Tonight, Mike S and Jaybird start off Endless Nights by recapping stories about Death and Desire respectively.
A Doll’s House recaps here: KatherineMW took on the first two issues, then the next two issues. KatherineMW and Jason Tank then reviewed the fifth and sixth, respectively. Mike Schilling reviewed the final two issues.
Dream Country recaps here: Glyph reviewed Calliope then Jaybird and Maribou reviewed Dream of a Thousand Cats in the first review post for Dream Country. Alan Scott reviewed A Midsummer Night’s Dream then Mike Schilling reviewed Façade in the second.
Season of Mists recaps here: Jaybird reviewed the first two in this post. Jason Tank reviewed the next two here. Boegiboe reviewed the next two after that here and here. Ken reviewed the final two here.
Fables and Reflections recaps here: Ken and Jaybird reviewed the preview plus the first two issues here. Mike Schilling and Jaybird did the next two issues here. KatherineMW did the next issue here. Glyph, Ken, and Russell did the Sandman Special issues here.
Brief Lives recaps here: Jason Tank recapped Chapter 1 and Mike Schilling recapped Chapter 2 here. Reformed Republican recapped Chapter 3 and Jaybird recapped Chapter 4 here. Mike Schilling recapped Chapter 5 and Glyph recapped Chapter 6 here. Mike Schilling recapped Chapter 7 and Glyph recapped Chapter 8 here.
World’s End issues #51 (A Tale of Two Cities) and #52 (Cluracan’s Tale) reviewed here by Jason Tank and James K. Issues #53 (Hob’s Leviathan) and #54 (The Golden Boy) reviewed here by KatherineMW and Reformed Republican. Ken reviewed Issues #55 (Cerements) and #56 (“World’s End”) here.
The Kindly Ones recaps here: Mike Schilling recapped the Prologue to and Part One here. Glyph and Jaybird recapped parts two and three, respectively, here. Jason Tank recapped parts four and five here. Mike Schilling recapped issues six and seven here. Jaybird and Jason Tank tackled issues eight and nine here. Jaybird recapped ten and eleven here. Mike recapped twelve and thirteen here.
It’s very difficult to discuss this book without discussing the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that (if there were one after that, anyway.[/efn_note] If you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
We good? We good! Everybody who has done the reading, see you below!
This one is called “Death and Venice”, an obvious reference to both Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” and Woody Allen’s joke about the streetwalkers there. (They tend to drown.)
We start with the story of a Venetian count who commits a spectacular suicide, being trampled by an elephant as he finishes having sex with two virgins. It comes off perfectly.
The second thread in this story starts with an American who prevents a nice American lady from being conned out of a few bucks by a Venetian charlatan who makes paper dolls seem to dance. The point of this minor episode seems to be that he’s someone who sees things clearly. Also that there are worse ways to make a living than being a con man. Remember that.
Somehow the count isn’t dead. The next day, instead of a bacchanalia, he orders confession, repentance, and flagellation. It makes a nice change.
The American, who as a child spent time in Venice, recalls an island picnic with his cousins. They played hide and seek, and he got separated from the others. He meets a very pretty young girl, sort of goth-looking. She’s waiting for a gate to open, though it’s been shut for a long time. He tries to open it for her, to no avail. Somehow it’s become very late, and his family is worried and angry.
Today the count has arranged a masked ball. It’s a stunning success, of course, and at the end we learn what’s going on. The count has magically arranged for everyone in his palace to live the same day over and over: no one gets older and no one dies.
The American hires a boat to take him back to the site of the picnic. He realizes how much of his life was influenced by his meeting that girl there. He grew tired of his wife because she didn’t compare to her. And his work is dedicated to her as well. He finds her again, still waiting for the gate to open. He uses all his strength and kicks it down. They enter the palace, dressed for the masque. (Though she’s not the Red Death.) She points out the other guests and how they died. In fact, they start to die and the bodies to decay and crumble. (Yet another Poe reference.) Now she tells the count what will/did happen to him for his witchcraft: disappeared, murdered, and his corpse mutilated. He recognizes here, and goes with her willingly, even happily.
The American wakes up on the shore. The boatman find him and takes him back. The American realizes that he will see here again, but just once more. And he understands that his job, being a commando who kills his enemies one by one, is sending people to her. And that people are just puppets who seem to dance but are being manipulated by a puppet master.
The title of this one is “What I’ve Tasted Of Desire”. That’s a callout to Robert Frost’s famous “Fire and Ice” poem:
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
We start our story with a hint that tells us that there is overlap between the jobs of these Endless. Or, perhaps, if you start thinking about one of them, you’ll quickly start thinking about the others.
Perhaps we should have started with a hint that this episode would be NSFW. Golly! “What’s the scariest kind of bees?” Ahem, anyway, we begin with a little bit of voyeurism and then some tattling. “That guy you dig is fiddling about with some chick.” “I don’t dig on him. Why do you say I dig on him?” “Sisters know.”
And our protagonist turns to the camera and tells us pretty much everything.
It wasn’t that she liked him. It wasn’t that she hated him. It was that he irritated her. (Ah, a trick that, when it works, works *PERFECTLY*). Okay, she’s admitted it to herself… now what?
Oh, we’re going to visit a witch. Gah! Does anybody have clothes in this story? The witch tells us a handful of truths… how love potions work, for example. What some gods will do anything for, for another. But what our protagonist wants can only come from one entity and, to my surprise (now that I think about it), the witch knows who it would be.
“Follow your heart” is advice that is right up there with “be yourself”. If only it were that easy…
Anyway, the irritating guy goes to the big city to do a little business and, while away, the bad folks from across the river kill his dad. Our protagonist dresses up like a dude and runs to the big city to let him know… but, before she gets there, meets Desire.
Now, in this meeting, there are some interesting things that come up: “Am I dreaming?” “Quite the reverse, if anything.” Which doesn’t make sense to me. Some variant of “you’ve never been more awake”? Hrm. I dunno. Anyway, we see Desire give a small speech complaining about her brother.
One thing I never really understood about Sandman was why Desire wanted to kill Dream anyway. Sure, I could buy wanting to tweak him. Make him look dumb. Make him go back to Hell to reconcile with his ex. I am on board for all that. I didn’t understand why Desire wanted Dream dead… especially since we know that Despair came back and so we know that Desire would suspect that Dream would come back. Hrm… maybe that lightens the stakes.
Anyway, the part of the talk where Desire says that most people want like a candle flame but she wants like a forest fire is pretty cool. The part where Desire answers that s/he wants everything (what else is there?) is awesome. Gaiman is good at this.
In town, we find the irritating guy in a brothel and he seems to indicate some indication that he doesn’t think that the people he hangs with think much of him. The nice lady asks “What about me?” and he says “someone else will be along soon enough” and he’s out. Is that how he felt about how all of the orchard chicks felt about him?
Anyway, we’re walking home and he asks for a tumble (hey, there’s probably no 3G out there in the hills). He points out that, seriously, she’d dig it. She acknowledges that that is likely true but, seriously, she declines. The next day he asks her hand in marriage. She, once again, declines. How’s about a simple smooch? Nope.
“You’ve changed. Who have you been talking to?”
And she gives the famous answer of “nobody” but we know that it’s not him either.
We get back to town and it’s time to have the wake… and she goes up to take care of her goats. He brings her presents and she politely accepts them until, one day, he comes back with proof of death of the man who killed his father and asks for her hand once again.
(Seriously, this is, like, The Rules for medieval people.)
And we get to see a small inkling of how life can be good for a bit after you get what you want. And it’s nice.
But then Gaiman does that thing that he does and he turns it upside down. Our much less irritating husband gives our protagonist a flower for her hair before he goes off to the coast and she promises to wear it until his return… and, one day, while the menfolk are all shepherding the flocks and protecting them from the wolves, a bunch of men show up asking for hospitality according to the dictates of the culture. Food, ale, a table… and one of them has his head.
She, however, does not notice and goes on to be something that each one of them wants very, very much. She wheedles, she teases, and she gets them to wrestle and game with each other until the menfolk return and slaughter the husband-killers. When asked about it, she pointed out that it would be a poor thing if she could not bend a man to her desire.
And then she grows old.
I normally don’t like Desire that much. Partial to Dream, perhaps… but this story was a corker.