Synopsis: When The Sandman, also known as Lord Morpheus, is pulled from his realm and imprisoned on Earth by a nefarious cult, he languishes for decades before finally escaping. Once free, he must retrieve the three “tools” that will restore his power and help him to rebuild his dominion, which has deteriorated in his absence. As the multi-threaded story unspools, The Sandman descends into Hell to confront Lucifer, chases rogue nightmares who have escaped his realm, and crosses paths with an array of characters from DC comic books, ancient myths, and real-world history, including Inmates of Gotham City’s Arkham Asylum, Doctor Destiny, the muse Calliope, the three Fates, William Shakespeare, and many more.
Review: Thank you to Neil Gaiman, Dirk Maggs, the Audible production team, and a seeming cast of thousands. I’m visually impaired, and I’m your audience. For years, other genre fans have been telling me I needed to experience The Sandman, so I put the series on my to-do list, while I enjoyed Gaiman’s other stories in alternative formats. Was Audible’s adaptation of the first three volumes of the series worth the wait? Yes, yes, and yes.
I won’t discuss the plot here. Those who’ve read the comics already know it. Those who haven’t will get the gist from the above synopsis and absorb the epic yarn as they go. Suffice to say that ten and a half hours of run time gets listeners less than a third of the way through Gaiman’s magnum opus. As lengthy as the summary paragraph may seem though, it ’s very much a brief description of a tale that’s Dickensian in the best way.
That said, there are structural flaws that prevent me from giving The Sandman a perfect score. First, the subplots involving Doctor Destiny and a character called The Corinthian drag on for too long. Second, as I said, listeners get less than a third of the way though. I can’t give a perfect score to an unfinished story with pacing problems.
The cast of The Sandman is superb! However, the cast is also so large that I only have room here to single out a few people.
First, James McAvoy gives a wonderfully old-school theatrical performance, as befits Lord Morpheus, king of dreams. For his part, Michael Sheen delightfully voices Lucifer as Gaiman originally conceived him before broadcast television greenlit an all too soapy variation.
Andy Serkis does a great character turn as Matthew, a raven who serves Morpheus in The Dreaming. Arthur Darvill plays Shakespeare so well that I wish he had his own series in the role. Bebe Neuwirth gives a nuanced, tear-jerking performance as a cat in a story that only a cat person could write.
Then, there’s that cat person himself — Neil Gaiman. He narrates so well that listeners would be forgiven for thinking he’d always intended to write The Sandman for audio.
This was a marvelous production, and I can’t wait for the rest of the story. That said, I’m now a bit apprehensive for the upcoming Netflix series. I really hope the streamer doesn’t want Gaiman to expand his already sprawling narrative to lengthen the show’s run. We’ve seen what that looks like with American Gods. Netflix is better off letting Gaiman adapt The Sandman as is.
You can purchase DC’s The Sandman here.
- The Good: Story, Performances, Production
- The Bad: Not finished, a couple of pacing problems
- Audio Production10