Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On The Vortex: A Review of Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll's HouseOne of the things that I knew I wanted to accomplish in 2013 is to read more graphic novels. This is not only because there are so many good series out there in the fantasy/sci-fi genre, but also because it's a sometimes underrated story-telling medium. Like romance novels, people seem to have a fixed stereotypical understanding of the type of person who enjoys reading graphic novels, and (like the stereotypical image of the romance reader), it's not very flattering. Consequently, I think a lot of readers tell themselves that they can't or won't like a graphic novel series, and so they never give any a try. It seems like a good year to try new things, though, doesn't it?

Sandman is a good series to kick the year off with, because I find that the story and characters are very accessible to the fantasy reader. Sandman is a dark urban fantasy-ish tale where dreams are real and nightmares have substance.

The Doll's House centers largely around Rose, who turns out to be a rare being called a Vortex--a potentially world ending destructive force in the dream world. Rose is unaware of her connection to the dream world, and instead is focused on  the turmoil of her waking life--she's just met her maternal grandmother for the first time, and now she's on a quest to find her long lost little brother. She moves into a house full of unusual residents while she conducts her search, unaware of the escaped nightmares that stalk her.

Neil Gaiman's writing is very clever in a lot of tiny ways. Never laugh-out-load funny, but worthy of a smile. The details are there to reward those who pay attention, while the larger story expands the world building. I find myself very intrigued by the endless, and what they are and who they are.

Where the book fell short for me was in terms of the explanation and logic of the central conflict...That is, what the heck is a vortex and why do I care? The reveal comes late in the story and the explanation is ill placed at the climax. I felt that I would have been more invested in what was going on with Rose in the dreaming world if I understood her significance, sometime before the resolution came about. But perhaps the novel reader in me just really likes exposition that pays off later.

Anyway, if you're a fantasy fan, you should read this series. It's very spooky, very cool, very well written. 4 stars.

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