BOOK REVIEW: Death: The Deluxe Edition by Neil Gaiman

Death: The Deluxe Edition (Death of the Endless, #1-2)Death: The Deluxe Edition by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon.in Page

This book includes seven stories featuring the character of Death from Gaiman’s Sandman series. Two of the stories are longer (three-issue) tales, and the rest are single-issue short fiction.


For those unfamiliar with character, Gaiman subverts the “Grim Reaper” persona. Instead of a cloak-enshrouded skeleton, its face obscured by hood and shadow, Gaiman’s Death is an attractive young woman who goes by Didi, Gothically pale but certainly more beautiful than terrifying. However, appearances aren’t the only way in which Didi is the polar opposite of the Grim Reaper. She’s also preternaturally likeable and gregarious.


The first tripartite story is entitled “The Hight Cost of Living,” and in it a suicidal teen, Sexton, gets drawn into Didi’s drama, but also experiences a newfound appreciation for living. The other three-part story, “The Time of Your Life,” is about a rock star [stage name, “Foxglove”] who has everything a budding pop star could want, but when she learns that you can’t have it all and no one escapes their mortality, she’s forced to reevaluate her priorities. While the collection is built around those two stories, it’s not like the shorter works are filler. I found that “Façade” and “Death and Venice,” in particular, to be quite satisfying as stories.


A couple things to keep in mind: First, the stories are pulled from a long run, and so there are discontinuities – e.g. Death in “The Wheel” looks different from the other stories. Second, one reviewer said this book wasn’t a good choice if one hadn’t read the whole “Sandman” series. Someone who’d read it all might get more Easter Eggs, but it’s not the case that the stories don’t make sense in isolation. With the exception of the opening story, “The Sound of Her Wings,” I didn’t feel I was missing anything by not having read the series.


One can’t go wrong with Gaiman, the storytelling is clever and compelling, and the art is captivating – despite the stylistic variation.


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Necropolis [Free Verse]

a city of the dead
tunneled under the living,

awaiting the flip,
a shift in who's who

-the living & the dead,
-the dead & the living
-the alive and the existent
-the living dead &
those dying alive

all jumbled together
in a sea of inhumanity,
tumbling past each other,

scrambling for humanity -
for the breath of life,
for life in a breath

the musty scent of decay
in the living city
was the first sign...

those in the necropolis 
smelled flowery scents --
clean and bright --
and found those fragrant
perfumes
as revolting as the
living found the rot stench

in the brief time it took
to become acclimated to the stink,
all found themselves in the churn,
struggling for more
of something they
didn't understand

Fungi Mind [Free Verse]

From its perspective,
we live in a vacant
 upside down underworld.

It can't understand 
our terror over death
and our obsession
with life. 

Just thinking about it
gives it nightmares,
heebie-jeebies
of being overrun
by endless piles
of creatures --
endless piles
with endless needs.

We may wrinkle a nose
in disgust at its worldview,
but it finds ours
positively suffocating.

But it forgives us
our simple ways,
we are just its food,
after all. 

POEM: Recyclable Me

In death, I'm a recyclable,
my gut biome will gnaw its way
out of me like Ripley's Alien -
if on a microscopic scale.

Agents of the Destroyer will
turn my tissues into food bits
to feed some other animal.
Yes, I am inescapably 
animal - inescapably 
in transformation from living
to not...

This may seem morose, but is it?
He who can imagine a dog
cracking open his bones to eat
away all the marrow --
without an inner cringe, or wince --
is a person who knows freedom.

POEM: We Are The Dead

There are those who hold marked places,
and those whose place is in the sky.
Most have long forgotten faces,
and a few never said goodbye.

There are those who rose in thick smoke,
from fires whose flames were fanned by hand
and cautiously, carefully stoked
while, to the last coal, they were manned.

There are those whose stones grew mossy -
keepers now buried at their side.
And those with headstones so glossy
who've only just finished their ride.

And all will vanish in due time,
there's only the fortunes to say
whose tales will be told at bedtimes,
and who will vanish to smoke gray.