Brief Reviews – Rocky Mountain News

Mark Graham reviewed Alisa Kwitney’s The Sandman: King of Dreams in the January 2nd Rocky Mountain News:

In the first years of the 1960s, I was obsessed with high school football. I also loved comic books. On normal days, with three hours of practice and the fact that I actually did study, I didn’t have much time for comics. But every Friday afternoon, I picked up a copy of Captain Fury and His Howling Commandos or Dr. Strange or The Rawhide Kid or an EC or two, if I could find them, and settled down to relax before the game.

Those nostalgic books of my youth are nothing like Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, the only comic book to win a World Fantasy Award. But you can bet the family fortune that, if it had been around, I would have been reading The Sandman.
The Sandman is not for the kiddies. This is no Little Lulu or Archie and Veronica. Gaiman’s graphic adventures, drawn by several artists, are for mature audiences, at least high- school- type mature. Despite being plot-driven and adventurous, they are dark and symbolic (there might even be a smidgen of sex).

In her coffee-table-sized anthology, Alisa Kwitney offers 10 beautifully illustrated chapters, which can be used as either an introduction to the series or a nostalgic look back for the fans who have read all 2,000 pages since its inception.

Kwitney was Gaiman’s editor for several years when he was writing The Sandman on a regular basis, and the author gives her some of the credit for its success. As he says in his introduction, “She knows the words, she has a fine eye for pictures, and she certainly knows her Sandman. You’re in safe hands.”

If you’re looking for a new kind of mature entertainment, want to refresh your memory of some of the finest illustrated adventure ever written or just want to relax before the big game, I highly recommend Kwitney’s vision of The Sandman.

He also reviewed The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases in the December 19th edition:

Let’s just imagine for a moment. Isn’t that what fantasy is all about, anyway?

Imagine you are a successful science fiction, fantasy or horror writer, and an editor contacts you and requests that you create a disease and write about it as if it really exists, using jargon one might find in a medical textbook, including fake footnotes, symptoms and “authorized reports.” How could you resist?

With this offer, Jeff Vandermeer and Mark Roberts lured writers Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Michael Moorcock, Michael Bishop, Cory Doctorow, Gahan Wilson, Kage Baker, Paul Di Filippo, Brian Stableford, Denver’s Steve Rasnic Tem and nearly 50 others, and came up with one of the most fun tongue-in-cheek books in years.

Here are just a few of the maladies you can expect to find explained in this scholarly tome: Menard’s Disease, in which the sufferers “present to the public a tangible artifact – an actual copy – of a well-known literary work as their own accomplishment”; Twentieth Century Chronoshock, “the mother and uncle of all rashes (only 100 cases exist – each victim is allergic to a separate year in the 20th century)”; Download Syndrome, a modern disease the symptoms of which include: “1. Constant talking with aid of mobile phones and e-mail; 2. Near-zero memory retention; 3. Dead stare; 4. Blithely confident attitude.”
Each of the diseases is accompanied by several illustrations in the fashion of turn-of-the- century medical treatises. The entries alternate between laugh-out-loud funny and just plain weird.

The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases is definitely not the kind of book one should expect to sit down and read in one session. In fact, it should be a source of chuckles for a long time.
A warning is included: “. . . reading straight through from beginning to end will result in symptoms such as eye strain, bleeding from the ears, and an abnormal urge to imbibe large amounts of alcohol.” Excuse me. I hear a bottle of Macallan’s 12-year-old Scotch calling.