This book is a series of short stories which have been brought together into one volume. They were not necessarily written at the same time. The fact that these stories were brought together to form a volume may explain the somewhat disjointed feel of the book. If you are looking for a book to skip in the series, this would be it, which is not to say that its not worth reading but you won’t miss essential plot points if you choose not to. The stories are not part of the meta-narrative of the Sandman universe per se, although they do offer insights into Dream’s character.
In “Three Septembers and a January” Despair tries to play head game with Dream, and we learn the story of the first and last Emperor of America. In “The Hunt” what seems to be a fairy tale is revealed to be Lucien’s (Dream’s librarian, whose library contains every book ever written or dreamed) quest to regain a book (“The Merrie Comedies of the Redemption of Doctor Faustus” by Christopher Marlowe) which was stolen from him. “Soft Places” looks at the areas where the geography of dream intrude upon the real world. “Orpheus” gives some back story on Dream’s son. “Ramadan” tells the story of a sultan who wishes for his city to never fade and die and thus makes a deal with the Dream King to keep it prosperous and vibrant forever. It also has some of my favorite artwork in the whole series.
Sandman, vol. 6: Fables and Reflections
By Neil Gaiman
Art by Bryan Talbot, Stan Woch, P. Craig Russell, Shawn McManus, John Watkiss, Jill Thompson, Duncan Eagleson, Kent Williams, Mark Buckingham, Vince Locke, Dick Giordano
DC Comics/Vertigo 1994