In a richly imagined, often Rabelaisian journey through dreams and the past, novelist/illustrator Ducornet in this, the third in her projected ``tetralogy of elements'' (The Stain, The Entering Fire), explores memory and being. Sleeping through two world wars in the spa run by the renowned psychoanalyst Dr. Venus Kaiserstiege (or K), Nicholas--the Sandman of the case study The Fountains of Neptune--awakens to a very different world. As he tends the now-rundown spa, Nicholas tries to ``put order to my memories, disentangling reality from dreams and Heaven from Hell. These days I do nothing but attempt to interpret those enigmatic wheels, those churning shadows, those cries beyond cries; the story beneath all stories: my own.'' He recalls his childhood in a small seaside French town, the fantastic tales that old sailors told him, and the hints that his parents' deaths were not accidental. The Sandman's big sleep began when, at the age of nine on a visit to a riverside village, he accidentally fell into the water and nearly drowned. The accident, K suggests, was precipitated by his increasing awareness of the fatal romantic triangle in which his parents were involved. His recovery, a febrile re-creation of a lost childhood, is interspersed with essay-like letters to and from K, on a book tour in the US. K dies soon after her return, and the Sandman is left ``to dwell in animated quietude'' and to reflect. Interested only in the ``allusive messages'' of his dreams, he feels that he ``is very like the floating monster both of the world and not of the world-- as long as I can hold fast the glass wand of reverie--somehow eternal.'' Vivid characters and remarkable writing, but while most of the parts are good, there is something in the sum that echoes old ideas and stories. Interesting if flawed.