Revisit: The Sandman: A Game of You

A Game of You

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Poor unloved A Game of You.

Well, at least that was always the consensus (of, perhaps, a vocal group of men on the Internet). Before rereading it, it was my impression I didn’t really like this volume of The Sandman all that much.

Maybe it’s just that I’m older now. Maybe my sensibilities have changed. But despite its flaws, I really like now. It’s the more straightforward and simple than Season of Mists so I can understand why people were thrown off by it (and I think that’s why I was too) but it’s a lovely story that resonates with me for reasons I can’t quite articulate.

My main complaint with A Game of You is that I don’t find Barbie all that interesting. I know that was kind of the point when we met her in A Doll’s House, in a way, that she’s this normal woman who has a rich fantasy land in her dreams, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I care about her. I like her more now but she’s still a weak point for me in the book. I like her journey but I don’t really like her.

But there’s enough going on around her that Barbie’s character isn’t the absolute focus. We have an amazing assemblage of women – we have lesbian couple Hazel and Foxglove, the transsexual Wanda, and the ancient witch Thessaly.

Oh, Thessaly. I said that even if Neil Gaiman didn’t intend her to be, Rose Walker was pretty much pandering to a female audience. And without a doubt, Thessaly is too. Certainly, it’s great fun for this kind of geeky, meek-looking woman to turn out to be powerful and ruthless. But for every girl reading The Sandman who felt like the world viewed them much like Foxglove viewed Thessaly (“Like a bimbo, but with brains instead of looks”), this was awesome revenge. Gaiman knows how to play to his audience.

Overall, I think the book is more a way for Gaiman to discuss some thoughts on fantasy and further develop his ideas about women’s stories and men’s stories. There weren’t too many new ideas in there for me this time around (I was an English major) but I still like the discussion of how boys want to be superheroes and girls want to be princesses. I think it’s something that isn’t verbalized enough.

(I am angry that Gaiman never told the story of Alianora and Dream.)

And the most controversial comic book store scene … yes, comic book stores are like that. Or rather, they can be like that. (Gaiman made some comments where he said he thinks those sorts of stores are now in the minority, which makes me think he really only goes to big-city stores.) Just so we’re clear.

A Game of You is maybe a little messy, maybe too unambiguous in the points its trying to make, but it’s the one that’s surprised me the most so far this time around. Along with Dream Country, it would be one of the first I’d recommend to new readers (with some explanation of who is who and such), especially females ones.

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