I first discovered Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman" comic decades ago and I have read it twice. In recent years, the series has gained more attention with the release of a Netflix TV series and an Audible radio play, both of which are excellent.
After consuming The Sandman saga in multiple media, I stumbled upon "Sandman: Book of Dreams" - a 1996 collection of short stories set in the universes occupied by The Sandman. A different writer delivers each story, and the collection is edited by Neil Gaiman and Ed Kramer. Gaiman introduces each story with a brief blurb about the author and his relationship thereto.
"The Sandman" is the story of Morpheus, the god-like creator of and lord of the realm of dreams into which each of us slips every night. But it is also the story of the other worlds in which Morpheus interacts and the characters he meets along the way. This collection visits many of those worlds and many of those characters.
I had read some of the authors (Gene Wolfe, Susanna Clarke) and I knew the names of others I had not read (Clive Barker), but I was unfamiliar with most of the writers in this collection.
The book contains a variety of stories, ranging from folk tales to mysteries to horror stories and monster stories; but one thing I can say for them all; they are all dark. Sometimes very dark.
I have not decided if the following are the best stories in "Book of Dreams", but they were the most memorable to me.
A disturbing tale of the Cereal Convention told from the point of view of a new character.
"Seven Nights in Slumberland"
An interesting crossover between Morpheus and Little Nemo. Little Nemo was the star of "Little Nemo in Slumberland" - a pioneering comic strip from the early twentieth century, which chronicled a young boy's vivid dreams. In this story, those dreams take place in Morpheus's kingdom.
The "Origin Story" of Wanda - one of the more colorful characters in the Sandman saga.
"An Extra Smidgeon of Eternity"
A man is frustrated by the timing of his death because it means he will not hear the end of a story he was enjoying. (Death, as Sandman fans know, is the older sister of Morpheus)
"The Mender of Broken Dreams"
One of Morpheus's subjects wonders about his origins and his own existence. And receives an answer.
"Ain't You 'Most Done"
In the first dream of his life, a rich man gets to do what he always dreamed of doing before he dies.
"Stopp't Clock Yard"
Two London magicians anger Morpheus and he takes his revenge.
I do not know if those unfamiliar with the world of The Sandman will enjoy this collection. I suspect they will. Each story is well-written and coherent, if a bit fantastical. But their connection with the universe and characters Gaiman created make them more special to those of us who count ourselves as fans.