“The Sandman: Dream Country” by Neil Gaiman
So far, I think “Dream Country” has been my favorite Sandman I’ve read.
Rather than carrying on the forward-barreling story of the present time, “Dream Country” is more vignettes of the past and present.
Granted, the way this series has gone so far, I’m sure everything will show up again at another point.
(I don’t think Mr. Gaiman writes throwaway things, really.)
In 1986, a writer named Richard Madoc is nine months behind on the follow up to his hit first novel. Desperate, he makes a deal with an older and more famous writer named Erasmus Fry. If Richard provides the Erasmus with the item he wants (a Trichobezoar, which is basically a human hairball) then Erasmus will give Richard Calliope, a muse he’s had trapped for decades and who has provided him with all his inspiration. Richard takes Calliope home and rapes her, then locks her up and the inspiration begins. By 1990, he’s a sensation. Calliope is miserable, as her fellow muses cannot free her. There’s only one being who can – so she calls on Morpheus. Freeing her, he grants Richard overwhelming inspiration, which drives him insane.
A DREAM OF A THOUSAND CATS
In “A Dream of A Thousand Cats,” cats – both stray and house cats – gather in the woods to hear a female cat tell them the story of how she once used to live with humans, until they drowned her kittens. Depressed, she slept all the time and went into the DreamWorld. There, she journeyed to meet the DreamLord who tells her of a world where cats were once bigger than humans and ruled, until the humans rose up and dreamed their superiority into fruition. Now, she urges her feline friends to dream themselves back into power.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Of course, having appeared in “The Doll’s House,” Shakespeare would have to re-appear. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” reveals that Morpheus actually commissioned Shakespeare’s famous forest comedy as a tribute to the real faerie people, who once delighted him until they decided to leave earth. As Shakespeare and his troupe of actors (including son Hamnet) perform the play, the faerie people they’re portraying watch them and weigh in. A sprite who recognizes himself in the character of Puck even gets in on the action. It’s a very sweet vignette in an often dark and twisty series.
Speaking of dark and twisty – The final installment in “Dream Country” focuses on Raine, a hideously disfigured metamorph, who is alone and miserable. She is lonely, but she cannot venture outside because she is so ashamed of her freakish appearance. (Not knowing much about DC Comics, I didn’t realize she was based on the character of Element Girl.) We quickly grasp that she’s not just a disfigured human, though, as she conjures a fake silicate face to wear to lunch when an old friend calls her suddenly out of the blue.
Mid-lunch, however, the face falls off and Raine rushes home, ready to commit suicide. If only she could die.
That’s when Death appears, though she claims she’s there for one of Raine’s neighbors. In truth, Death has come to help Raine die. Death lures her out into the sun to speak to RA, the sun god, and to ask for him to end her life. When the sun hits her, Raine turns to stone and crumbles to bits.
All in all, “Dream Country” offers us insight into a few of the characters we’ve come to know – particularly Death’s methods and Morpheus’ history – and sets the reader up for the new adventures that are to come.
Next up – “Season of Mists.”