Review: The Sandman (Audible Original) by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman’s Sandman ran from 1989-1996 (with a couple of later additions) and is considered one of the greatest comic series of all time. Dream, aka Morpheus, aka many other names depending on the age and the culture. Dream is one of The Endless. The other Endless, his siblings, are: Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium (formerly Delight), and Destruction. The prime mythology of this world consists of the personifications of these principals, who vary in age and strength and have their own personalities.

A couple of important points about Sandman worth noting:

Sandman is, at its heart, a story about stories. One of the most important things to understand about the world of Sandman is just how expansive it is. The principals behind the personifications of The Endless are present in all cultures during all time periods. Sandman will cover stories of African folklore from the dawn of time, will go to other dimensions, will travel through time and space, and even literally to Hell. In addition to Morpheus’ interactions with the mythologies of different cultures, he will be present, in some capacity, in stories that will be recognizable to European based cultures and will interact with historical and mythological figures like William Shakespeare and Cain and Abel.

The Sandman stories contain a lot of references to different stories in different mediums. Having a pre-existing knowledge about some of the original sources, especially some of the comic character related stories, will add to the enjoyment of the story, but I don’t think it’s necessary to know what the reference is. Knowing that it is a reference is enough.

I think the final point about the series to understand is Sandman’s presence, more specifically his lack thereof, in many of the stories. There are stories where he will prominently figure at center stage, there will be other stories where is something of a guiding hand to the events unfolding, and there will be stretches of story where he isn’t present at all. Dream’s emotional journey and growth as a direct result of the story line that opens the series will be the through line that connects the stories in the series.

The story is a rich, epic, and robust tapestry spanning centuries and time and space. The characters, from the main to the secondary, are richly detailed and fully realized. Some of whom will become your favorites, if they aren’t already. A character seen in the briefest of moments in one story will have their full story revealed later; action happening in the backgroud of one story may conclude in a later story.

There has been multiple attempts to bring the world of Sandman to the screen. None of which have been realized yet. Gaiman holds tight control over the world of Sandman and the character Sandman. His basic thing is that he’s just wanted it done right. A movie was never going to serve this world well. A Sandman series is being worked for Netflix. A couple of months ago, this Audible adaptation, with a full cast, was released.

Sandman is a pretty faithful adaptation to the original books. Much of the text is the same, with some minor changes being made throughout. This is much closer to an audio drama than a straight audiobook. All of the characters have their own voice actor, many of the characters being played by well known actors. There are sound effects and Gaiman himself is the narrator.

I’ve read the entire series a few times over the years. At some point I grabbed my copy of Annotated Sandman Vol. 1 from the shelf and left it open on my desk while listening, going back to it from time to time to look at what I was listening to.

This begs the question, who is the audience for this? If someone hasn’t read the books, what will listening to them be like? The honest answer is that I don’t know. Because of the graphic nature of the medium, and my familiarity with the work, I liked being able to reference the images. More specifically, having the option to do so. Most of the reviews I’ve seen, including this one I’m writing, have been written by people who have previous experience with the story. It’s just something to keep in mind I suppose.

For those that are already familiar with Sandman, this will be a top tier experience that will enhance the story and characters you already love. For those not familiar with Sandman, don’t be afraid to jump into it, even if you might feel lost for a bit. Even if the destination isn’t always clear (because it isn’t that kind of story) you’ll enjoy the ride.

Note: Gaiman’s work was progressive at the time it was published. Sandman features some gay characters, some characters that might be coded as trans, and one of the Endless, Desire, is at the very least gender fluid but may very well even be pansexual. But the presentations of them are, at times, dated. The most obvious example is Desire. Sometimes Desire goes by “he” and other times “she” and there are times when the pronoun “it” is used to describe Desire. Language has evolved for the better and now Desire would use “them”. I know I’m not the best steward for this observation but proceed with caution if/as needed.

This review originally appeared at SciFi & Scary

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