Neil Gaiman is one of today’s most beloved and well-known fantasy authors, with good reason. Dirk Maggs is a force in the industry too, having developed many popular properties from comics and prose and movie universe tie-ins into successful audiobooks. Bring these two creators together for The Sandman, and you’ve got a recipe for a successful and entertaining few hours of listening.
The Sandman audiobook is the first in a developing series of adaptations of the famous Sandman DC comic series, as written by Neil Gaiman. It’s one of the most successful “graphic novel” series out there, serving as a benchmark for dark fantasy comics ever since. It was also the series that launched Gaiman into a highly prolific career as an author in multiple formats. The series is currently in development over at Netflix, so this audio serves as a wonderful bridge between comics and the small screen.
The Sandman covers the stories as featured in the graphic novel series from Preludes and Nocturnes, through The Doll’s House and Dream Country. This is not a word for word reading of those comics, as the narrative needed to be modified from the visual to the audial while maintaining the imagery created in the original version. I will say that this was a highly ambitious undertaking, but that it was achieved with tremendous success.
As an added bonus, Neil Gaiman himself leads a wonderful cast of readers for the story, acting as the narrator throughout the reading to set the stage and carry the narrative from one dream to another and sometimes back to reality. I can’t think of a more perfect reader for this job, as Gaiman has been nearly as brilliant as a narrator of his own work as he has the author.
The central protagonist of this tale is the immortal being known as Dream, or Morpheus. He is the Lord of the world of Dream, which covers quite a large scale of territory. This story begins with his capture, by a small cult of sorcerers near the beginning of the twentieth century. Problem was, they were actually attempting to abduct his sister Death, and steal her power of immortality.
“Well? Have you no excuse? No explanation? Some reason I should not take reprisal?”
“…uh, we didn’t want you. It was all a mistake. We weren’t trying to capture you, we wanted to capture…Death.”
“You wanted Death?”
“Then count yourself lucky for the sake of your species and your petty planet that you did not succeed. That instead you snared Death’s younger brother. You’ll never know how lucky you were.”
For the next seventy years or so, the world had to adapt to the realm of Dream having no leader. Nightmares were free to wander and get into mischief and many people had uneasy sleep, or none at all. Or in some cases, that’s literally all they did, slipping into deep comas.
The Sandman takes us from these beginnings to a time where Morpheus is able to escape his captors. Then the story shifts to his quest to reclaim his realm, his talismans of power, and his influence. He has to recapture some of the loose nightmares that got out, and these make for some rather disturbing and entertaining adventures.
With The Sandman, the story is great. But the audiobook brings it to another level, and serves as (I hope) a fantastic introduction to what will be a phenomenal Netflix series. The cast is top notch throughout, and only starts with Gaiman as the Narrator. James McAvoy plays Morpheus, and I cannot think of a better voice and personality to handle this central character. There are other fantastic voices as well to cover the main characters: Kat Dennings is Death, Simon Vance is Lucien, Taron Egerton is John Constantine, Michael Sheen is Lucifer, Riz Ahmed is The Corinthian, Andy Serkis is Matthew the Raven, and Bebe Neuwirth stars as Chantal.
These are fantastic stories all throughout the larger narrative, but I’ll finish by mentioning my personal favorite, “Collectors”. This is the story of Morpheus tracking down some of his escaped Nightmares, most notably The Corinthian, who is one of the most dangerous and cunning of them all. “Collectors” is a coming together of a few overall threads in the story, were a special girl with powers in Dream, Rose Walker stays at a hotel which just happens to be hosting a convention for famous serial killers. This was a highlight of the Sandman comic series, and it doesn’t disappoint in audio form.
When I learned that Netflix was developing a series for The Sandman, I was excited to hear this. It has been my favorite comic series for many years, and I’ve always wanted to see something more done with it. This audiobook telling of the first three graphic novels got me excited all over again for the series, and even has me tempted to go back and re-read the original comic series.
“Time moves no faster for my kind that it does for humanity. In that prison, it crawled at a snail’s pace. I was. I am…the Lord of this realm of Dream and Nightmare.”