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Book Review: Nocturnes & Preludes–Neil Gaiman


Genre: Graphic Novel/Horror/Fantasy

Pages: 230

Published: 1992



Instead of capturing Death as planned, Mr Burgess captures the Sandman – the ruler of the Dreamworld and he is kept captive for 70 years and his treasures stolen from him. The Dreamworld is almost destroyed, people’s dreams are taken away and they cannot sleep properly. After 70 years, when Mr Burgess is dead and his son is an old man, Dream escapes from his prison and finds his revenge and seeks to recover the artefacts that were stolen from him.

I haven’t read many graphic novels and certainly not one like this, so I do not have a great body of knowledge to be able to compare this with. I am trying to find out what graphic novels that I like, because the ones I have read I have actually really enjoyed. Maus by Art Spiegelman and From Hell by Alan Moore are two of my most favourite books.

The Sandman series is written by Neil Gaiman and Preludes and Nocturnes is the first volume containing episodes that would have been published monthly to begin with. (I don’t really know anything about how these things work, or how they’re published).

Now I have a kind of difficult relationship with Neil Gaiman. Everyone else seems to love him, but for me it’s like opening the door to a black room and not being able to see or hear anything but emptiness, so I usually shut that door and move on. However, I keep wanting to open that door and take a look in to see if anything’s there yet. Maybe I’m opening the wrong door. Who knows. I don’t think I’m ever going to be a fan. I didn’t like American Gods, I couldn’t get into The Graveyard Book and Stardust wasn’t anything remotely amazing. So, I figured maybe I’d like him better if I read him in a different format…

Well, it kind of worked. I kind of did enjoy this book a lot more then the others of his. I think maybe a lot of it went a little over my head, maybe I didn’t get references to other DC graphic novels or other little things that perhaps people more well versed would have got. I think I have been spoiled by From Hell by Alan Moore which is simply an amazing book and the most terrifying book I have ever read. I probably shouldn’t compare other graphic novels like this one to that one because obviously it’s going to pale.

However, out of all the graphic novels I have read, this one is so far my least favourite. I thought it was just too pointlessly dark and violent with too much gore. I always feel that Gaiman just wants to be dark all the time and mysterious and different, but it just doesn’t feel true to me. I’m not against violence or gore, I’m not put off by it as long as I can see a point to it. I couldn’t really see the point to it in this one and I think it detracted from the story. It felt skin deep.

I did start to enjoy it quite a bit more by the second half of the book when Mr Destiny’s character was introduced. Now he was creepy and weird and interesting. I also liked Death at the end. I thought that the story started to come together more and felt less episodic and bitty like it did in the beginning. Even within the separate chapters, or issues whatever you call them – the story felt a little haphazard and bitty. I suppose it is like dreams are, but it didn’t work for me. By the second half, or final third at least, it began to gel.

I would like to read the second volume, which is The Dolls House, just to see where this is going to go. I’m not sure if I’d read the whole series yet but I might and I am interested mainly because the ending was actually pretty intriguing.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 18/12/2011 19:58

    I’m a fan of Gaiman’s writing but I can see how the dark and dreary can be more depressing and boring than interesting. It sounds like you’ve given him a good shot too and if you still don’t like his writing, you still don’t like it. It happens.

    I liked this one and keep meaning to get more of the series but so far that hasn’t happened. Don’t know why.

  2. 20/12/2011 02:41

    Don’t necessarily take my word for it (because I am a Gaiman fan also), but Sandman picks up tremendously as it goes along. The final story in Preludes and Nocturnes is much more like the rest of the series than the first seven (or whatever) stories are. Promise. One thing I do like about Neil Gaiman is that he fairly regularly borrows ideas from Diana Wynne Jones and repurposes them in ways that are so totally different from how DWJ used them. It’s cool to observe.

  3. 20/12/2011 17:17

    Yes, I’d heard that the Sandman series gets better as it goes along – which is partly why I’m interested in reading the second one at least. I have noticed DWJ’s influence in Stardust – it felt like a DWJ sort of story what with the falling star and the kind of fantasy world. However, it felt like a weak impersonation to me and didn’t impress me at all. Diana Wynne Jones just does it better – in my opinion.

    I wish I could like Gaiman – I rarely wish I like authors more then I do. Usually I either like them, or I don’t, no big loss. But I guess as Diana was such good friends with Neil and obviously respected each other, and I actually like reading interviews with him and the like… I kind of want to like him more.

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