Thursday, 16 September 2010

Neil Gaiman - Sandman: A Game of You

I recently reread the fifth book of the lovely Sandman series by Neil Gaiman et al.
A Game of You has apparently never been a fan favorite, probably due to Morpheus appearing only in a small number of pages and, well, not doing much. The fact that the story is rather dark in tone too, and bad things happen to nice people, doesn't help either.
And to top it, it has somewhat standalone quality which allows people to happily skip it if they want. The main character had a minor role in earlier book, Doll's House, and one of the supporting characters had a connection to first book Preludes and Nocturnes, but you don't need to read those to get this one. One of the characters introduced here plays a role in later books but for the most part what happens in this book stays in this book.

However, when rereading this volume I did notice some things I hadn't really paid attention to before.
Morpheus stays on the side and does not do much, but as Thessaly points out, "sometimes inaction is itself action". Despite Morpheus knocking elbows with likes of Odin, Bast and Lucifer we haven't really seen him before in this god role, as transcendental divine being, even if only in a skerry of dreamland.

The small scene with Nuala, him saying "you did the right thing" when Nuala had tried to interfere in waking world and warn Barbie, has always somewhat bugged me, it feels so out of place in the story, and characterization of Morpheus in previous stories and also in some of the coming ones. However, I have come to think it does fit the grand scheme. There has been discussion of how much Morpheus actually had orchestrated the events leading to the end of Kindly Ones, and if this was the case, how the plan was formed during the series.
Acts in the previous book, Season of Mists, of course had set some of the key elements in motion but in Game of You we see more of the psychological background of it all: Morpheus had set himself to be this grand and distant figure, why should he do anything about skerries living or dying? Yet he recognizes the significance of involvement and approves involvement by proxy, via Nuala or some once given boon. Yet he is uncapable of bending, making the leap of faith and getting directly involved.
Samuel Delany in his introduction discusses the differences of Game of You and Game of I in terms of Barbie, Wanda and Thessaly but they apply also to Morpheus, he cannot win either.

Oh, and only now I realized that despite their similar outward appearances, Thessaly, Hazel and Foxglove walking on the Moon's Road were a maiden, a mother and a crone. D'oh!
Originally I pretty much hated Colleen Doran's art on the third part of the book, but since then I have seen her work elsewhere which I have liked a lot more. But I still think that here it does not look good.