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The Brief Lives (Sandman) Paperback – January 1, 1995

4.9 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

One might think that the climax of the 10-volume Sandman series would come in the last book, or even the second to last. But indeed the heart and soul of Neil Gaiman's magnum opus lies here in Brief Lives. It could be because one of the most central mysteries--that of the Sandman's missing brother--is revealed here (in fact, the plot of this volume is the search for this member of the Endless). It could be because everything that comes after this volume, however surprising or unexpected, is inevitable. But it's more because this is a story about mortality and loss, the difficulty of change, the purpose of remembering, the purpose of forgetting, and the importance of humanity. If you have wanted to find out what all the good buzz on this great comic book series is about and haven't read any Gaiman before, don't be turned off by this volume's pivotal position in the larger story of the Sandman series. This book might actually operate better as a stand-alone story, in that its depth and compassion are more condensed, pure, and brief. --Jim Pascoe

From Publishers Weekly

Gaiman's very popular Sandman series (this is the eighth book in the series) continues with another tale of the Endless, the family of mythic cosmic beings that govern the psychic and physical realms of Dream, Desire, Despair, Destiny, Delirium, Destruction and Death. Morpheus, Lord of Dreams and the central figure in the series, is asked by his sister, the unstable and touchingly demented Delirium, to help locate their brother Destruction. Destruction abandoned his duties 300 years ago (about the time of the Enlightenmentnt), dropping out of sight after a prescient and despairing glimpse of the rise of human reason and its own destructive proclivities. The grimly ironic Morpheus and his whimsically erratic sister travel among the mortals of earth in search of their brother and ultimately learn something of Destruction's reasons for abdicating. Gaiman's works often follow the plots of classical and mythical narratives and Brief Lives, like his other works, can often look and sound as ponderous as a bad period costume movie. But his works are also driven by sharply drawn characters and his knack for capturing the patterns of intimacy, even in an otherworldly setting, can be affecting. Thompson and Locke contribute subtle and vividly colored drawings, rendered in an awkward but agile line.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Series: Sandman (Book 7)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Vertigo; Gph edition (1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1563891387
  • ISBN-13: 978-1563891380
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.6 x 10.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #668,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
The only reason I gave this story 5 stars is because there wasn't six, or ten, or a hundred available as choices.
Simply put, the Sandman is one of the greatest, most involving, most touching, (even for a hard to touch person such as myself) work of literature (yes, despite being a mere comic book it is literature, or as Peter Stuab says, nothing is) in the past century, perhaps in the past several centuries.
And Brief Lives is the best volume in the Sandman series, hands down.
The story, plot wise, is about a quest to find a missing brother.
The story is really about so many things more; about death, fate, redemption, mercy, terrible kindness, the meddling of gods and endless in human affairs, what happens to a family when the person that is its glue leaves, what it means to have a conscience, pride, honor, and much more.
Brief Lives is, even more than the other Sandman volumes, rich with beauty, imagery, imagination, and scenes that fire the imagination and touch the heart. Who cannot be moved by the anguish of Delirium and Despair, who is not awestruck by the scenes in the garden of Destiny or the conversation with Destruction, who is not genuinely saddened by the death of Orpheus and at Dream's terrible grief after the act, and who cannot be uplifted by the ending and the bond of love between Orpheus and his servant.
As an aspiring writer, I can honestly say that Brief Lives is both an inspiration and a goal; I hope that I may be able to write a single work that compares to it.
I will admit to being initially reluctant to pick up Brief Lives, perhaps because I sensed where Gaiman would take the Sandman in the last four issues, the inevitable turn to tragedy. Brief Lives is like the last warm day before winter or the last flash of light and color at sunset.
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Format: Paperback
I have a soft spot of the Kindly Ones because that was my introduction to Neil Gaiman (I had read about him in Wizard, the monthly bible of the comic book world, but I was young, and stupid, and my ignorance kept me away from revelation), and for The Wake because Micheal Zulli's pencils are exquisite - but whenever I _need_ exactly what it is the Sandman has to offer I turn to Brief Lives.
It's the distilliation - the essence - of what Sandman is about. Some might argue that Fables and Reflections or even Dream Country would be a better representative, a series of stunning vignettes whose swirling, mythic and dream like quality (I'm thinking of the fabulous Ramadan story) are about horror, fate, the depths of humanity and all that good stuff in the great traditions of fire-side story tellers.
But Brief Lives is something even better.
As Mikal Gilmore noted in his introduction to the graphic novel edition of The Wake, one of the seminal joys of the Sandman is hearing Gaiman's voice grow clearer with each passing issue. The progression from "The Sleep of the Just" to "The Tempest" is an astounding one; watching him grow makes any burgeoning and would-be writer both jealous and elated. The entire idea of the Sandman was revolutionary and different and pregnant with greatness (yes, a dangerous term, but applicable) - but it wasn't until Brief Lives that we _really_ saw what this thing could be capable of. Some argue that point occurred in "The Sound of Her Wings" in the first story arc, or perhaps Seasons of Mists, but _anyone_ who has read Brief Lives understands the truth....
This story is breathtaking. It's a romp. It's a ride.
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Format: Paperback
Back in 1994, my brother was very much into comic books. Not wanting to buy my brother something wihtout buying me something, and knowing my flare for the dramatic and mythological, my father bought me one of the installments of Sandman: Brief Lives...and it changed my life forever. I hungrily started to read anything I could get my hands on by Neil Gaiman...but the haunting images and statements that I received from that book are still with me. It was the episode in which Dream comes face to face with his son after many many years...and agrees to a deadly boon. There are not enough adjectives dealing with "wonder" to describe Gaiman's work. He redefines the mythologies we are all familiar with and creates some new ones. But this is the catalyst installment...Brief Lives is when Dream truly cannot go back...when he passes the cusp of fate into the inevitable. Up until this point, Dream has a choice, but following his decisions in this book, he can no longer retreat to safety. He had become a part of my personal pantheon, as his brothers and sisters have. He's with me for the rest of my life.
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Format: Paperback
Delirium, the youngest of the Endless, who was once Delight, needs a change. She decides to find her missing "prodigal" brother. She begs Dream to accompany her and surprisingly, (for reasons we don't discover til later) he agrees. But their prodigal brother is none other than Destruction, and as Dream and Delirium soon learn, few can seek Destruction unscathed. One of Gaiman's many skills is the use of doublespeak, and this story is no exception. It is a brilliant interplay of past accounts and current journeys, mirroring each other.
"What's the name of the word for things not being the same always.....there must be a word for it. The thing that let's you know time is happening. Is there a word?"
"Change" replies Dream, and that is the basis for this story. It marks the realization of what Dream boths needs and yet cannot accomplish - he must change to survive, or cast about the seeds of his own future destruction.
"Brief Lives" is the glory of an already impeccable series. It is for me, the jewel in the crown of the entire Sandman saga. It manages to be haunting, thrilling and hysterical all at the same time.
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