cover image The Sandman: Book of Dreams

The Sandman: Book of Dreams

Neil Gaiman. HarperPrism, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-100833-7

Though he won the World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction in 1991, Gaiman is best known as the writer who transformed the WWII-era DC Comics character the Sandman from a Batman-style detective/vigilante into the much darker Morpheus, aka Dream, the being who presides over the realm of Dreaming. One of seven siblings who represent various states of consciousness--Destiny, Death, Destruction, Desire, Despair, Dream and Delirium--Morpheus is head of the allegorical family called the Endless. Here, popular fantasy writers expand upon Gaiman's original concepts, with mixed results. Colin Greenland's bittersweet ""Masquerade and High Water"" and Barbara Hambly's ""Each Damp Thing"" provide insights into the backstage workings of the Endless. Tad Williams's ""The Writer's Child"" is a finely crafted story about loyalty and the value of innocence. Weak spots include George Alec Effinger's resurrection of a saccharine Little Nemo for ""Seven Nights in Slumberland,"" Lisa Goldstein's bland ""Stronger Than Desire"" and B.W. Clough's vignette ""The Birth Day."" Susanna Clarke's ""Stopp't-Clock Yard"" and a lyrical meditation on Death by songwriter Tori Amos close the anthology on a strong note; a b&w drawing by Clive Barker opens it on a garish one. Though perhaps most interesting as an example of media-crossover, this collection presents some powerful writing about, and memorable images of, the other reality wherein we while away a third of our lives. (Aug.)