We’re continuing Brief Lives, with Mike Schilling and Glyph recapping Chapters 7 and 8, respectively.

Glyph’s introduction to Sandman, in three parts, here, here, and here.

Preludes and Nocturnes recaps here: Glyph and Patrick tackled the first four issues, Jaybird tackled the fifth, Glyph recapped six and seven. Mike Schilling recapped number eight.

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.

A Game of You recaps here: Mike Schilling reviewed the first two in this post. Jason Tank and Mike Schilling tackled the next two issues here. Russell Saunders gave us the last two issues 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 [1], 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 [2]. 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.

Mike Schilling

Mike has been a software engineer far longer than he would like to admit. He has strong opinions on baseball, software, science fiction, comedy, contract bridge, and European history, any of which he's willing to share with almost no prompting whatsoever.


  1. Ok, something strange. I remember Delirium having matching eyes when she pulls herself together. I remember that. But in this copy I have right here in my hands, her eyes are still mismatched. I had to replace a couple of my volumes, but I thought I only lost vols 4-6. Maybe I’m wrong and I lost this one, too. Maybe the first volume I had was corrected and this new one wasn’t.

    Or maybe Delirium’s messing with me. Anyone else?

    (For the record, this is the cover I have.)

    • P.S. The second time she recounts pulling herself together, page 5 of the 8th chapter, her eyes are both green. Maybe I’m remembering that.

    • I want to say that this is addressed in one of the books somewhere. “In the original comic book, the eyes were matched but there was a mixup at the printer for the 2nd edition…” or something.

      • Ah, here we go:

        Question: What was the coloring problem with the Brief Lives issues?There were several errors with the coloring in various issues of the Brief Lives story. The most significant were with the coloring of Delirium’s eyes. Often her eyes were colored the same color when they were supposed to be different and in once instance they were different colors when they were supposed to be the same color.

        Delirium’s left eye should be blue and her right eye should be green (Using her left and her right.) They should remain this way except for Sandman #47 pages 11-12 and Sandman #48 page 5. When her eyes are the same color, they should both be green as they are in Sandman #48 page 5. All other instances where her eyes appear to be the same color are incorrectly colored, a mistake made in the color separation process. (Dan Vozzo wasn’t at fault.)

        The obvious eye coloring errors are Sandman #41 (page 7, panel 3), Sandman #45 (page 4 panel 1), Sandman #46 (pages 23 and 24 throughout), Sandman #47 (pages 11 and 12 throughout), and Sandman #49 (page 8, panel 1).

        An additional color mistake has Dream’s clasp colored red instead of silver in Sandman #47 on pages 15-18.

        In a few issues, most notably in Sandman #44, Delirium’s word balloons lose their regular multi-hued coloring.

        In some interviews, Gaiman has indicated that there had been discussion of recoloring the entire run for the “Brief Lives” collections. In both hc and tpb collections, some of the coloring mistakes (like Del’s word balloons) are fixed, but others (like her changing eye color) remain the uncorrected. Why certain corrections were made and other (often more significant) errors were left uncorrected seems to be a strange decision made somewhere deep within the DC management power structure.

  2. Something that bugs me: At the end of A Doll’s House, Dream reminds Desire that the mortals really control them, not the other way around. But here, Dream doesn’t acknowledge this, even when his brother’s talking about essentially the same thing, leaving the mortals without interference.

    • “Don’t give me that stuff, it’s the kind of thing I say when I’m trying to high-hat Desire.”

      • To Jason: this bugs me too.

        To Mike: To “give someone the high-hat” (or to become indignant about being given the high-hat, or question whether the high-hat is in fact what is being given) is one of my favorite pieces of archaic slang.

        • Did you ever see Miller’s Crossing? It uses that quite a bit, as well as inventing (I think) some other archaic-sounding slang:

          * “What’s the rumpus?” for “What’s up?”
          * “Dangle” for “Hold on a second”

          • Yeah, Miller’s Crossing is great, and they do use it a lot.

            When I was young, my grandma would drop my cousins and me and my brother off at the mall for the afternoon in the summer sometimes. There, we would play epic games of hide and seek for hours, and set elaborate booby-traps of Snap ‘n’ Pops (those gunpowder caps shaped like little paper spermatozoa) for unsuspecting mall patrons. We took care to arrange them on the floor where they were not easily noticed, and in such a way that any attempted evasive maneuver only leads the victim into further doom. It was an artform.

            So an elderly white-haired distinguished-looking gentleman had just wandered into our trap and gotten startled quite badly: arms flailing around, pop-eyed, his hat practically flew off – for all I know, we triggered WWII PTSD in him, poor guy – from this perspective it’s not so funny, but at the time we were just young punks, and it was HILARIOUS.

            (Today, if kids pulled this stunt, they’d be jailed for making terrorist threats; thank god his heart didn’t give out, or he fell down or something.)

            Anyway, we were laughing from our not-very-remote-nor-well-concealed hiding spot/vantage point, and he rumbled us quickly and easily.

            He asked where our parents were, and upon being gaspingly informed that they weren’t there, thundered angrily “DON’T GIVE ME THE BUSINESS!!”

            Which of course only provoked us further, we could barely breathe; tears streaming down our cheeks.

            To this day, we’ll warn each other not to “give the business”.

          • One of my good friends in medical school used to give people “the business.” He was a total goof-ball, and I remember the business-giving fondly.

          • And today, that friend is a proctologist.

            The more you know!

  3. Destruction feeding his dog chocolate always bugged me. I was told to never, ever, ever, ever let your dog have chocolate. I mean, if I have ice cream and use some Hershey’s Syrup on it, I don’t let the cats lick the bowl because you’re not supposed to let dogs have chocolate and I extrapolated that to not letting pets have chocolate.

    Is this not true?

    Because, seriously, there’s a part of me out there that wonders if Destruction/Gaiman isn’t inadvertently responsible for the premature deaths of dozens of dogs here.

    • I heard chocolate can be dangerous for dogs (though my parents have given their small dog chocolate sometimes, and he seems fine) – AFAIK cats are OK (but you should confirm). You can’t give a cat aspirin though, that’ll kill ’em.

    • Chocolate is deadly in high doses compared to the dog’s weight. The type of chocolate matters, too. Dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate are roughly 10x deadlier than milk chocolate. It’s deadly to cats as well, but they can’t taste sweet things and thus aren’t inclined to eat it.

      Typically, though, a person’s going to feed a dog part of their candy bar, and that’s almost always milk chocolate. Even a small 9-pound dog could eat an entire Hershey’s bar (1.55 oz) without getting sick.

      WebMD article.

      • This seems about right, that’s about their dog’s size and I think he actually once ate a Hershey’s bar that fell unnoticed from somebody’s Xmas stocking, with no ill effects.

      • My shih tzu got violently ill from eating a small bit of chocolate. Of course, he also throws up if he drinks water too fast.

  4. I don’t have the page right in front of me, but from what I recall those moments when Delirium painfully pulls herself back together as being her most sympathetic.

    • I’ve never been able to decide if, when she does that, she’s going back to when she was Delight, or just forcing herself into rationality. I lean toward the latter, and it hurts because it’s a state of mind that’s the exact opposite of what she is. Though what that means for Destruction’s attempts to be creative…

      • There’s a book of Endless stories called Endless Nights where one story shows her as Delight, and she’s not all that “together” in that incarnation, either. So, I would lean towards the latter, that it’s hard for her to pull herself together at any time.

        I don’t know which collection, but I think there’s a foreword in one of the collections that theorizes that Delirium’s mental problems come from the fact that she’s always going to be the “youngest”, even though she’s older that practically anything else in the universe. She’s stuck being the young one. Forever.

  5. And one more where a blood-soaked Corinthian faces Dream.

    No spoilers, of course, but I remember thinking that this was one of the coloring issues the comic was having.

  6. One thing I just noticed right now was Destruction saying to Delirium that he hopes her next change will prove easy on her.

    Delirium is still in transition.

    (Has this been resolved yet in any stories I might have not yet read?)

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