The Sandman is the first instalment in an ongoing series of audiobooks of the seminal 'Sandman' DC comics series, written by the best Edgar Allan Poe reincarnation to date, Neil Gaiman. It is one of the most beloved and critically acclaimed graphic novel series that is yet to break into mainstream consciousness, owing to the eldritch and chthonic themes of Gaiman's universe. Since its inception, Sandman has been widely recognised as a benchmark for dark fantasy in the graphic novel sphere.
Sandman was the launching pad for Gaiman into his subsequently prolific career as a writer in various media. A live-action adaptation of the comic debuted recently on Netflix and this audiobook serves both as a great primer and prequel for familiarising the audience with Sandman's characters and causal relationships in this fantasy world.
The Sandman audiobook retells the plots from the graphic novel series, starting from Preludes and Nocturnes, to The Doll's House and ends at Dream Country.
The audiobook is not a word for word narration of those comics, but serves as a masterclass in transmedia adaptations. Taking the tale from one sense to the other is no easy feat. The transfer from visual to aural does not diminish the impact of the tale one bit and manages to maintain the evocative imagery birthed in its original iteration. As someone who has a mint condition Issue #1 of Sandman, sealed and tucked away, I can wholeheartedly assert that the adaptation hits every mark for a longtime fan and signposts overarching narratives for newcomers.
The central protagonist of this tale is the immortal being known as Dream or Morpheus, and his story begins with his capture and imprisonment at the hands of a cult of sorcerers around the end of the nineteenth century. The cult had botched the ritual, they were actually attempting to abduct his sister, called 'Death', and steal her power of immortality for themselves. Morpheus sits in his glass cell for decades waiting for his captors to slip up, perish or become disillusioned. Over the course of his imprisonment, dreams fade from the world (he is the Lord of Dreams) as people can only have nightmares, restless sleep or fall into comas.
Neil Gaiman himself serves as the central narrator in the audiobook, setting the stage and carrying the narrative from one dreamlike sequence to another, and sometimes back to a very familiar reality. There is something magical about the author himself narrating his work, as it imbibes the listening experience with a cloak of familiarity, like a well-spoken friend capturing your attention from across a campfire.
The rest of the cast is stacked from top to bottom. James McAvoy plays Morpheus, one of the most underrated actors of our generation and handles this central character masterfully. There are other fantastic voices as well to cover the main characters: Kat Dennings is Death, Simon Vance is Lucien, Taron Egerton is John Constantine, Michael Sheen is Lucifer, Riz Ahmed is The Corinthian, and Andy Serkis is Matthew the Raven.
Diehard DC comics fans owe it to themselves to check out this version of Sandman. The guest appearances of Constantine and Mr Miracle are the exact type of easter eggs that make comic book fans froth at the mouth. Whereas, if you are a voracious reader who has just made a technological jump into audiobooks, this audio drama is a prime example of the best this medium can offer. Atmospheric ambience and non-diegetic sounds are mixed and balanced so well in the mix that suspension of disbelief is very easily achieved and the soundscape envelops you in one of Gaiman's greatest masterpieces.
Sandman was released on Netflix on 5 August and has given the company a new flagship series to rally their customers around. A lot of shows go the 'woke' route by gender bending and race swapping pivotal characters to keep up with Hollywood's diversity quota. The series is one of the rare few that actually elevates the story because of it. Netflix has done the series justice and the audiobook is a great way to spend a bit more time and get way more insight into Gaiman's world.