THE SANDMAN by Miles Gibson


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Death may never have seemed so boring as it does in The Sandman. William Burton, called ""Mackerel"" for his large eyes and his childhood habit of allowing his mouth to hang open, is a mass murderer who selects most of his victims at random in London. He also keeps a journal by which he attempts to explain his urge to kill, and that journal constitutes the bulk of the book. From it, one learns that he was instructed informally in magic as a child and considers murder the ultimate magic trick and himself a consummate artist; that in killing he imagines himself to be helping people by taking them out of the misery of their lives; that he believes himself to be only a small agent of death itself, apparently more horrible only because more personal; that his killing has a sexual basis, particularly as a result of a childhood girlfriend who liked to combine playing dead with sexual games; and that elements of ordinary life, for instance a romance with a young woman, intrude upon his secret pastime. These rationalizations, motivations, and intrusions are not consistent with each other, but regrettably, Gibson makes no discernible effort to resolve their inherent contradictions, or even to explore any of them in sufficient detail. Nor is the book at all suspenseful. This leaves one to wonder precisely what effect Gibson hoped to achieve. Perhaps he intended to seduce the reader into feeling some sense of sympathy for a monster by allowing him to tell his own story. If so, a much better writer has done the same thing far more skillfully; The Sandman often seems imitative of Lolita, with murder substituted for child rape. Mild sexual titillation, and descriptions of murders that become, against all odds, tediously repetitious.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's