Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Review: The Sandman Vol.7, Brief Lives

THE SANDMAN VOL. 7, BRIEF LIVES: One of the most subtle volumes of the series so far

Brief Lives follows Delirium, who wants to look for her prodigal brother Destruction. She asks Dream for assistance, and since Dream is trying to recover from a recent heartbreak, he obliges. But it seems that their journey won’t be that simple, because their search has triggered Destruction to fulfil his function as an Endless once more -- to destroy.

I really like the fact that this whole premise is deeply hinted in the previous volumes of Sandman. It just means that it is not random, and that Sandman is a very planned-out story, because it is able to juggle the plot elements that have been introduced in the previous volumes, and then turn them into a coherent story. Actually, this hinting is not new to the Sandman series. We have seen it in other story arcs, like the whole story about Nada and how she has been banished to hell. It gives the readers emotional investment to the story, and perhaps also interest in the subtlety of the presentation of future plot elements.

The storytelling of this volume is a little slow however. The first chapters take a lot of time to establish certain characters and plot elements. There are also a number of sequences that don’t contribute to the overall story, as if the author is desperately trying to fill in enough details to reach the necessary number of pages per chapter. But since I am invested in the story already, because it has been hinted in the previous volumes, I remain interested.

            But when I look at it as a stand-alone work, it only gets interesting when it gets to the point of presenting me that there is a subtle entity that affect Dream and Delirium’s journey. It turns out that it has been Destruction fulfilling his duties, but the fact that there is actually something going on, makes it interesting. Another factor that makes it interesting is the subtle involvement of Desire and Despair.

Speaking of Despair, there are also hints of her origin, and I’m expecting it to be expanded in the next volumes. That’s one of the best things about Sandman. The overall story just branches out. There are so many things that need to be said. It keeps things interesting, especially because there is always a lingering mystery amidst the current story being told.

As for the characters of this volume, I like the idea of old gods and how they have died, or how they have resorted to desperate measures just to survive. I like the incorporation of old religions and how the old gods coped with contemporary times. The featured characters are also to be praised. Delirium has her moments to shine. It is fun to see her coloured dialogues and her unusual way of speech. I must admit that I enjoy her character, even though she could be childish at times. As for Dream, I like how Neil Gaiman presented his main character’s changes all throughout the series. It gives me a view of how Dream has developed as a character – and I must praise Neil Gaiman for a job well done on how Dream deeply changed as a character, even though at surface level he remains the same. It is further proof that Dream is actually a well-crafted character to begin with.

But the real juice of the story is the messages contained in between the lines, particularly in the scenes where Dream and Delirium have finally seen Destruction. In here, I learn that the title of the series, Brief Lives, is very much appropriate, and you will agree with me once you have read the volume.

Overall, I think Brief Lives is a very good read. The fact that the whole story has been hinted in the previous volumes is enough to keep the reader interested. But that’s not the only thing that makes it amazing. As I said, the development of the characters is worth noting, and the subtlety and the philosophy behind the title is also something not to be overlooked.

If I would compare it to another volume, that would be to Volume 5, A Game of You, because they have the same way of presenting subtlety between the lines. But of course, that’s nothing to be surprised about. After all, the whole Sandman series has always been subtle, and indeed, Brief Lives is no exception, and perhaps it even surpasses the subtlety of other volumes. This is a recommended read for those who are looking for something intellectual, and for those who have subscribed to the whole Sandman story.

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  1. While I have not read it, I have heard a lot about The Sandman comics, and since intellectual stories intrigues me, I will have to look into the series. Did you hear that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was cast in the film adaptation? It was announced last week actually.


    1. WHAT?! A film adaptation? I'm happy that that would entice more readers, but I'm actually sad because that might ruin the franchise, as, you know, adaptations always do.

      You should look into the series! There's a reason why it's almost already considered a classic. It's one of those stories that could endure the test of time. The pictures I've posted in my blog entries are those from the original releases (just googled them), but there are re-mastered editions (these are the editions I have) that have more vibrant and modern colors. I just felt the need to say that because you might be turned off by the colors of the pictures above.