The Sandman- Preludes and Nocturnes is a dark fantasy novel, the first book in the Sandman series of graphic novels authored by the Hugo prize awardee Neil Gaiman with the art work contributed by Sam Keith. The Sandman series was the critically acclaimed work by Neil Gaiman that got him established as one of the greatest fantasy writers. Some of his other works are, ‘Good Omens’, co-written with the late author Terry Pratchett, ‘Neverwhere’, ‘Anansi Boys’, etc.
The Sandman, as the title suggests is the story of Morpheus, an endless, more commonly known as Sandman or Dream, the ruler of the dream realm. He is the sibling of the other endless’, Death, Delirium, Destruction, Desire, Despair and Destiny.
Precludes and Nocturnes starts out with the capture of Morpheus by the magician, Roderick Burgess. Burgess with his son, Alex and his occult followers, perform a ritual in hopes of capturing Death, Morpheus’ elder sister in order to bargain for immortality but mistakenly, bind Dream, instead. For decades, Morpheus stays in captivity while humanity suffers with the absence of the ruler of dreams. Eventually, Morpheus breaks out in 1988, after 72 years in captivity, incredibly weakened. The story then takes us through the journey of Sandman, through his quest for revenge and recovery of his totems of power which had been scattered in the duration of his imprisonment.
The story is an incredibly well researched and well written piece of literature. It is a perfect blend of lore and fiction, a must read for all the mythology enthusiasts out there. We come across many popular figures, biblical and fictional like Cain and Abel, ucifer, Beelzebub, John Constantine and urban legends like Dr.Dee, an embodiment of the popular John Dee.
The most incredible part of the graphic novel, which I particularly enjoyed was the last chapter, where the author introduces Death, to the readers. Where most pieces of literature portray Death, personified or otherwise, as a negative character/phenomenon, Neil Gaiman has put forth a different view, something that would make us ponder over our irrational fear of death and that land of the unknown beyond that.
He is of the opinion that Death, like any of us, is just doing her job, a dirty work that no one else is willing to do. While we worship the God who gives life, why do we fear Death? A valid argument against mankind’s notions of life and death.
‘I find myself wondering about humanity,’ he says in the voice of Sandman, ‘Their attitude to my sister’s gift is so strange. Why do they fear the sunless lands? It is as natural to die as it is to be born. But they fear her. Dread her. Feebly they attempt to placate her. They do not love her.’
Precludes and Nocturnes, is a thoroughly enjoyable book, given the reader has interest in the genre and doesn’t have a sensitive stomach. It is certainly one of the most satisfying pieces of literature that I have come across. And like most Gaiman literature, Preludes and Nocturnes is one of a kind.
II HEPP N