Dream Country by Neil Gaiman

Dream Country

The third volume of the Sandman collection is a series of four short comic book stories. In each of these otherwise unrelated stories, Morpheus serves only as a minor character. Here we meet the mother of Morpheus's son, find out what cats dream about, and discover the true origin behind Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream. The latter won a World Fantasy Award for best...

Title:Dream Country
Author:
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Edition Language:English

Dream Country Reviews

  • Sam Quixote

    I’ve been re-reading a lot of books that I enjoyed years ago recently and it’s been very rewarding for the most part, rediscovering books I loved all over again. Unfortunately Sandman - a series I really liked the first time round - is not among them and it’s so disappointing! What I remember of Sandman was that the first two volumes weren’t that great (and that checks out) but that the series starts to take off in this third volume, Dream Country, and… it doesn’t. It’s basically stuck in the mu

    I’ve been re-reading a lot of books that I enjoyed years ago recently and it’s been very rewarding for the most part, rediscovering books I loved all over again. Unfortunately Sandman - a series I really liked the first time round - is not among them and it’s so disappointing! What I remember of Sandman was that the first two volumes weren’t that great (and that checks out) but that the series starts to take off in this third volume, Dream Country, and… it doesn’t. It’s basically stuck in the mud for the third time.

    Unlike the last two books which were lengthy narratives, Dream Country is a series of four thematically linked short stories with Dream and Death making cameos but not taking centre stage. I almost gave up this re-read after the first few pages where we see a woman getting raped. Wow, this was darker than I remembered! If I never see another rape in a comic, it’ll be too soon.

    That story is Calliope where a desperate author attempts to overcome writer’s block by taking the physical manifestation of Homer’s muse back to his house, locking her in a room, and raping her for years. Turns out rape is just what he needs because he becomes a terrific success - except he doesn’t realise that Calliope is Morpheus’ ex. And the Dream King has very recent unpleasant memories of being held against his will…

    I suppose it’s a noteworthy story for giving the reader more of Morpheus’ life story - he has a son, he had a partner - and it sets up one of the book’s two main themes: disguise/deception. But I felt the writer’s success was contrived and unconvincing and the story overall deeply repulsive. Not a good start at all and it may have coloured my overall perception of the book for the worse.

    The second story is a whimsical fable of talking cats, one of whom recounts the story of how they once ruled the world until the humans dreamed that they were the rulers and reversed the roles. It’s cute and underlines the series theme of the power of dreams, and this volume’s other major theme of power displacement, but it’s kinda forgettable. It’s also the first time we see Morpheus live up to his name, shape-shifting from his human-ish form into a Dream cat, showing that he is Dream for all beings, not just humans.

    The World Fantasy Award-winning A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the third and best story of the book. It’s 1593 and Will Shakespeare and his troupe of actors, Lord Strange’s Men, are in the provinces, about to perform Shakespeare’s Dream for the first time - and in front of a unique audience of faerie folk, guests of the Dream King himself.

    I’m quite surprised that this is the second story in the book where a writer has had their abilities gifted to them by an ethereal presence. It annoys me a bit that Neil Gaiman is, in a way, undercutting humanity’s achievements by saying this - it’s just so reductive! And, though I can appreciate the clever way that Gaiman basically retells the Dream during the performance of the Dream (with Dream in the audience), it still felt like a pretty flat story.

    But I am a huge fan of Charles Vess’ art and his Robin Goodfellow was wonderfully creepy (think a smaller Grinch-esque figure with a twisted mindset). And that scene between the Lady Titania (the real Faerie Queene) and Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, was especially chilling, as she hints of a plan to abduct him to her realm. In real life, Hamnet would die three years later aged 11 and a few years after that Shakespeare would write Hamlet, but the suggestion that Titania stole him away to live amongst the faeriefolk is both charming and horrifying at once - a brilliant writerly flourish from Gaiman.

    The fourth and final story closes out the volume on the same miserable tone it opened with as Urania Blackwell aka DC superhero and Metamorpho-lookalike Element Girl sits alone in a flat, depressed and suicidal. Yup, this is the sad death of a minor superhero! Yeesh…

    Goth chick Death makes a cameo that lightens the mood a bit but otherwise this wasn’t that great a story either. Again it hits the themes of power transference and deception (she can change her appearance using different elements), but that unshakeable gloomy tone is hard to like. This came out in the early 90s and it’s clear we’re still feeling the after effects of Alan Moore’s Watchmen where all superheroes must be dark and gritty beyond belief. I’m just not into that.

    On the whole I wasn’t that impressed with Gaiman’s work in this book. Midsummer is the only story worth reading while the others range from horrible to miserable to lightweight. Charles Vess’ artwork is great and, though I didn’t love it, there’s nothing wrong with Kelley Jones, Colleen Doran and Malcolm Jones III’s work here. I almost want to stop re-reading the series now and preserve my fond memories of the later books - what if the rest of Sandman is as average as the first three volumes are? Eh, in this instance I’ll take reality over dreams - onwards!

    (By the way, if you like Vess’ art and faerie stories, check out Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories, illustrated by Vess with a corking collection of tales by Clarke!)

  • Bradley

    This is a fairly short volume, but each story is tight and delightful. This is where I remember the Sandman comics coming into its own, and Morpheus himself hardly had any role in them. It's all about stories. Stories about stories. Of course, I can make the same argument about the entire run of the series, but like I said, this is where it comes into its own.

    A kidnapped muse gets freed by her old lover. A cat's dreaming of a new and free world. What the Fae court really felt about

    This is a fairly short volume, but each story is tight and delightful. This is where I remember the Sandman comics coming into its own, and Morpheus himself hardly had any role in them. It's all about stories. Stories about stories. Of course, I can make the same argument about the entire run of the series, but like I said, this is where it comes into its own.

    A kidnapped muse gets freed by her old lover. A cat's dreaming of a new and free world. What the Fae court really felt about

    . A world of masks.

    None of these short descriptions really do any of it justice. Dream gets revenge on an artist that rapes Calliope for his success, and the revenge is so damn sweet it bears repeating a thousand times. You want ideas? I'll give you ideas... muahahaha... :) The cat's dream was of overturning the rule of man, while remembering that cats once DID rule man, but man dreamt of a new world with more of it's kind and changed the nature of reality. Can't cats bring themselves to reverse reality in the same way? It brings a whole new spin on the adage, "To herd cats."

    But it was the story about the Shakespearian production that takes the cake. Dream invites the entire Fae court to watch Will and his entire cast of players in a private production of the famous play, becoming a dream within a dream within a dream in a real sense, and because Puck, well, shenanigans ensue. There was sadness and longing, and it was nearly, but not quite, 4th walled. I think this one was my favourite.

    The mythbuilding is truly great stuff. :)

  • Algernon

    An intermezzo between two longer story arcs, composed of four stand-alone issues. Part of the appeal for me is in the quality of work from the guest artists, Charles Vess and Kelley Jones in particular, but the main attraction remains in the creative writing of Gaiman.

    17 - Calliope - is a story about a muse from ancient Greece, a prisoner of the mortal plane where she is enslaved and abused by a writer who wants fame and fortune.

    18 - A Dream of a Thousand Cats - a story for cat lovers everywher

    An intermezzo between two longer story arcs, composed of four stand-alone issues. Part of the appeal for me is in the quality of work from the guest artists, Charles Vess and Kelley Jones in particular, but the main attraction remains in the creative writing of Gaiman.

    17 - Calliope - is a story about a muse from ancient Greece, a prisoner of the mortal plane where she is enslaved and abused by a writer who wants fame and fortune.

    18 - A Dream of a Thousand Cats - a story for cat lovers everywhere, one in which Morpheus takes the form of a black cat and inspires the animal kingdom to emancipate themselves from a form of slavery to humans through the power of dreams

    19 - A Midsummer Night Dream is my favorite in the collection and continues an idea already introduced in

    : that two of Shakespeare plays were inspired and sponsored by Morpheus. Here we participate in the first performance of the famous play, held in a meadow for the Lords and Ladies of Fairyland.

    20 - Facade is the closest Gaiman comes to a classic superhero origin story, puting a dark twist on the saviour of the world mythos, showing the alienation and the psychological pressure of being a 'freak' in the eyes of the normal people.

    I hope I will meet some of these characters in later issues. Even if they prove to be one-night-stands, their stories have depth and showcase the themes I am becoming already familiar with : the alternative history, the deconstruction of the superhero character, the use of mythical creatures in a contemporary environment.

  • Alejandro

    Writer: Neil Gaiman

    Illustrators: Kelly Jones, Malcolm Jones III, Colleen Doran & Charles Vess

    Letterer: Todd Klein

    Covers: Dave McKean

    This is a wonderful volumen in the

    run where the great storyteller, Neil Gaiman, unleashes his imagination to the fullest giving us the pleasure of reading four stories where anything can happen...

    Writer: Neil Gaiman

    Illustrators: Kelly Jones, Malcolm Jones III, Colleen Doran & Charles Vess

    Letterer: Todd Klein

    Covers: Dave McKean

    This is a wonderful volumen in the

    run where the great storyteller, Neil Gaiman, unleashes his imagination to the fullest giving us the pleasure of reading four stories where anything can happen...

    Morpheus, the embodiment of Dream, has many names, and Oneiros is one of those who used at some point, for some purpose.

    It’s certain that the topic of a failed writer capturing a muse (a real one, from the Greek mythology) to be able to write again successful novels is something used here and there, but Neil Gaiman gives us here, this theme with a wonderful past relationship between Morpheus and Calliope, the muse of this tale. And how ironically, both have experienced similar situations helping to amend their complicated relationship.

    Cats, there are cats everywhere, in every continent, in every country, in every town, almost in every street. We are surrounded by cats. And they dream. They all dream. And they all can dream the same dream. And if they all can dream the same dream, they can change the world...

    This short story won the World Fantasy Award in 1991, of course the very next day, the committee changed the rules to avoid any other short story in the format of a comic book would be able to compete in that award. God forbids that people may think that comic books are respectful and valuable literature as any other literary genre! Geez!

    Obviously not all comic books are high literature, but again not all prose novels are neither. It’s not a thing about the presentation format, it’s about what’s inside, as with any other book.

    Neil Gaiman gives us here the epic meeting between Morpheus and William Shakespeare and the unique chance of presenting a theater play to an audience like not other in history. Refined literature in a graphic ambiance at its best.

    Urania Blackwell is also known as Element Girl, but her life isn’t easy, since while she possess remarkable abilities, this comes with a price of grotesque features provoking that she doesn’t want to socialize and the most desperate choice, suicide isn’t on the table since due her powers, she is invulnerable to any human weapon.

    Our lovely smiling Death is in the same floor of Urania’s apartment. She feels Urania’s sadness. But Death doesn’t provoke demises, she is only there to accompany those destined to die. However, she may have some idea...

  • Patrick

    Note: This is part two of a rambling multi-volume re-read of the series. It will probably make better sense in context of other reviews...

    The third volume of Sandman is several short stand-alone stories. It also includes my my favorite story in the entire series. Where Shakespeare's troupe performs Midsummer's Night's Dream for the assembled host of Faerie.

    Midsummer's is my favorite of Shakespeare's plays, I should mention.

    I remember reading this and thinking... "What? What the serious hell?

    Note: This is part two of a rambling multi-volume re-read of the series. It will probably make better sense in context of other reviews...

    The third volume of Sandman is several short stand-alone stories. It also includes my my favorite story in the entire series. Where Shakespeare's troupe performs Midsummer's Night's Dream for the assembled host of Faerie.

    Midsummer's is my favorite of Shakespeare's plays, I should mention.

    I remember reading this and thinking... "What? What the serious hell? You can make Shakespeare a character in a comic? This... this... I don't even..."

    This time when I read it, I noticed many more subtle things going on than in my first two read-throughs.

    This time when I read it, I thought to myself. "We have a play with a play in it."

    Then I thought: "No, people are *watching* a play with a play in it.

    Then I thought, "No. I am *reading* a book about people watching a play with a play in it. And the play is about the people watching it. And the characters are part of a larger story which is, in fact, about stories."

    Dammit, Gaiman. Must you out-meta me as well? Can't I have just that one thing for myself?

  • Anne

    I quit.

    Sandman is

    for me. I can honestly see why so many of you love it, but...

    I don't like the art. It reminds me of some scratchy shit that one of my kids drew. The difference is, the artist isn't one of my kids, so I don't feel the need to put this up on my refrigerator.

    Sorry, I know a lot of you love this style.

    There are few different stories in this one, and I didn't like any of them.

    First one is about a writer who rapes a muse over and over a

    I quit.

    Sandman is

    for me. I can honestly see why so many of you love it, but...

    I don't like the art. It reminds me of some scratchy shit that one of my kids drew. The difference is, the artist isn't one of my kids, so I don't feel the need to put this up on my refrigerator.

    Sorry, I know a lot of you love this style.

    There are few different stories in this one, and I didn't like any of them.

    First one is about a writer who rapes a muse over and over again for inspiration.

    Next up is some weird team-up between Dream and William Shakespeare.

    After that, it's the story about some ex-agent of some government sponsored superhero group. At least, I

    that's what they were. It was honestly too bizarre/boring for me to actually claim I knew what was going on. Somehow, Ra (the Sun god) made this woman into

    ...or something. Long story short, she's ugly and wants to die.

    Death showed up to give her some advice, which was the only bright spot in the whole book.

    Ironic, no?

    I'd like to pretend I'm cool enough to

    , but that would mean I'd eventually have to read more of these. And that's not gong to happen.

    Ever.

  • Char

    The Dream Country contains 4 stand alone stories and Morpheus is mentioned only as a side character in A Midsummer Night's Dream, which won The World Fantasy Award.

    Even though that story won a big award, it was not my favorite in the collection- I much preferred both Calliope and Facade. In Calliope, a man discovers and abuses his muse and in Facade we learn a lot about the faces we wear and the sister of Morpheus, Death, plays a role. How can an immortal commit suicide? If Death doesn't know,

    The Dream Country contains 4 stand alone stories and Morpheus is mentioned only as a side character in A Midsummer Night's Dream, which won The World Fantasy Award.

    Even though that story won a big award, it was not my favorite in the collection- I much preferred both Calliope and Facade. In Calliope, a man discovers and abuses his muse and in Facade we learn a lot about the faces we wear and the sister of Morpheus, Death, plays a role. How can an immortal commit suicide? If Death doesn't know, who does?

    The second story, A Dream of a Thousand Cats was unique, but also brought with it the theme that Gaiman brings up in American Gods-how much do our beliefs shape the world around us? How is reality altered by our dreams and beliefs? On top of that, there's lots of cool cats. What's not to like?

    The artwork in this volume was evocative-especially in Calliope. At the end of this volume, a script of Calliope was included-which was a cool peek behind how Neil Gaiman and the artists put an issue together. I didn't realize how much control over the panels the author had-for some reason I thought the author focused on the story only and then the artist's created their own versions of the author's vision, but that's not the case here. I learned a lot by perusing the script.

    Overall, I didn't like the artwork in this volume as much as I did in The Doll's House, (volume 2.) However, I think the stories in this volume were just as good, if not better than that issue. So I hemmed and hawed and came up with a 4 star rating. I might up it to 4.5 over the next day or so as I reflect on these excellent tales.

    Highly recommended for fans of Neil Gaiman, especially fans of American Gods!

    *A big thanks goes out to my local library, as I couldn't afford to buy all of these issues right now. They kindly sent copies from around my state to my local branch and I think that's super cool.*

  • Bill  Kerwin

    The third volume of

    series is a bit of a mixed bag, since the individual stories, although all entertaining, vary in quality. And yet it also contains what may be the greatest Sandman tale of all time.

    First of all, this volume is essentially half the length of the first two, consisting of four individual numbers instead of the customary eight. It is padded to something close to the normal length by the addition of an original Gaiman script (“Calliope”), which I’m sure will be of grea

    The third volume of

    series is a bit of a mixed bag, since the individual stories, although all entertaining, vary in quality. And yet it also contains what may be the greatest Sandman tale of all time.

    First of all, this volume is essentially half the length of the first two, consisting of four individual numbers instead of the customary eight. It is padded to something close to the normal length by the addition of an original Gaiman script (“Calliope”), which I’m sure will be of great interest to some of you (although I must admit I skipped it myself). The first tale (“Calliope”) tells of Morpheus’ rescue of a Muse who has been kidnapped, then brutalized sexually and artistically by two unscrupulous writers in turn, the second (“A Dream of a Thousand Cats”) is a charming tale of a late night grayeyard meeting in which a wise old feline tells “our” cats a tale they can dream on, and the fourth tale (“Facade”)--the volume’s weakest, in my opinion—concerns the sad, solitary existence of Urania Blackwell (AKA DC’s “Element Girl”) whose body, and life, has been destroyed by the same radioactive substance that transformed her into a superhero.

    But the third tale—ah, the third tale!—is a masterpiece. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” tells us about a special performance of this play, on an isolated rural hill, by Shakespeare’s own company, arranged by Lord Dream himself. The audience? The actual beings that are the originals of Shakespeare’s Dream-inspired creations: Queen Titania, King Oberon, Puck, Peaseblossom, and the rest. The faeries comment critically on the play, interact with the players, and this mingling of art with the hyper-real personages of dream has consequences for Shakespeare’s company, and for his young son Hamnet as well.

    Shakespeare was a master of the play-within-a play, using it to great effect not only in this play (the “Pyramus and Thisbe” interlude), but in

    , and

    as well. Gaiman shows his command of the form too, using it—as his master Shakespeare did—not only as meta-fictional commentary, but also as metaphysical meditation.

    “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is quintessential Gaiman, and makes

    a worthy entry in the series.

  • Bookdragon Sean

    Sometimes I like to binge read a series, I enjoy it that much that I try to read it as quickly as possible. The real world ceases to exist for a few days. This really isn’t anything particularly remarkable to say about a series, most readers do this sort of thing. Though every so often, maybe once every two to three years or so of reading, a series will come along that is so utterly excellent that I don’t want to read it. I mean, I don’t want to finish reading it. So I pace myself, I take my tim

    Sometimes I like to binge read a series, I enjoy it that much that I try to read it as quickly as possible. The real world ceases to exist for a few days. This really isn’t anything particularly remarkable to say about a series, most readers do this sort of thing. Though every so often, maybe once every two to three years or so of reading, a series will come along that is so utterly excellent that I don’t want to read it. I mean, I don’t want to finish reading it. So I pace myself, I take my time with it and savour its splendour. This is most unusual for me, I’m sure some of you may have noticed how quickly I can get through books.

    I started reading the Sandman almost a year ago now, and I’ve only just finished the third volume. This, in fact, took me almost two months to read. I went back and re-read issues; I flicked through and enjoyed the artwork on multiple occasions. For me The Sandman is the absolute peak of Gaiman’s writing and intellect, and it’s also the best graphic novel I’ve read to date. It would take a truly huge amount of ingenuity, creativity and originality to top something as good as this.

    This volume, though not as good as the previous two, is a very enjoyable read. Unlike the others, that have six issues that follow a story arc, this one is divided into four separate issues that tell a different tale. It’s almost like the comic book equivalent of a book of short stories. I’m sure there’s may be a technical name for this, but if there is I certainly couldn’t find it! So I’ve broke down my review to talk about each of the four:

    What does the artistic muse dream about? She dreams about not being a muse, of course. She doesn’t want to exist for the purpose of another’s inspiration; she wants to exist for herself, and herself only. So she calls upon the lord of the dream world to come and save her from the confines of her existence.

    What do cats dream about? Well, here they dream about being free; they dream about breaking the shackles of human domestication, and, of course, ruling the world. And in this world if enough beings dream for something to happen, with enough power, then it can become reality. So our she-cat heroine spreads the word; she lets other cats know what they must do if they want change. And I, being the cat crazed person that I am, absolutely loved the issue. It’s brilliantly told with a high level of wit.

    More Shakespeare! (YAY!) The Bard makes good on his promise, that made in the previous volume, to write a play for Dream. He performs it for him in the middle of the countryside with a very strange audience straight from the world of Fae. No other audience could match such an interesting bunch. As ever, I love the way Gaiman inserts Shakespeare into his series and shows how the concept of dream influenced his subsequent writing.

    This wasn't much of a Dream based issue; it was more a death based story. It was okay, just about a woman who was physically mutilated during some crazy experience that left her longing for an end. It was very short and lacked substance; it would have been much better in a death based collection.

    Speaking of which, I must read her issues at some point:

    She’s certainly the most beautiful depiction of death I’ve ever seen…….(stares silently into the distance)

    So this was another solid entry into the Sandman series, though it could never be quite as good as the rest when it doesn’t tell a sustained story, allowing the drama and tension to build up through the issues, it was still very enjoyable though. I think I'm going to wait a good few months before I pick up the next volume. Hopefully, this is the only one I give less than five stars.

  • Obsidian

    I did like this, but thought that it was a bit all over the place. I only really liked one issue and that was the one dealing with Death and the woman who was not a woman, Rainie. There seemed to be no connection between these issues and I thought that the issue ending on scripts of whatever for this volume was boring. I just skipped all over that.

    "Calliope" was a great story and we find out more about this Muse and her relationship with Dream. I liked the idea of Dream having a son though what

    I did like this, but thought that it was a bit all over the place. I only really liked one issue and that was the one dealing with Death and the woman who was not a woman, Rainie. There seemed to be no connection between these issues and I thought that the issue ending on scripts of whatever for this volume was boring. I just skipped all over that.

    "Calliope" was a great story and we find out more about this Muse and her relationship with Dream. I liked the idea of Dream having a son though what was being done to Calliope all in the name of writing was terrible. I think that the authors in that one got off way too easily. This story starts before Dream is imprisoned and then escapes.

    "A Dream of a Thousand Cats" I think my cat would enjoy this story. I did like how we get to see Dream as a cat though. Still creeped me out with the all knowing look in his eyes.

    "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Well this turned sinister as hell in a quick shake. We have seen the relationship between Dream and Shakespeare in volume 1 so I am going to assume he keeps showing up. It was an interesting idea that I will admit to being slightly bored a bit.

    "Facade" so I had to look up the character of Rainie since I had no idea who the heck she was and what her deal was either. She's interesting, but what was really interesting to me is that she is thousands of years old and she really wants to die. She's sick of merely existing and having no true face anymore. I did laugh though when she goes to lunch with an old friend and her fake face mask falls into a plate of spaghetti. Rainie ends up meeting Death who talks to her about the end of all things which was actually moving. Great ending to this issue.


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