Marcus is a teenage hacker in San Francisco. He is super l33t and loves playing ARGs with his friends. But then one day there's a terrorist attack, an...moreMarcus is a teenage hacker in San Francisco. He is super l33t and loves playing ARGs with his friends. But then one day there's a terrorist attack, and he and his friends get taken in by Homeland Security for being suspected terrorists. Before he knows it, San Francisco is practically a police state, with people's privacy being sacrificed in the name of "security." So it's up to him to lead the revolution.
Little Brother is good. It's readable and entertaining. It's got a lot of interesting facts about technological topics. It's exciting, and there's lots of cool hacking. But, oh man, it hardly feels like a story. Cory Doctorow is not really telling a story about characters. He is condemning America's systematic chipping away at our civil rights and basic freedoms under the guise of protecting them, and also here are some teenagers. I exaggerate a bit; it's not as if the book reads like a polemic. But as things get worse and worse—from police brutality to torture—it's a paradoxical mix of ridiculously implausible and terrifyingly plausible. A lot of the book seems startlingly prescient, "reminiscent" of the Occupy movement years before it happened. There is a whole thing with pepper spray and everything.
This wouldn't matter so much if Doctorow were a more compelling writer. The book felt like Neal Stephenson-lite, but Doctorow is no Neal Stephenson. The prose is, oh, better than "serviceable," I suppose, given that it's the first-person POV of a teenage boy. And Marcus has a character arc and a romance and all that, and his voice is perfectly fine, but it's very matter-of-fact, with little subtext. Everything is right there on the surface. He tells the story, and that's it. Which is fine. But because the story seemed to be defined by the agenda of the book, I was left a little underwhelmed.
Little Brother wants to be 1984 for a new generation. A lofty goal that it doesn't really reach, but a good read nonetheless.(less)
I had been wanting to read this series for a while, and when I saw that the audiobooks were read by Tim Curry, I knew that was the way to experience i...moreI had been wanting to read this series for a while, and when I saw that the audiobooks were read by Tim Curry, I knew that was the way to experience it. And, indeed, his narration is wonderful and his voices are deliciously rich, especially for Count Olaf. And Sunny, whose expressive gibberish—as translated by Lemony Snicket—is a highlight of the book. I really did like the Baudelaire orphans: Violet, the inventor; Klaus, the reader; and Sunny, the biter.
But I kind of expected the book to be...more clever? Pseudonymous Bosch was compared to Lemony Snicket, and he's devilishly clever, but Lemony Snicket seems to have two gimmicks: reminding us that everything will be terrible and defining words for us. Yes, it's a book for children, but usually, the word definitions aren't very amusing. I want better authorial intrusion!
Rob's debut novel seems to get all the attention; it's the one teachers will use in their classes if they do that sort of thing. And it's definitely a...moreRob's debut novel seems to get all the attention; it's the one teachers will use in their classes if they do that sort of thing. And it's definitely a good book. It follows two timestreams: Steve York's senior year in San Diego, and his sophomore and junior years in Houston, when his life went horribly, terribly wrong. We get his first-person narration of the present; the story of Houston is his English project.
It took me fifty to eighty pages to really get into it, honestly. I was having trouble imagining these words coming out a seventeen-year-old boy's brain. And the narrative drive was...slow. It's carried along by the strength of the prose, whether or not something actually interesting is happening.
Another strength is best described by Chris Lynch, who gets a quote on the back of the book: "Rats Saw God does something special—it treats teenagers as if their lives are complex and interesting....Thomas brings to the party one more thing that YA lit can never have enough of: attitude." I never read a lot of YA lit, so I don't really know how much more complex and interesting Rob's characters are than the norm, but he does do a good job of making the characters people. Which is necessary since the basic story is nothing extraordinary, even though it has its quirks here and there. It's a kid in high school, doing high school things. So in that respect, I was a little disappointed and didn't see what all the hoopla was about. It was competently done, and I was satisfied with the way things ended up and were resolved, for the most part. One thing I really liked was how Steve would make throwaway references to things people had said to him in the past, and then later on, as we read about the past, we get the context of the scene. The narrative was pretty tightly held together, and I appreciated that.(less)
Slave Day wins at novel, people. In contrast to Rats Saw God, I was hooked within about ten fucking pages. I mean, really, I was hooked before I even...moreSlave Day wins at novel, people. In contrast to Rats Saw God, I was hooked within about ten fucking pages. I mean, really, I was hooked before I even opened the damn book, because multiple perspectives rock my world. Slave Day follows seven students and one teacher at Robert E. Lee High School on Slave Day, a fundraiser auction in which students buy the Student Council members and volunteering teachers for one day. For one day, they are their slaves, as the name suggests.
The brilliant thing is all the characters have different agendas. Why are they participating? What plans do they have? How will their lives change on this fateful day? Seriously, I don't want to say anything more because it's best you know nothing at all going in. You get in all the characters' heads, and they all have distinct voices, and their storylines intersect like less than whoa, actually; Rob doesn't go overboard trying to twist all the different stories together. They coexist naturally and realistically, and they play off each other every now and then. And because the the entire book comprises a single day, the narrative has a sense of urgency that Rats Saw God lacked. I do have one minor quibble, though, similar to my complaint about Weevil's spy pen. Rob brings up a question about a certain character and then he never actually answers it. So maybe that is his M.O. after all, use an ending question to create suspense and intrigue but drop it like my logic class. Slaverat bastard.
Like Neptune High, Robert E. Lee feels like a real high school, living, breathing, populated with strong minor characters. You get the impression that there are other people with important lives besides the ones we read about. The high school in Rats Saw God never feels like that because of Steve's narrow focus. Slave Day is pretty awesome, folks. Check it out.(less)
I recommend reading Slave Day before this one because it's also set in Robert E. Lee High, and there are throwaway references to some of the character...moreI recommend reading Slave Day before this one because it's also set in Robert E. Lee High, and there are throwaway references to some of the characters and events of the book. One character even gets a story all to himself. I think this school is a creative gold mine for Rob, because this short story collection is really damn good, almost as good as Slave Day itself. Okay, that may be an exaggeration, since it's far less dense. But each story packs a wallop.
Doing Time follows ten students fulfilling their required two hundred hours of community service. Their assignments are quite varied, and each chooses his assignment for a specific reason. Be it good or bad. I was reminded of the praise for Rob's ability to treat teens as complex and interesting again. No one leaves his two hundred hours unchanged. Except maybe that one guy. Most of the stories have some kind of reveal, though it's not some sort of gimmicky plot twist but something organic that surprises both the reader and the character.
One warning: this book is depressing as shit. Seriously, Rob does not pull any punches with the cynical worldview. Some of these characters are awful, awful people, and they remain awful, awful people. It's not till the last few stories that you can start using the word "heartwarming."(less)
Satellite Down has a lot of potential, what with the parental conflicts and the exotic Hollywood setting. And Patrick is an interesting main character...moreSatellite Down has a lot of potential, what with the parental conflicts and the exotic Hollywood setting. And Patrick is an interesting main character, in that he's a good stand-in for the audience as he discovers the ins and outs of Hollywood and Classroom Direct, the news show he gets to work on. For over two hundred pages, I was hooked on Patrick's journey, what he learns about the industry and how it works, and what he learns about himself and who he wants to be. Does he want to be defined by people's perceptions of him? I mean, for two hundred pages, it was giving Slave Day a run for its money in the Best Rob Thomas Novel competition.
And then in the last eighty pages it turns into a completely different book. All the narrative threads in play, all the burgeoning character development...it comes to a grinding halt, and Rob starts up on this new shit that hasn't exactly grown organically from the previous pages, and it's not that it's bad, it's that it belongs in another goddamn book. It's like the last third of Adaptation, the way the narrative falls apart. And it could have been so much better. Dammit.(less)
This book is completely unlike Rob Thomas's other books. For one, it's about a thirteen-year-old kid, much younger than his previous protagonists. For...moreThis book is completely unlike Rob Thomas's other books. For one, it's about a thirteen-year-old kid, much younger than his previous protagonists. For two, it's vaguely sci-fi. Boy genius goes to the Amazon to work on a rainforest project and discovers...things. The language is even more implausible than it was in Rats Saw God, since this is supposed to be a thirteen-year-old kid (Rob loves first-person, by the way; he uses nothing else), but he's also supposed to be a genius, so. Just run with it. It's a nice little ride, and the prose style feels very different from the previous books. It doesn't really feel like a Rob Thomas book. Although he does almost pull a Satellite Down and get caught up in other business for a whole long stretch where you wonder what happened to the book and the narrative flow and when will we get back to the story at hand. And something about the end really doesn't sit well with me.(less)
I found it to be a perfectly competent thriller with all the thriller trappings. Male and female protagonists destined to become madly attracted to ea...moreI found it to be a perfectly competent thriller with all the thriller trappings. Male and female protagonists destined to become madly attracted to each other during the course of their adventures. Good guys, bad guys, plot twists, the whole shebang. And I've read a lot of thrillers in my time; I'm a fan of James Patterson, Michael Crichton, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, etc.
What makes this book fun and interesting is all the word puzzles and religious history and etymology and "symbology," which may or may not have been as accurate as they proclaimed to be. I will say this to any potential reader: the book's title is misleading. I thought there would be a lot more about supersecret messages hidden in Da Vinci's paintings, but the messages and clues in the books come from someone else, although Da Vinci's influence is always apparent.
I didn't think the writing was as abominably awful as I'd been led to believe. Some of Dan Brown's tics do grate, though. He has a tendency to give us characters' obvious thought processes in italics. He's really bad at pacing his action sequences, taking needless time to describe the history of a chapel or the reason Robert Langdon wears a Mickey Mouse watch. And most maddeningly, he "subtly" ties these digressions into the action to give them relevance, but they're really just information dumps to give the book its historical flavor. Admittedly, I found many of the explanations of symbols interesting, but they often felt clumsy and like an attempt to show off. It reminded me of Cryptonomicon, except Neal Stephenson has an engaging style and a unique voice, whereas Dan Brown...doesn't.(less)
The basic premise is that gods are real and living in America. All the gods, from all the cultures, they were all brought here in the minds and belief...moreThe basic premise is that gods are real and living in America. All the gods, from all the cultures, they were all brought here in the minds and beliefs and customs and traditions of the men and women who form this melting pot. It's a great idea. Even better is the fact that there's an imminent war between the old gods and the new gods, the upstarts of technology, representatives of the Internet, television, cars, and everything else the modern age worships.
Stuck in the middle is a man named Shadow, just released from jail and enlisted for services by a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday. If you're up on your Norse mythology, you have a good idea who he really is.
Of course, the delicious thing about this book is that Gaiman really did his fucking homework, and you won't recognize half the gods without Wikipedia. He steals from a variety of mythologies and religions; as far as I can tell, the only gods he made up are the modern ones. All the other figures who make appearances can be found somewhere. They live in our collective consciousness.
For the first 400 pages or so, I will admit I was wary. While there was a plot, it was rather thin and mostly seemed to consist of Shadow meeting god after god after god, how cute. I enjoyed it all well enough, but I was afraid it would all be pointless. There were constant mentions of the coming storm, and I really wanted to get to the damn storm. Around the 400-page mark, however, some earlier characters made return appearances, and I began to get the sense that setup mode had ended and now we were moving into the payoff section of the book.
(Note: about ten to fifteen percent of the book doesn't really pay off, and it's just there for flavor. At the ends of most chapters, Gaiman provides an interlude spotlighting a god, and he does it because he is a storyteller who loves telling stories, and I love that about him.)
By the end of the book, I discovered that I retroactively liked everything better. I know you're supposed to appreciate the journey and not the destination, but the destination sounded so cool I really wanted to get to it, and when I finally reached the destination, I appreciated the journey a whole lot more. It's completely weird because I recognized quite a few things at the end that normally bug me about Gaiman but instead totally worked for me in this book. Somehow, he made me buy it all. The sum trumped the parts.
American Gods really makes you think about the power and nature of belief (much like Hogfather), especially the way it works in America. It gives you a very cool perspective on the country, the wacky country that formed a strong personality out of everyone else's.
American Gods is the first Gaiman work I have really loved since Sandman, unexpected as that love would have seemed at some times. It's a rich tapestry of dreams and mythologies and belief systems and cultures, like America itself.(less)
Only Neil Gaiman—or Roald Dahl—would begin a children's book by murdering the protagonist's entire family. Welcome to The Graveyard Book, ladies and g...moreOnly Neil Gaiman—or Roald Dahl—would begin a children's book by murdering the protagonist's entire family. Welcome to The Graveyard Book, ladies and gentlemen.
Nobody survives the brutal act committed in the first few pages. That is, Nobody survives. For Nobody is the protagonist! At least, that is what he is christened by his dead parents. No, not his actually dead parents, but the ghostly Mr. and Mrs. Owens, who adopt him. Nobody—Bod for short—grows up in a graveyard like Mowgli grew up in a jungle, if you catch my drift. His guardian, Silas, is not a ghost (but is not a living human either) and so can leave the graveyard to acquire food for the boy...and be on the lookout for the man Jack, who killed Bod's family and will not rest until he finishes his task.
I was halfway through the book when I realized that nothing had really happened for 150 pages. It's a good sign that I didn't notice and didn't care. The majority of the book is basically Nobody Has Wacky Adventures Growing Up in a Graveyard, and it works because of Gaiman's storytelling style. He has a very keen sense of audience, and he is intensely aware of A) what the reader should know, B) what the reader should not know, and C) what the reader should be able to figure out on his own. He creates a surprisingly cohesive mishmash of fantastical concepts while, of course, introducing an original creature or two. The book is almost like baby Neverwhere in the way it blurs the line between reality and fantasy, allowing that the two worlds coexist without much issue.
To my delight, the whole Jack Is Still Out There Waiting to Kill Bod plotline doesn't just get dropped but instead becomes kind of awesome...until it becomes kind of anticlimactic in typical Gaiman fashion, but this time, I let it go because the rest of the book was good enough to make up for it. There may have been a CAPSLOCK E-MAIL involved.
I enjoyed The Graveyard Book more than Coraline. I thought it was richer and the characters were more endearing and interesting. It felt like a world one would want to return to. I loved the way it treated life and death. Even though death is not The End, life is still to be treasured. But death is not to be feared, necessarily. There is one chapter that has one of the most creepily beautiful sequences I've ever read.(less)
This introductory volume is stronger than I remember, perhaps because I can view it in context and see the charac...moreThoughts on a Re-Read Six Years Later
This introductory volume is stronger than I remember, perhaps because I can view it in context and see the characters and story threads that are being set up this early on. I have a newfound appreciation for the way Gaiman plays in the DC sandbox, taking the hosts of various horror comics to populate his world, but I still think the more blatant DC cameos are awkward and distracting. The volume is largely notable for "24 Hours," which is a horrific masterpiece, and "The Sound of Her Wings," where Gaiman finds his voice and gets to the heart of Dream as a character to give the series somewhere to go and become its own story.(less)
Oh, welcome to Sandman, everyone. A massive improvement over the first volume as Neil Gaiman shows what he really...moreThoughts on a Re-Read Six Years Later
Oh, welcome to Sandman, everyone. A massive improvement over the first volume as Neil Gaiman shows what he really wants to do with this series. So many important characters introduced! Desire, Despair, Rose Walker, Matthew, Hector and Lyta Hall, the Corinthian, Hob Gadling, Fiddler's Green, just to name a few. The series is definitely coming into its own. And what an amazing piece of work it's already shaping up to be. Everything is epic and connected, spanning centuries and eons. And I love the worldview being presented here, just the way the Endless and the living interact, how the anthropomorphic characters really do represent facets of humanity, and thus Gaiman manages to say a lot of interesting things without actually saying them. Sandman is like nothing I've ever read...except Sandman, six years ago.(less)
Four very different short stories in this collection. "Calliope" is a deliciously disturbing look at the lengths...moreThoughts on a Re-Read Six Years Later
Four very different short stories in this collection. "Calliope" is a deliciously disturbing look at the lengths a writer may go for inspiration. "A Dream of a Thousand Cats" is a cute look at cats that presents an intriguing potential reality. "A Midsummer Night's Dream" adds more layers to the Shakespeare play by presenting it to the denizens of Faerie, allowing them to see themselves represented in fiction, the way they will truly be remembered. "Facade" is the sad tale of a suicidal Element Girl seeking death and finding Death.
On my first read, I considered this collection relatively weak (and I would still put it below any of the serial storylines), but I found a new appreciation for the various hints to the overarching plot in "Calliope" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I still don't think I find these short stories as great as others do ("A Dream of a Thousand Cats" is cute, but there's really not much to it, and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" seems to rely too heavily on the original play without adding too much original, although what it does add is interesting, and the art is the best in the collection); no issue here is as impressive to me as "24 Hours" or "The Sound of Her Wings." But the collection gets a boost from the script for "Calliope," which is worth a read for the peek inside Gaiman's mind, complete with scribbled notes.(less)
On my initial read, I was disappointed that there wasn't some sort of pan-theological knockdown-dragout over the...moreThoughts on a Re-read Six Years Later
On my initial read, I was disappointed that there wasn't some sort of pan-theological knockdown-dragout over the Key to Hell, but now I truly understand that this isn't that sort of comic. On this read, I could appreciate the simple awesomeness of shoving various mythological/theological figures into the Dreaming. This isn't about gods beating each other up. This is a fascinating contemplation on the nature of choice and desire, about getting what you want, about not getting what you want, about getting what you don't want, and whether or not you're complicit in any of this. It's a big story for Dream as a character, as it resolves the Nada storyline. The volume is marred by a rather weak interlude with terrible art but boosted by the wonderful prologue featuring six of the seven Endless together.(less)
A Game of You has a lot of things going for it: an all-female cast including lesbians and a transwoman, a strong...moreThoughts on a Re-Read Six Years Later
A Game of You has a lot of things going for it: an all-female cast including lesbians and a transwoman, a strong sense of foreboding courtesy of the Cuckoo, a colorful storybook Land, and themes of identity, a personal favorite of mine. It also has some things not going for it: an ancillary role for Dream, no apparent plot progression in Dream's ongoing arc, some terrible art at times, and a very heavy-handed approach to the themes of identity, especially with Wanda, who seems to exist only as a reason to have the same conversation over and over. Barbie does become a more interesting character than she was in The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll's House, however, and Hazel, Foxglove, and Thessaly are also good characters. But they're not Dream, which makes this book feel like a strange spin-off miniseries rather than a piece of Sandman. It's a strong, thought-provoking story of its own, though.(less)
I definitely prefer this book to Fragile Things. In fact, I think I liked it more the second time than I did the first time around. Only a few stories...moreI definitely prefer this book to Fragile Things. In fact, I think I liked it more the second time than I did the first time around. Only a few stories didn't really do much for me, and the ones that weren't fully satisfactory or resolved, exactly, didn't leave me with the same amount of disappointment as the ones in Fragile Things; I still enjoyed the time I spent.
This collection, subtitled "Short Fictions and Illusions," has more fantastical elements (starting from the story hidden in the introduction, "The Wedding Present"), which is where Neil Gaiman is more at home. "Chivalry" concerns an old woman who finds the Holy Grail at an antique shop, "The Price" features a Black Cat who appears to be defending a family from an unknown assailant, "Troll Bridge" is about, you know, a bridge troll that a young boy tries to outwit, "Changes" is a sci-fi tale about a cure for cancer that comes with an unexpected side effect, "Shoggoth's Old Peculiar" is somewhat of a piss-take on Lovecraft that is still a loving homage, "Only the End of the World Again" revisits Lovecraft and adds a werewolf, "We Can Get Them for You Wholesale" is the devilish story of a man who hires an assassin who makes him an offer he can't refuse, "Foreign Parts" is the somewhat uncomfortable story of a man with a very curious venereal disease that is not a venereal disease, and "Murder Mysteries" features the Vengeance of the Lord investigating the death of an angel. Perhaps it was because I'd read these stories before, but I found this book a much quicker read than Fragile Things, which I sometimes felt like I was slogging through when I hit a story that did absolutely nothing for me. Overall, Smoke and Mirrors is simply a much better reading experience.(less)
This is a strange collection in that it includes issues from before the previous volume and after the next volume...moreThoughts on a Re-Read Six Years Later
This is a strange collection in that it includes issues from before the previous volume and after the next volume, but it makes for a much more thematically coherent volume than The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country, with several standout issues. The Convergences issues ("The Hunt," "Soft Places," and "The Parliament of Rooks") all deal with stories and storytellers, one of Gaiman's favorite themes, as well as mine, and the Distant Mirrors issues ("Three Septembers and a January," "Thermidor," "August," and "Ramadan"—all named for months) all deal with historical rulers' encounters with Dream. As on my first read, I wasn't too pulled into the lives of the historical figures, but I did find Gaiman's use of them interesting, and reading some analysis helped me appreciate the points he was trying to make. Scattered about are important plot developments surrounding Dream's son, Orpheus (Gaiman's retelling of "The Song of Orpheus" is a highlight). And with the exception of "Fear of Falling," the art in this volume (each issue by a different artist) is wonderful, especially P. Craig Russell's in "Ramadan." All in all, a stronger collection than I remember.(less)
Coraline is a neat little story about a girl who does what all girls in stories like this do, which is open a door she isn't supposed to and find hers...moreCoraline is a neat little story about a girl who does what all girls in stories like this do, which is open a door she isn't supposed to and find herself in a creepy mirror world that masquerades as ideal but is actually more sinister than that. Okay, so maybe it's not always that specific, but you get the drift.
Not surprisingly, Gaiman crafts this dark fairy tale without sugarcoating the story; it's more Pan's Labyrinth than Alice in Wonderland. For a child in the hands of Gaiman, danger is exciting. Not a bad thing. Not really.(less)
Whether or not you love this volume may come down to how much you love Delirium, as this is basically her showcas...moreThoughts on a Re-read Six Years Later
Whether or not you love this volume may come down to how much you love Delirium, as this is basically her showcase: a road trip with Dream and Delirium is a recipe for hilarity. Delirium is very funny and endearing, but she also has moments of incredible sadness that make you want to give her a hug.
But, actually, this volume features all—and I do mean all—of the Endless, and it touches on their unusual family dynamic, torn apart by the Prodigal's abandoning his post. Gaiman is particularly adept at making these anthropomorphic entities embody their facets of existence realistically yet still feel like siblings.
A narrative with a clear goal, a strong theme that's right there in the title and expounded upon in different ways throughout the story, a focus on two of the most likable Endless (no, not Dream), and huge implications for the overall arc? Best volume yet.
It's not necessary to read American Gods to appreciate Anansi Boys, as the only common character is Mr. Nancy (Anansi), who appears in the first chapt...moreIt's not necessary to read American Gods to appreciate Anansi Boys, as the only common character is Mr. Nancy (Anansi), who appears in the first chapter and promptly dies. You might infer from my wording that Anansi Boys is perhaps a more lighthearted romp than American Gods, and you would be correct. Thus, it's far easier to love, and love it I did, from very early on. Hell, it had me from the title of the first chapter, which is "Which Is Mostly About Names and Family Relationships." I am a sucker for that style of chapter title, as it lends itself to chapter titles like "In Which a Pot of Coffee Comes in Particularly Useful."
Anansi Boys is the story of Fat Charlie Nancy, a relatively normal Londoner with a fiancée named Rosie, who, in the space of a few days, learns not only that his dad has died...but also that he has a brother, Spider. Spider is...not so normal, being much more Son of a God and way into the trickster spirit. He proceeds to wreak havoc on Fat Charlie's calm and stable little life.
I was very pleased and amused that, after having detected a certain Arthur Dentness from Fat Charlie and Ford Prefectness from Spider, I turned to the back cover to find a quote from Susanna Clarke saying that the book "combines the anarchy of Douglas Adams with a Wodehousian generosity of spirit." And it is Adams-y, but it's also quite Gaiman-y. The humor and offbeat style is Adams, but the meat is Gaiman, who weaves in a recurring metaphor about songs and their importance and again plays with folklore. Also, his voice shines through, as he often makes asides to the reader about the story at hand as well as when he's telling us an Anansi story; by positioning himself as the storyteller, he turns the book itself into an Anansi story.
From beginning to end, the book is engaging and fun with characters you both love and love to hate (or just plain hate, depending on your feelings on Spider). It's a testament to the humor and style that I didn't care that for half the book, there really isn't a plot except "Spider fucks with Fat Charlie's life." Gaiman the storyteller, however, foreshadows the development of the real plot that emerges and keeps you itching for more. It's not as mindblowing as American Gods, but it's not trying to be. It's trying to be fun, and it succeeds.(less)
For the first time, a story-collection volume has a Chaucerian frame story, which is a neat addition and does hav...moreThoughts on a Re-Read Six Years Later
For the first time, a story-collection volume has a Chaucerian frame story, which is a neat addition and does have a surprisingly satisfying payoff. The stories themselves are, as usual, a mixed bag, but fairly strong, the weakest tales being "Cerements," which gets lost in its nested stories and forgets to actually have a point in and of itself, and "Cluracan's Tale," which Cluracan himself says is boring. The other tales, however, make up for it. "A Tale of Two Cities" puts forth the creepy, lovely idea that cities dream and has wonderful, atmospheric art. "Hob's Leviathan" is an entertaining sea story with a twist or two and features the welcome return of Hob Gadling. "The Golden Boy" is Gaiman's take on an old DC character, and it's a nice parable of politics and religion. And the final issue, the one that actually ties this book into the series, has some arresting, haunting images.(less)
After the epic events of The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones, The Wake serves as a denouement, a way to say goodbye to Dream and the Endless and so many other characters we've met over the course of the series. The wake itself is beautifully illustrated, and, although it is an ending, it also serves as a new beginning. Stories may have endings, but they never truly end. Issue #72 ends on the perfect note, a panel that gives the reader a sense of fulfillment and, again, that simultaneous sense of finality/starting. The final three issues, though well written and drawn ("Exiles," in particular, has wonderful art), feel superfluous, and I was unable to really engage with them, despite any individual merit they may have.
My first time reading Sandman, I thought it was a work that was greater than the sum of its parts. I still believe that, but I was really pleased to appreciate the parts much more this time around.(less)
This book got a lot of rave reviews (and a Locus Award), so I was looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, I found it kind of a frustrating colle...moreThis book got a lot of rave reviews (and a Locus Award), so I was looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, I found it kind of a frustrating collection of short stories and poems, maybe because I was expecting so much from it. (With the exception of "The Day the Saucers Came," none of the poems are worth reading, which I expected.) The most satisfying story in the collection is "Sunbird," an amusing and clever story about an eating club who seeks to dine upon the rarest of birds. It is a story I read, enjoyed, and did not find wanting at the end. Even my other favorite stories in the collection felt like they were missing something or striving for something they didn't quite attain. "A Study in Emerald" is a neat little Holmes-meets-Lovecraft tale, "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire" has a fiendishly clever—if initially confusing—conceit, "Keepsakes and Treasures" has a very interesting protagonist even though the actual story seems irrelevant, "The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch" concerns a surreal circus, "Feeders and Eaters" pretty much lays it all out in the title, "Goliath" is a good story set in the Matrix universe, "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" features two boys who walk into the WRONG party, and "The Monarch of the Glen" gives us an adventure of Shadow post-American Gods. I liked these stories, but I do retain somewhat of a Gaiman block in that his storytelling style, which frequently relies on a build-up that leads to an anticlimax (or no climax, or at least something not as bombastic as expected), doesn't always gel with what I want out of a story.
I also felt that far too many stories in the collection employed the story-within-a-story structure. Look, Gaiman, I get it, you like stories about stories. I love stories about stories. But when six or seven stories begin with a character telling their story as if it is a story or being told the story by someone else, it begins to get tiresome. Especially when the frame adds nothing and seems to be there to add a layer to the base story to make it more interesting since it can't stand on its own. "October in the Chair" was particularly disappointing since the frame was more interesting than the nested story, and it didn't go anywhere. A few other stories had potential, but I found that several stories just felt pointless. Overall, there didn't seem to be a startling amount of variety in the stories, and for a collection subtitled "Short Fictions and Wonders," there were a lot of stories that didn't really feature any sort of fantastical elements.(less)