Minimalism. Colour pops. Office beanbags and gym balls. Ironic teeshirts & cause-stickers for formal wear. Technology slimmer than our desired waistlines. Value systems bigger than paychecks. The planet. The economy. Endangered species. Endangered morals. Flexible schedules & flexible boundaries.
We survived Y2K (of which an entire generation exists in blissful ignorance). We listened to Angry Girl music and the shattering of software powered dollar dreams. We watched optic fibres bring calls, jobs and international credit cards into our homes. We taught the generation before us that love really was blind because we could fall in love, lust, friendship and even careers over a glass screen. We saw the dotcom bubble grow & burst. We weathered one, then two then three recessions. We were blamed for killing everything. And we did.
We killed hierarchical structures. We killed paychecks-as-value systems. We killed corporate irresponsibility. We killed sexual harassment as common rite of passage. We killed unrealistic real estate prices and marriage rituals. We killed legalised homophobia & systematised racism. We killed the world as everyone knew it. Because the world changes every day but it flips over a new millenium only once in a thousand years. Maybe that means absolute annihilation of dinosaurs. Maybe it means creatures of water & earth learn to fly.
We aren’t done, not even half-way through. But who knows what is midlife crisis anymore? We also gave the world the concepts of quarter-life crises, of burnout & sabbaticals, of life-changing career flips. While we’ve seen the threat of nuclear weapons and much human devastation, we haven’t yet allowed a World War.
We aren’t the fresh new kids anymore and the millenium is now fully (and freshly) an adult. This means the generation after ours, are ready to pick up from our mistakes, move into our gaps and maybe build new things of their own. But don’t forget, WE KILLED IT FIRST. 😊
There is a little known corner in that place in your mind where Nostalgia resides. In it, a ramshackle hut bears the name, ‘What-if Shop’. If you brave the journey to find that place, you find it stocked in incomplete wishes, unfulfilled desires and half-remembered dreams.
The What-if Shop stands true, even as life places hurdles in your way. He who wears out a clear path to this place, lives forever in a life lit by an unknown lamp. The shop places no prices on its wares. The What-if Shop is hard to find but it rewards its patrons well.
This is the first long-form Sandman story that doesn’t break in between for a short, breather tale. It’s a different style from Book 2: The Doll’s House which was probably the last one that was so dark and intense.
A Game of You is a connecting story from the first half to the second half of the Sandman arc. At another, more in-your-face level, it’s a fantasy tale, set in the mind of Barbie (whom we first met in Book 2: The Doll’s House). A mythical land, magical creatures and a mysterious villian called the cuckoo populate this tale. The bizarre side of this tale comes from dreams seeping into the real world with the neighboring geek-girl turning out to be a crusading witch, the loser next door as a spooky agent of the enemy and everyone else just a blind follower in the melee.
It’s hard to explain why this book falls on the low for me while the other Sandman books vie for top billings. I’m not a huge fantasy fan and in the visual/textual format, it feels too much like a kid cartoon. The story though, is gristly enough to make me feel slightly sick. To top it all, the hard gritty narrative is not even tempered with a shorter, lighter tale as with the other stories.
I didn’t like this book much and on my most of my re-reads of Sandman, I prefer to skip over this tale. Still, it is a part of the Sandman arc and contributes in its own way to it. Characterisation, a strong feature of the Sandman saga, continues here in the form of Thessaly(who got her own standalone story in ‘Thessaly: Witch for Hire‘) and the lesbian couple, Hazel & Foxglove/Donna (who also featured in another breakout story, the very sweet ‘Death: The Time of your life‘).
Read this one, if only because it provides continuity to the next Sandman episode and since it leads the reader into two other great books.
The fourth Sandman book is where you get to meet the entire Endless family in one place – or at least the still active ones. Destiny, the eldest, calls for a family conclave. Desire needles Dream about sentencing Nada (from Book 2: The Doll’s House) to hell for declining his proposal. Death, while attempting to pacify Dream, concedes that he has indeed been unfair to Nada. Stung by this, Dream resolves to go to Hell to bring Nada back.
Dream prepares for his destruction in Hell, anticipating that Lucifer would not have forgiven him for the Choronzon episode (from ‘A Hope in Hell’-Book 1:Preludes & Nocturnes). To his surprise, he finds Hell’s gates open to him and furthermore, Lucifer clearing out Hell. The Devil abdicates his role, locks up Hell and hands over to Dream. Left in charge of the most prized real estate in the psychic world, Dream finds himself being alternated propositioned and threatened by the various factions wanting possession.
Once again, a Sandman story performs a double-act with a narrative that entertains and at a meta level, leaves us with a profound idea – In carrying a grudge, we condemn our loved ones and also ourselves to hell. We aren’t condemned to hell; we condemn ourselves to it. The Devil may be no more than a hapless, twisted aspect of ourselves, struggling from patterns and ultimately falling into it again.
As with the second book, this gritty narrative is interspersed with the spooky but oddly cheerful tale of Charles Rowling, a schoolboy murdered in a bizarre boarding school ritual. The story also ties in with the larger theme of hell.
“I think Hell’s something you carry around with you. Not somewhere you go.”
Meet me in my dreams
Because that’s the only place I’ll let you exist
Tell me anything you like, your silliest moments, your heartfelt desires
I’ll do my best to make them true
And we’ll live through fantasy
The next morning, when I wake up in my world
And you in yours
Don’t try to hold on to me
Or even feign recognition when you see me
Because I won’t reciprocate
I can be anything you want me to be
All but the one you meet behind closed eyes
Wings are reserved for private flights of fantasy only
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