let alone of the rest of the book. Both this and The Dream Hunters can be read out of order, and I think they're better introductions to the series than the first book. And yay! I can't wait to see what you think of The Doll's House!

  11. This is really a great book and I'm glad you finally read it! Yey!

    When I was reading Despair's pages as well I had to put it down every so often. It was difficult also with the cats. Sigh.

    I love this book a lot. Plus Destruction's here with his own story. Hahaha! Other than that I will treasure my copy forever because uh, Neil Gaiman signed it :P

  12. See, this is what I was talking about in your newer post (I read my reader backward). :P Although, this book doesn't interest me as some of the others he has written (American Gods is maybe one I would pick up first?)

  13. Lightheaded: How cool that you have a signed copy :D

    Trish: Yes, American Gods would be a good one. Or if you want something shorter to start with, try Stardust. The two are completely different, actually - American Gods is much darker. I think Stardust has more universal appeal. I love them both, though.

  14. I want to read the Sandman books, and I will probably get around to them sometime this year. I keep hearing good things about them, and I've liked everything by Gaiman that I've read so far.

  15. Kim: Although they are different I think that the fact that you liked Fables so much is a pretty strong indicator that you will like The Sandman too!


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