Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, by Neil Gaiman

I have a hit and miss relationship with Neil Gaiman. The first book of his that I ever read was American Gods, and while I was in sweaty, churning love with the premise the execution was less than satisfying. Conversely, I didn't have many expectations when I picked up Coraline. It was fantastic! Just the right amount of creeptaculous spookiness (and great illustrations...I love Dave McKean).

In a last ditch effort to finish up the Once Upon a Time II challenge, I picked up The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, the first in the much praised Sandman series of graphic novels. This one has been on my shelf for years. YEARS. Like six years or something. When I first got into graphic novels I heard endless praise for this one as it seems to be something of a new classic. I started it a few times, I put it back down, I flipped through. Finally, I stuck with it.

And was it a hit or a miss?


I'm of mixed opinions on this one. The likes: it's structurally interesting both in the way Gaiman tells the story and the way the images are constructed. It's a much more dynamic graphic novel than many American or British works. In fact, the layouts often reminded me of manga with images criss-crossing the pages and exploding here and there. Really interesting stuff structurally.

The dislikes: Gaiman's storytelling just sort of gives me problems! There's much to "get" in this graphic novel. References to Shakespeare, superheroes, etc. etc. etc. And that's nice; I dig intertextuality. However, it seemed almost like Gaiman was trying to pull EVERY SINGLE TRICK out of his hat at once, and it really got in the way of my giving a flip about the characters. I realize this series takes off in a bazillion ways in the bazillion other installments, and I will definitely give them a try, but this one left me less than tickled.

In short, I think I'd really like studying The Sandman, but I'm not sure it'll blow my skirt up for pleasure reading purposes. My rocky relationship with Neil continues.

Challenges: Once Upon a Time II and Dewey's Graphic Novel Challenge


  1. You know me: I'm a big Gaiman fan. BUT the first time I read American Gods, it disappointed me (the reread was much better). And I absolutely hated this one. Like, hated with a passion. But other bloggers convinced me to try out the second, and it was much better. :)

  2. I like this book a lot, but it's by far my least favourite Sandman book. Like Eva said, the second one is MUCH better. I guess he was still trying to find his voice in this one, and it feels a bit awkward at times. The The Doll's House or The Dream Hunters or Endless Nights will give you a much better idea of what the Sandman is all about.

  3. I haven't read any of the Sandman books, and American Gods has been sitting unread on my shelf FOREVER. Have you read his book Good Omens that he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett?

  4. Eva, maybe I should re-read it. I probably did miss quite a bit the first time. (I was too busy being FREAKED OUT by Shadow's wife.) Thanks for the encouragement re: Sandman. I'll definitely keep going.

    Nymeth, I always forget about Dream Hunters! I actually read that one several years ago; just stumbled onto it by accident and read it way out of order. Loved it, actually. The art was stunning. Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. Lesley, I haven't read that one, but I have it on my stacks as well (forgot about it until now). I'm eager to read that one since I've never read any of Pratchett's stuff either. Let's see, of Gaiman's work, I also have Neverwhere and Smoke & Mirrors on my shelves. I'm most excited to give Smoke & Mirrors a go.

  6. When I wanted to read the Sandman series, my husband tried to convince me to start with book two, because he thinks it had a weak start. But I was in a "first in a series" challenge, so I read it anyway. I agree with much of what you're saying. Haven't read American Gods yet, myself. But I'm with you about Coraline.

  7. I seem to remember Gaiman once writing that about 20% of those who read American Gods think it's awful, 60% can take it or leave it, and the remainder think it's the best book ever written. If you didn't like it, I'm a little wary of recommending this, but Anansi Boys is well worth reading.

  8. You'll be happy if you keep going. I read this one first and decided that the Sandman wasn't for me; and then the guy at the bookstore assured me that I should persevere. Very well worth it. The fourth and seventh volumes are particularly delightful, and the second features G.K. Chesterton!

  9. I am the same with Terry Pratchett... I recently restarted this series and hope to actually get around to finishing it this time! I really enjoyed American Gods personally and look forward to reading Coraline this year. I like The Sandman series, it's nice and dark with mythical overtones. Just my thing!

  10. I've read up to number 4 now, and I think you'll like the next ones better. The first book was a lot of building up for the next books in the series


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