Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman: Endless Nights is a series of short stories in graphic novel format about the Seven Endless. In the order in the book, they are Death, Desire, Dream, Despair, Delirium, Destruction and Destiny. Each is a story illustrating the nature of that particular Endless.

The first story involves a man named Sergei. Sergei has come to Venice to return to a small island he first visited as a boy. After a picnic with his Uncle's family, Sergei went exploring the island, and met a most unusual woman waiting by a closed gate. He tried to open the gate for her, but it was locked, and the woman said it was okay, she would wait for it to open. He was found and taken away by his family, who had been unable to find him until it was mostly dark.

Now he is a man, and he returns to the island to find her still there and waiting. This time, he manages to kick the gate down, and accompanies the woman through it. Behind it is a place out of time, a venetian estate in the 18th century where time has been standing still. The woman, who is Death, tells Sergei about everyone they see, when and how they died. As she does, they crumble to dust.

The count of the castle confronts her, after a long diatribe he speaks, and she reveals herself to him for whom she is, and he says he's missed her. He takes her hand... and Sergei wakes up back on the island. A soldier, he will soon be returning to his regiment, where he will send her more people.

Desire tells the story of a young woman who wanted a certain man, but wanted him to want her just as much as she did him. She sought out a witch, and after the young man's father, the chief of the tribe, is killed by the men across the river, she goes to fetch him back and meets Desire, who allows her to get what she wants, and she eventually marries the new chieftain.

But nothing comes without a price, and her husband is murdered, and the murderers come to her village for hospitality. She lets them in, but is unfazed when they put her husband's severed head on the table in front of her. Instead, she uses her beauty and her wiles to keep them occupied and fighting each other until the rest of the men from the village get back and slaughter her husband's murderers. It was only on that night, she says, that she was truly alive.

Dream is the story of when the universe was young, and Dream himself was having a romance with a woman named Kilalla of the Glow. Dream takes her to a meeting of Powers and stars, where Desire has Kilalla meet Oa, her own sun, and has the two Desire each other. Dream is not amused, and breaks off with his sister.

Despair's story is 15 separate portraits about Despair herself and people who Despair, from a priest falsely charged with molesting girls, to a woman who drives her car out into the wilderness and lets herself freeze to death.

Delirium's story is about five psychologically damaged people who go to retrieve Delirium's consciousness when she goes too deep into herself. The main character is a girl who has lived in a catatonic state for years, but helping Delirium breaks her out of her Catatonia and brings her back to life again.

Destruction's story concerns a female archaeologist summoned by a colleague to help him excavate a small peninsula where artifacts from the future have mysteriously appeared, buried in some strange cataclysm. She had been having dreams of death and destruction, where everyone around her was dead, dying, and the country was falling apart. She happens to meet Destruction, and his sister, Delirium, and hires him to help them excavate the site. But the arrival of men from the government puts an end to the excavation, and she barely escapes with her life before the island blows up and vanishes completely... and she finds she no longer dreams about the end of it all. Just the man who she knew from the island.

Destiny's tale rounds out the book, and it is the most lyrical of all, describing Destiny in his garden, reading his book that tells all.

This is a closer look at the Endless of the DC universe. Each story is told by Neil Gaiman, and each story is illustrated by a different artist, giving each story a unique look of its own. I found each interesting in its own way, but my favorites were the story of Desire, Death, Destruction and Destiny. Destiny's stands out as my clear favorite, being lyrical and with an ending I just can't get out of my head. "A page turns. Destiny continues to walk. He is holding a book. Inside the book is the Universe."

Pretty heady stuff, and if you get a chance to buy this book, take it.

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