From the opening in Destiny’s Garden, through the negotiations for Hell and the closing of Destiny’s book at the end, this collection was the most emotional for me thus far. Here is where we see future events really begin to take shape. Every page gave me either the goosebumps or a case of the giggles (“I do not want a grape” has always been one of my favorite Dream lines) or both. I’ll save the more spoilery discussion for the end of the post, however.
Lets start with the thesis that seems to run through this arc: Choice. This novel is full of people, fallen angels, anthropomorphic personifications, demons and gods making choices with massive consequences, whether they realize it or not.
And who is most incredulous at these choices? Who feels the least able to make them for himself? Dream, of course. Good old “we do as we must do” Dream.
As he travels to Hell, cold and afraid in the In-between, he contemplates staying there forever. He’s had a rough few years, after all. Everything seems to have changed around him and he’s…ill-equipped to deal. Yet, in true Dream form, it is his sense of responsibility to his realm, and of right and wrong, that keep pushing him forward into Hell to free Nada.
So, of course he is stunned upon his arrival to learn that Lucifer is doing exactly what Morpheus himself had been contemplating: The Lightbringer is leaving it all behind. He’s letting someone else take care of “it.” Of course, he’s also messing with Dream big time, perhaps trying to destroy him, but mostly, Lucifer is
setting out to enjoy himself. While Morpheus is incredulous that the Devil would abandon his responsibilities, Lucifer seems to have a sort of Zen peace that comes from knowing all of those responsibilities are optional. He actually has a lot to say about choices, intimating that all the souls in Hell might have chosen to be there rather than been sentenced, lamenting the human tendency to blame their ill-actions on him, when the truth is they belong to themselves – their lives and actions are their own, just as he says “we belong to ourselves.” Thus, Lucifer has decided to start enjoying the best kind of freedom, the kind that Morpheus could never enjoy, “the freedom to leave.”
The rest of the novel is full of people and entities realizing that what they thought they had to do, perhaps they do not. Payne realizes he can leave the place which houses his bones, and both boys realize they can choose to not go with Death. Nada realizes it is at least possible that she could have left Hell at any time (…does this let Morpheus off the hook?). Dream himself realizes that all this rigmarole about who’s going to get Hell (and how fun is THAT section?), isn’t a choice he has to make after all. His freedom is a freedom from responsibility. Of course, it isn’t a freedom he took for himself, as he could have, but it is one he is granted.
Here’s something interesting: what we see in the end is that it is not the individual who is important when it comes to running Hell, or to running any realm. Lucifer, the triumvirate referred to in Preludes and Nocturnes, Duma and Remiel – doesn’t matter. Because one way or another, someone will do it. The Angels in question consider rebelling, making the choice to leave, but in the end stay…and embrace their responsibilities in a terribly creepy way.
This is true of The Endless as well, isn’t it? We learn in this novel that Despair isn’t the original Despair at all. But, in spite of the end of that aspect of the Endless, there is still someone to stare back at us in the mirror from time to time and make us feel things we would rather not feel. Heaven gets a new Hell as a dark reflection. We get a new Despair.
This part will have some MAJOR spoilers for future events beyond Season of Mist. If you have not finished The Sandman series altogether, stop here and skip to the very bottom.
There is so much to love about this arc.
I’m particularly fond of the mysteries that are never quite solved – what exactly happened to Matthew to bring him to The Dreaming? It is clear he was a troubled human, he alludes to making some kind of deal with a demon, we know he was given a choice to come live as a raven and we know he’s not the first to do so…but I’m still not sure exactly what happened there. Why him? Why a raven?
Oh, and what’s the deal with Eve?
And why did Delight change to Delirium? I don’t just mean, “What happened,” I mean “Why didn’t a new aspect of Delight take over if the original was no longer able?” This is what happened to Despair, and what will happen to Dream. What was different about Delight?
Ooooh, and my favorite: what does Delirium know about The Endless that no one else, not even Destiny, knows? I suspect the answer is connected to my last question.
I also get terrible goosebumps in the scene with Daniel. This really is where it gets real, isn’t it? For those who know where this is all headed, that scene is all the evidence we need that Gaiman knew it way before we did. How could we not have guessed?
OK, I could list a million things. I have barely even touched on the awesomeness of the interaction of all the gods when they come for the key to Hell. This novel is non-stop cool.
What are your favorite moments? (be sure to warn of spoilers for future collections!)
Stuff we geek out about…
- A Little Something for the Fellas (2)
- A Little Something for the Ladies (9)
- Avengers Boot Camp (9)
- Before the Movie – Trailers (13)
- Editorials and Reviews (136)
- Interviews (19)
- Miscellaneous Geekery (48)
- Nostalgia (17)
- Sandman Re-Read (11)
- Three Favorite Things (4)
What we JUST said…
- They Can’t All Be Buffys-Zombieland the Pilot
- All the Posts I Meant to Write this Month, Abridged
- Hemlock Grove-A New Guilty Pleasure
- Deborah Harkness and A Discovery of Witches
- Syfy’s Defiance- Hope They Didn’t Blow the Budget on a Song
- Cover Reveal for the New Liz Long Novel Witch Hearts
- From Gen-X, To Chris Hardwick With Love