Tonight, Mike recaps the Prologue to and Part One of The Kindly Ones.
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. Mike Schilling recapped Chapter 7 and Glyph recapped Chapter 8 here.
World’s End issues #51 (A Tale of Two Cities) and #52 (Cluracan’s Tale) reviewed here by Jason Tank and James K. Issues #53 (Hob’s Leviathan) and #54 (The Golden Boy) reviewed here by KatherineMW and Reformed Republican. Ken reviewed Issues #55 (Cerements) and #56 (“World’s End”) 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 there were one after that, anyway.)) 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!
The Castle (Prologue)
We begin in an unnamed dreamer’s nightmare. Brainless, faceless women, ridden by wolves, are eating the dreamer’s entrails. He awakens in his hotel room full of fright but still exhausted, and falls back asleep, this time to dream of The Dreaming itself. (And perhaps to accomplish some exposition along the way.)
First he dreams of Lucien, who welcomes him as a guest, and shows off the library. Since it contains every book never written, it also has the best-sellers the dreamer (and you and I, no doubt) have always thought we might write if we found the time. Lucien refers euphemistically to the start of the series, when Dream was unavoidably detained, but Mervyn Pumpkinhead appears to give us the straight scoop. Next, Nuala stops by to let us know that she could have been a contender, instead of a maid, which is what she is, let’s face it.
Next, Matt the Raven, who first mistakes the dreamer for a new employee. He’d like to know will happen when he’s replaced, but no one will tell him. Abel introduces himself, Goldy the gargoyle, and his brother Cain, who introduces himself by doing the usual thing. (You bastards!) Lucien offers to continue the tour, but Dream himself appears and corrects Lucien’s impression that he’s entertaining some VIP. Dream offers to continue the tour, and the dreamer longs to ask the meanings of all his dreams …
But this dream is shattered by his 7:15 wake-up call. He vaguely recalls it as one he’d like to get back to, but the real world is calling.
The Kindly Ones: Part One
I find the visual style of this issue very jarring. The images are very flat, overtly cartoonish, often tight close-ups of an object or a body part, like a film with a very active camera that has almost zero depth of field. It’s very different from the fuller, softer-focus look we’re used to.
We begin in the home of three women, who are (what’s the odds?) a mother, a maiden, and a crone. The maiden has gathered yarn for the mother to knit, as the crone makes tea. The crone complains that no one ever likes what they make for him, and her favorite part is cutting the end of the yarn. They each have a snack with their tea: the maiden a gingersnap, the mother a fortune cookie, the crone a dead mouse. The fortune is about a king who will leave his kingdom. We leave them to their fête.
Enough foreshadowing for now. The scene shifts to Lyta Hall’s house, where she’s angry to find that her son Daniel’s bed is full of sand. (OK, a little more foreshadowing.) Her friend Carla doesn’t understand why this freaks Lyta out so badly and tries to soothe her with calm good sense. She also talks baby talk to Daniel, who’s a pretty adorable toddler. Carla talks them all into going out for ice cream, not that Daniel has much sales resistance. They pass an elderly nursery-rhyme-singing flower-seller. When he bends down to talk to Daniel Lyta once again freaks out and terrifies the poor guy. More exposition at the ice cream shop. Lyta has been offered a job, but doesn’t want to be apart from Daniel. She couldn’t bear it if anything happened to him, and has thought about that enough to realize she’d need to kill the person responsible.
Back at the Dreaming, Matthew chats up the door guards (a wyvern, a gryphon, and a hippogriff.) He asks them about their histories and prospects, obviously looking for a clue to his own. No help there, though. He enters and finds Mervyn, who, as usual, is too full of his own complaints to care about anyone else’s. And, as usual, ends by asking Matthew not to tell the boss anything he just said about him. Leaving Merv, Matthew runs across Nuala, who is as sad and lonely as she was in the prologue. Next to the library, where Lucien is reading a never-written play by John Webster (best known for The Duchess of Malfi. Sometimes I wish Gaiman had low tastes once in awhile, and Lucien was reading Queen Alexandra and Murray.) Lucien is also no help, but points Matthew to where Dream is, out making nightmares.
Dream is not pleased to see Matthew (he’s very much an “If I want you I’ll send for you” kind of boss.) He’s remaking the Corinthian, which strikes Matthew as weird, since the first one had to be destroyed. Dream explains what the Corinthian is for in an unusually long (for Dream) speech, which also seems weird to Matthew. They chat for awhile about nightmares in general and the Corinthian in particular, and then Matthew broaches the subject of what’s going to happen to him. Dream’s response is “You can go now.” Matthew flies back to Eve’s cave, where he refuses her comfort and sulks. Sons of Eve, y’know?
Lyta keeps her dinner appointment with her prospective employer, Eric Needham. She’s escorted to his table by a oddly silent hostess. She looks terrific in a skintight black sheath. The band is playing “These Foolish Things”, which was Hector’s favorite song. They order drinks. Lyta is uncomfortable. Eric has a dossier with Lyta’s life story: Her mother was The Fury, who disappeared when Lyta was small. Lyta later became The Fury as well. Hector Hall, also a superhero, was her boyfriend. In time-warped fashion, she became pregnant, Hector died, they married, they disappeared, she came back after several years still pregnant, and eventually she had Daniel. We don’t know what Eric does — it’s all described with generic words like “operation” — but whatever it is, he wants Lyta to help run it badly enough to let her name her own salary.
Meanwhile, Harvey, one of the other customers asks the piano player, who appears to be Lucifer, to play Memory from Cats, for his girlfriend Vonda’s birthday. Lucifer not only refuses, but tells him she’ll have a horrible birthday. Instead, he plays Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat from Guys and Dolls. Vonda loves it, but Harvey looks worried. When Lucifer predicts bad news, he’s very convincing.
Lyta realize something is not right. (Just like Miss Clavell does, though I don’t think that’s intentional.) She phones her home, but no one answers, so she insists Eric take her home. He’s very nonchalant, telling her there’s no need, driving back slowly, etc. It’s a bit suspicious. Finally they arrive, Lyra runs up the stairs, and …
Daniel is gone.
NOTE: Next week’s recap will not appear on the usual Thursday. Expect it a day or two late.