Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Sandman (Sandman Audible Original #1) by Neil Gaiman and adapted by Dirk Maggs

A friend of mine back in varsity days introduced me to Neil Gaiman's The Sandman comics by Neil Gaiman, and ever since then I've aimed to tell stories that echo some of the resonance I've felt since reading the comics. And I have always been nervous about possible adaptions of this incredible comic book series. Especially given the track record of so many other adaptions I've seen that didn't quite do justice to the source material.

It's also bloody difficult to explain what The Sandman is in brief, because it exists as such a glorious mashup of history, myth and comic book legacy. I'd like to say that it is a story about stories, especially where all the stories we've ever told or have dreamt, intersect in a weird liminal state with history and possible futures. And every time I've dipped into The Sandman, depending on where I'm at in my life, I've had very different takeaways.

At a glance, this is a story about Dream, or Morpheus, the lord of the dream realm, who has been captured by magicians who have rashly endeavoured to capture Death. Sundered from his powers for seventy years, he has to reclaim his tools and, eventually his purpose. He is not alone, however. He is an anthropomorphic representation of the Seven Endless: Death, Dream, Desire, Destruction, Delirium, Destiny and Despair. They are more than gods, and they rule and to a degree ruled by all things. 

I've always felt that American Gods was a pale echo of the excellence Gaiman attained in The Sandman, so if you've seen or read the former, then The Sandman will provide a far richer, darker and intoxicating experience. And I wondered how on earth anyone would be able to adapt the series of comics into an audio format. But credit is giving to Dirk Maggs. He's done good. Really good with Gaiman's work. 

It was an incredible experience to have familiar stories brought to life in a vivid soundscape. I also cried ugly tears not once, but twice, while listening. Which is quite something considering that all the material is familiar to me. Interestingly enough, I spoke to someone who hadn't read the comic books first, and she admitted that she found The Sandman quite dark, and a bit scary, which I suppose it is. So if horror elements aren't quite your jam, be warned, there's some by the ladles full.

And a word on actors James McAvoy and Kat Dennings, who play Dream and Death respectively – they had a wonderful chemistry, especially in "The Sound of her Wings" which has always been one of my favourite sequences in the comics. 

I could probably gush on endlessly about this production. As a long-time fan of everything Neil Gaiman, this is honestly one of the highlights of my reading/listening career. Don't miss this one.

PS, I'm cautiously optimistic that the TV series is going to be peachy keen. And not just because Gaiman is deeply involved in it. Maggs has done an outstanding job with the radio play, showing how it can be done.

PPS, I won't complain if James McAvoy is cast as Dream for the TV series.

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