There are so many people screaming of Neil Gaiman's genius from various rooftops that I hardly need to repeat the sentiment here. But I will say this: he is. And having just finished reading the 7th in what must be the singular best graphic novel series in the history of graphic novels I am more firm on that point than ever before. But enough about the author, onto the story.
This volume is the most enlightening on the subject of Dream's family- The Endless- who, up until now, have only briefly been eluded to. Death is the only sibling who's really played a major part in any of the stories thus far and the others (Despair, Desire, Destruction, Delirium and Destiny) have rarely gotten more than a mention. Well, that all changes in volume 7.
Here we get to see the siblings in action, learn a bit more about where they live, what makes them tick and what they can do. They are, for all intensive purposes, gods. They are endless, they are powerful, they are concepts made incarnate. Some of them (Despair, for example) are ones we try to avoid at all costs while others (Delight who is no longer that but something much more frightening, Delirium) we might seek with fervent devotion. But none of them should be sought out, at least not in person. Because if there's one thing this volume clearly shows it's that one should never intervene in the affairs of the endless for they are quick to temper and have a very odd sense of justice.
But showing gods doing things us mere mortals could never imagine is not the point of this story. No, this story, like the very first volume, is about a quest and the knowledge one gains while on it. Here they're are seeking not stolen objects but one of their own: Destruction (who disappeared 300 years earlier). Delirium is actually the one leading the charge and she unsuccessfully solicits both Despair and Desire before winding up with Dream who takes pity on her and decides to come along for the ride.
They meet up with some of Destruction's old friends before seeking an oracle (another family member Dream's been avoiding for a few thousand years) who tells them exactly where to go. We see brief glimpses of Destruction before Dream and Delirium catch up with him- small, short scenes showing a man who is all too content leading the bohemian life of a philosophical painter away from the troubles of the world. The idea of the man we're being introduced to as the god of chaos, war, political upheaval, religious overhaul and all other kinds of grand-sweeping changes is a jarring juxtaposition and brings some level of humanity to the otherwise unrelatable character. This Destruction is a gentle soul, content to lead a quiet life with none of the powers his Endless siblings possess
One can't help but feel sorry for him when Dream and Delirium finally arrive and break up the quite life he'd been living. But, the quest has to end and it has to mean something. And here's the meaning: a moral quandary and a philosophical truth. The moral quandary is why Destruction left 300 years ago: the age of reason. The dawn of logic, judgement and science as a tool by which to understand the universe. Destruction watches this rapidly changing world and reads the writing on the walls: the times of gods and magick is coming to an end and those who were once worshiped will be forgotten. Interesting thought, no? What happens to the gods who are no longer worshiped? Do they die out,fade away? Or are they here with us, hiding in plain clothes and hoping no one notices?
And here's the philosophical truth: there are no great mysteries of the universe. Destruction recalls a specific conversation with his sister, Death, in which she tells him that all of us- gods, mortals and everyone in between- have all the knowledge there is. We know everything about everything, she says. We're just as well informed as Destiny. We just refuse to acknowledge those truths because they are too painful. As Delirium states: "No knowing everything is all that makes it ok, sometimes." One of the few times when her speaking in riddles makes more sense than what the sane characters say.
There's something amazing about having the craziest character in the book seem the sanest. There's something about having her understand such mind-breaking concepts so easily. There's something about how easily she accepts the changes the others can't. Perhaps it is a demonstration of that same concept: we know everything, we just think we don't because of the madness of the messenger. Like scientist trying to disprove their own theories. (That age or reason Destruction was so quick to abandon.)
On the whole, this was another astounding volume in the series that is truly changing my life. I knew a while ago that I had to finish this series but I must say that now with the end in sight I'm not jumping at the bit to be done. I guess I'm no better than the Endless in that regard: afraid of change.