The Short Version: Morpheus is dead. Long live Dream. Friends, foes, and other dreamers and myths and figures attend his funeral – and we are given an epilogue to an epilogue that, whether subtly or unintentionally, places our Mr. Gaiman up there with the greatest writer of our age.
The Review: I wept. Hardcore tears, not even afraid to admit it. I do not like the thought of death – although Death seems like a lovely and charming girl. There have been epic deaths in literature that have provoked similar reactions – I mentioned one a short while ago, that of Sirius Black. And how it took me a while for that particular death to settle in and then when it did, I was overwhelmed with powerful and conflicting emotions.
I lept straight from The Kindly Ones into The Wake, not even pausing to write a review or refill my cup of tea. Because I could not bear to leave the ending for any longer than I needed to. There’s a reason we bury our dead so shortly after they’ve died – and while “the smell” is an acceptable answer, it’s far too logical. It’s that once the moment has occurred, there is a need to sort it out quickly. Have done with it and begin to move on. Because otherwise, it would become too much. The thoughts, the emotions, all of it. It would all become too much and so we speed through it all (“VISA slips”…) and within the blink of an eye, even by the longest mourning process, the dead are truly gone. They are no longer the dead but they are the buried. Because we, as living and existing human beings, cannot compass the thought of an entity that once was living but has now departed and left this thing, this body behind – so we put it in the ground (or burn it or sink it or blast it into space) and it becomes something else entirely. It is no longer the dead, not exactly.
Anyway. Gaiman gives us a glimpse into the future of this universe he has created – this is not simply the funeral/wake for our Morpheus. We see Daniel, similar but different, stepping into the responsibilities of Dream. I now see the logic of having mentioned (but not shown) that this was not the first time that this had happened to one of The Endless. But as interesting as it is – and as powerful a moment as it is, for instance, when Matthew agrees to stay on with Daniel to help him – it is not why we are here. We are here to say goodbye and that last glimpse we have, before we wake up, of Dream walking into the hall to meet his family for the first time… it is a reassurance. It reassures us that while this adventure is done, not all hope is lost. It’s not unlike – if I may make another pop culture association – the end of Coldplay’s first album, Parachutes, which ends with a song called “Everything’s Not Lost”. And it is a song that feels like a “credits” song, one that comes on the heels of a particularly dark and mournful ending – reminding you that the adventure goes on, that everything’s not lost. So, too, does Neil Gaiman – because your dreams, while you may not remember most of them (and I know that, as the years go on, parts of this series will fade from my mind), will go on.
Rating: 5+ out of 5. Sadness fades and our lives continue on, even after the losses. I know that this was simply a book, simply a story – but it was, of course, far more than that. It touched something elemental, something communal. I do not propose to say that it’s all real or all not real. You may debate me theologically and I will argue all sides against the middle – because it isn’t important to know the truth. We have stories – and storytellers – like this one to serve us better than any truth you could consider proposing. The series, as a whole, gets a 5+ too. It is truly a monumental work, one whose final story (although other stories have gone on and the world has continued to grow) shares with us another great storyteller (William Shakespeare) finishing his final story – a play he wrote for Morpheus, in fact. I do not think it is too much to say propose that our children’s children’s children will look back on Mr. Gaiman’s work in a way quite similar to the way that we look back on Mr. Shakespeare’s. I do not think that too much at all.