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Brief Lives (Sandman, Book 7) by Neil Gaiman

Brief Lives (Sandman, Book 7) (edition 1993)

by Neil Gaiman

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4,045441,258 (4.47)60
Title:Brief Lives (Sandman, Book 7)
Authors:Neil Gaiman
Info:Vertigo (1999), Hardcover, 256 pages
Collections:Read, Unowned

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The Sandman: Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman



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It is the first Sandman series in which the Endless play the main role. Delirium, Dreams sister, longs for her brother Destruction, who has left the family of the Endless 300 years ago - no one knows where he is. After Desire and Despair refused helping delirium in her search, she turns to Dream, who will surprisingly stand by her. However due to selfish reasons: Just left from his beloved, he is hoping to think of other things and maybe, in secrete, to meet her once again ...
I have to admit, that this Sandman series left me behind with mixed feelings. On the one hand it is a story that is unique to sense and serious thoughts about the uniqueness and finality of life in this form, on the other hand there are so many references to previous volumes, that I am constantly asked myself, what was happening before, who are these persons, don’t I know them, etc. Unfortunately, between my readings of each book there are longer periods and not all is still present, so I think my reading experience was significantly diminished. Otherwise, the drawings are awesome as always, with some of them are almost be described as paintings.
All in all, great reading material, but if possible, just read it in conjunction with the preceding books. And I, I have to read it again ;-) ( )
  Xirxe | Dec 2, 2014 |
This volume was wonderful. Much better than the last - much more of the Endless too. These books are always best when they have plenty of the Endless in them. Delirium annoyed me a little, but her interactions with Dream were priceless. The message of this volume was also something that really got you thinking. Very enjoyable! ( )
  sammii507 | Aug 19, 2014 |
'Brief Lives' has the most straightforward plot of any volume in the Sandman series so far. It is essentially a road trip story with Dream and Delirium travelling together in search of their estranged brother. Its simplicity makes it engaging and very readable. We spend less time exploring the myths and dreams of others and more exploring the mythos of the Sandman universe. Yet for all that, Gaiman still revels in the tangents and twists in the story. There are still the usual fascinating incidental characters who turn out in the end to be not as throwaway as they first seem. The focus is largely on what I imagine the majority of the Sandman's readers had been crying out for, more of The Endless. I was certainly delighted to spend more time with Dream's family, and was surprisingly attached to Delirium by the end of the volume.

In keeping with the more straightforward story, we return to a single team of artists in this volume. The artwork in this volume is stunning and there are pages that are absolutely breathtaking. The book as a whole is beautiful and life-affirming, and is one of the best additions to the series. ( )
  AaronPt | Feb 7, 2014 |
I've been wondering about the missing Endless for a while and my questions were finally answered :) ( )
  scote23 | Dec 26, 2013 |
After spending six volumes establishing the permanence and indispensability of the Endless, Gaiman reverses field in Brief Lives with a story that suggests that the Endless may not be necessary at all, and not being necessary, may not be eternal. The story itself takes the form of a travel tale, with Dream and Delirium setting out on the road (literally) in search of their long lost brother Destruction. Along the way, the pair come across some individuals that we might count as extraordinarily long-lived, but for Dream, Death, and the other Endless, are merely ephemeral beings of minor consequence.

The volume starts and ends with Andros, the patriarch of the family charged by Dream with the task of guarding his son Orpheus' severed but immortal head. For him and his clan, their vigil has been interminably long, but it becomes clear that for Dream, their watch has been nothing more than the blink of an eye. The book shifts away from the main story several times to interludes featuring those who walk among mankind living lives that span vast numbers of generations of ordinary people. But as Death remarks when the fifteen thousand year old Bernie Capax finally dies and looks to her for reassurance that he managed to do well by living so long, he only got what everyone else gets - exactly one lifetime. Compared to the supposedly serene and unchanging lives of the Endless, no matter how long a mortal lives, one life is pretty much just as brief as another.

But Dream's journey in this book calls this alleged truth into question. In a moment of odd clarity, Delirium manages to gather her thoughts enough to start trying to seek out the missing member of the Endless, first asking Desire and Despair to help her, and when they refuse her, she turns to Dream for help. Even though she does not expect him to consent to aid her, Dream is in a funk after being dumped by his most recent love, and decides to use the quest to find Destruction as a diversion from his moody misery. And so this odd, but strangely well-matched pair set out on the road in the waking world.

Although Dream is most often matched with Death in the Sandman series, probably as a reference to the Greek myth that posits dreams as the only thing that makes sleep something different than a temporary death, pairing him with Delirium seems to be the natural match-up. The somewhat random free-association that Delirium engages in seems to be very much like the chaotic and bizarre landscape that most people find in their dreams. The two of them together find the mundane waking world to be a strange landscape, and react in very different ways. Dream regards all of those he encounters with disinterest and mild disdain, while Delirium wanders through like a careless child caught up in the excitement of a strange new place. But hidden within their characters is a common callousness, as Dream's concern after the death of their guide Ruby is that some force may be trying to impede their quest rather than remorse for the woman's death, while Delirium's only reaction is the gleeful realization that she will be allowed to drive their car. Later, Delirium's casual cruelty manifests when she off-handedly condemns a police officer who was doing nothing more than his job to a life of torment, an action that Dream does nothing to prevent or ameliorate. To the Endless, mortal lives are of no import.

The key to the story, however, is the mortal characters that populate the story. From the guardian Andros, to the long-lived but ultimately unlucky Capax, to the diminished deities Ferrell and Ishtar, to the ambitious and ill-fated Ruby, to the disembodied Orpheus, and even to the melting chocolate lovers left on Delirium's plate when she decides she isn't hungry, it is the frantic and hurried actions of the mortals that create meaning in the world. And that is the secret that Destruction seems to have discovered, and the truth that Dream knows but does not want to acknowledge - the mortals do not need the Endless, but the Endless need the mortals. Destruction is change, and Dream fears change as evidenced in this volume by his extended brooding over a love-affair gone wrong. Despite this, Dream is forced to acknowledge change, resorting to meeting with his son Orpheus for advice, even after he said he would never see him again.

Ruby, short-lived though she is, serves as a metaphor for the entire book. Despite her very short existence, she is one of the few individuals in the book who express a desire to actually do something more than continue to exist. Despite his fifteen thousand years of life, Capax has left almost no mark on the world. When he senses danger approaching, the Alder Man is content to erase his own existence in order to ensure his personal survival. Ishtar lives on faded memories of a distant past. And so on. Only Ruby wants something more than she has, wants to do something with her life, because she realizes that she only has so much time to accomplish something, and that gives her actions a sense of urgency. Despite her untimely death, she is one of the few characters in the book who seems to have truly lived instead of merely existing.

And this is what Destruction has come to understand - he isn't necessary. Humans can live their lives without the need for him to manifest change and guide their destinies. This reality is what disturbs and unnerves Dream, because if Destruction is not needed for change to happen, then Dream is not needed to make humans dream. Similarly, without Death things would still die, and without Desire, humans would still indulge their passions. But if the Endless are not necessary, that means that they can be eliminated without damaging the fabric of the universe. And this fact serves to turn the entire series upon its head, because it means that the Endless might not be as endless as the reader had been led to believe to this point.

This volume marks an important turn in the Sandman series. Dream ends up killing his own son - at his son's request - but in doing so he finally kills one of his own family members, which is what some of his siblings have been goading him to do in previous stories. We see what Delirium looked like when she was Delight, and combined with the knowledge that what had been described as the responsibilities of the Endless are not so dependent upon the existence of the Endless, the book foreshadows change in the offing. Not only that, but change that Desire, Despair, and even Dream fear. But most of all, as its title implies this volume highlights that it is not the Endless who are the critical forces in the universe, but rather it is those like Andros, whose lifespans are measured in finite numbers of days, months, and years.

This review has also been posted to my blog Dreaming About Other Worlds. ( )
  StormRaven | Dec 17, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Neil Gaimanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Thompson, JillIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Straub, PeterAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Bob and Allison on the occasion of their engagement. Pete and Dana on the occasion of their wedding. Beth and Chris, on the occasion of my dedicating a book to them. - Neil
for Basil - Jill T.
to Mom and Dad for their encouragement and support and to Khrysta for helping me through the rough times. - Vince
First words
It is of course, a miracle.
The priests of Orpheus have had thousands of years to learn the art of misdirection.
I know how gods begin, Roger. We start as dreams. Then we walk out of dreams into the land. We are worshipped and loved, and take power to ourselves. And then one day there's no one left to worship us.
And in the end, each little god and goddess takes its last journey back into dreams...and what comes after, not even we knows.
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Collects "Brief Lives" parts 1-9, originally published in The Sandman #41-49.
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A graphic novel in which Delirium, the youngest of the family known as the Endless, and her brother, Dream, journey through the world of the waking in an effort to locate their missing sibling, Destruction, and Dream struggles to resolve his troubled relationship with his son, Orpheus.… (more)

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