We’re continuing Brief Lives, with Mike Schilling and Glyph recapping Chapters 7 and 8, respectively.
A Doll’s House recaps here: KatherineMW took on the first two issues, then the next two issues. KatherineMW and Jason Tank then reviewed the fifth and sixth, respectively. Mike Schilling reviewed the final two issues.
Dream Country recaps here: Glyph reviewed Calliope then Jaybird and Maribou reviewed Dream of a Thousand Cats in the first review post for Dream Country. Alan Scott reviewed A Midsummer Night’s Dream then Mike Schilling reviewed Façade in the second.
Season of Mists recaps here: Jaybird reviewed the first two in this post. Jason Tank reviewed the next two here. Boegiboe reviewed the next two after that here and here. Ken reviewed the final two here.
Fables and Reflections recaps here: Ken and Jaybird reviewed the preview plus the first two issues here. Mike Schilling and Jaybird did the next two issues here. KatherineMW did the next issue here. Glyph, Ken, and Russell did the Sandman Special issues here.
Brief Lives recaps here: Jason Tank recapped Chapter 1 and Mike Schilling recapped Chapter 2 here. Reformed Republican recapped Chapter 3 and Jaybird recapped Chapter 4 here.
Mike Schilling recapped Chapter 5 and Glyph recapped Chapter 6 here.
It’s very difficult to discuss this book without discussing the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that), if you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please rot13 it. That’s a simple encryption that will allow the folks who want to avoid spoilers to avoid them and allow the people who want to argue them to argue them.
We good? We good! Everybody who has done the reading, see you after the cut!
Brief Lives – Chapter 7
Destruction returns from grocery shopping and starts yet another creative act: cooking a gourmet meal. Barnabas, annoyed that it’s not for him, insults the previous one, a half-finished sculpture. Destruction tosses him a bit of chocolate, and Barnabas demonstrates that for all his snark, he really is a dog who likes treats and playing catch with his master. Destruction dimisses him, and he leaves with yet another sarcastic joke.
Dream, who is now quite friendly to Delirium, when she reminds him to be, decides to seek Destiny’s help. Going to Destiny’s realm requires a labyrinth, so Delirium teleports them to a carnival. All labyrinths are one, we’re told , so they can use it to enter Destinyland.
Delirium sees a vision of herself when she was Delight. That was long ago, when she brought men … what was it called again? Happiness? Something like that. Destiny comes to greet them, remembering that they were fated to show up just about now. He agrees to advise them: “Stop this foolishness and go home.” But he knows they won’t take that advice. He tells Dream more, that she never loved him and never will. Still not what anyone wanted to hear.
One more: to find Destruction, they need to consult an oracle, one who’s a member of their family . Dream, covering his eyes with his hand, looks as desolate as we’ve ever seen him. Del demands to know what Destiny told Dream, and threatens him obscurely. She has lost all her ditziness and is now coldly furious, and her eyes now match. She begs Dream to pull himself together; she can be the strong one, but it hurts. He does so, and says that they’re off to find the oracle.
Destiny recall a day 300 years ago. Destruction has called the family together to announce that he’s leaving. They all react in characteristic ways, with only Del showing how upset she is. Now he recalls they day Dream was imprisoned. Another when Death spends a day as a mortal. And one more where a blood-soaked Corinthian faces Dream.
Dream and Delirium have come to the island. Delirium is prattling again, asking Dream some questions that make sense and others that are inane. He answers all of the in monosyllables. The young guard finds them and summons his father and Andros to deal with them. Dream speaks to them in his usual infuriating, as few words as possible way, while Delirium babbles. Orpheus had warned that this would be an unusual day, and they realize this is what he had meant. Dream tells Delirium how unhappy he is to do this, and once more she forces herself to be strong for him. We stay with her as Dream enters Orpheus’s chamber, and she reverts, playing silly games with cherry stones at Joanna Constantine’s grave. Dream returns, badly shaken, but Orpheus has told him how to find Destruction.
They row to an adjoining island, and climb up, to find a dog. A voice from the shadows tells them that his name is Barnabas. Destruction is very pleased to see Delirium, less so to see Dream. he tells them that he’s been expecting them, and invites them in for a fancy meal.
1. Just as Pratchett tells us that all libraries are one, and all books exist in L-space. This is a different L-space.
2. My first guess, Despicableness, was wrong.
Brief Lives – Chapter 8
This is a talky issue, so apologies for the textwall.
Destiny’s dinner table. In comments a few issues ago, I noted the appearance of deltas in this arc, and there’s one again: Dream’s napkin, folded on his plate in front of him. Appropriately, it’s an imperfect triangle; change doesn’t come easy for him. (Delirium’s napkin is of course a random mess).
Conversation is awkward; Destruction attempts a classic ice-breaker joke, Dream can’t believe Destruction did the cooking, Barnabas snarks at a sarcasm-impervious Delirium, Barnabas and Destruction snark at each other, and Dream still doesn’t like dogs (but reluctantly permits Barnabas to stay).
Delirium recounts their journey for Destruction as only Delirium can; it’s more-or-less chronological and correct, and as she recounts it her hairstyles and eye colors correspondingly change to her appearance at those points in the story.
Destruction asks after the family, and they reminisce about when the Despair we have seen BECAME Despair; apparently the first Despair was destroyed. If an Endless is destroyed, another aspect will assume the position; this is why Destruction abdicated, otherwise his position would have been re-filled. Dream remains adamant that Destruction’s abdication was irresponsible.
Destruction asks why they came; Delirium just wants him to come home. Dream answers that ultimately he continued the quest out of some feeling of obligation for Ruby’s death, and Destruction notes that is unlike Dream. Destruction explains again that his realm continues without him, but responsibility for destruction now rests in the hands of mortals, and not his own.
Destruction explains where he’s spent the last 300 years, and confirms the mayhem experienced by the people encountered on Dream and Delirium’s quest was due to automatic booby-traps set by Destruction himself to discourage pursuit when he abdicated.
Dream tells Destruction that Orpheus was the one who helped them locate him. Dream still blames Destruction for what happened to Orpheus; and Dream still does not understand why Destruction abdicated. So Destruction tries, again, to make his brother understand. They walk outside…
…into a beautiful 2-page spread of inky night sky and stars past counting. And Destruction explains that here, under a million billion stars, from *this* perspective, he can pretend that things last; that the glass is half-full.
Dream still doesn’t get it, so Destruction tries again, telling a story from long ago, when he was feeling insignificant and Death told him that everyone knows everything Destiny knows, we just tell ourselves we don’t, to make it bearable. Delirium semi-confirms this; but not even Destruction understands this riddle.
No matter; Destruction won’t return (and Dream STILL cannot comprehend this). Destruction talks a bit more about what the Endless are, and what they are for; he opines that they have no right to exert control over mortals.
And now it’s time for leave-taking; Destruction packs up his sword and his scrying pool into a bindle, and makes gifts to his siblings – to Dream he bequeaths advice: to remember what Destruction did. To Delirium he bequeaths Barnabas, because God knows that girl needs looking after.
Destruction notes again that Dream has changed, more than he knows, and tells Dream to give his love to Ishtar if he sees her again (I was initially confused by this, but recall that Ishtar explained that gods begin in dreams, and go back to dreams for a time after they die); Dream is all, “Aw, do I haveta?” (YES.)
And Destruction just sort of walks off, up and out into the night sky, in an oddly-beautiful page. And I guess that’d be one heck of an ending, if not for what comes next –
Dream tells Delirium he has to return to the temple.
He has to kill Orpheus.
And THAT is one heck of an ending.