Death: The High Cost of Living

Between the length of the week with various holiday trips and all and the amount of time I’ve spent staring at my own writing while scouring the internet for repairs on this until recently dead site, it’s kind of hard to remember just how I felt about The High Cost of Living. There is a legend that Death must spend a day in every century as a mortal, I guess to better understand her job. And the book is entirely about that day, spent with a Manhattan kid whose ennui would do a French philosopher proud, Mad Hettie from the Sandman series, and a couple of bad guys who hope to capture all of Death’s power while she is mortal and vulnerable. It is fair to say, I think, that there’s not a single character in the story who actually understands what is happening, nor what his or her individual role is to play. Possibly Hettie, but as she’s quite mad, it’s difficult to tell. Certainly nobody else. It is left to the reader to unravel the various skeins of consequence. It’s a good little story, for all that it’s short and confusing. There are aspects I did not understand one bit, but I felt pretty comforted by what I did latch onto.

The last pages of the book are a brief sexual health pamphlet distributed by Death to keep us all from getting AIDS (among other STDs), as, after all, we’ve only got the one life and wouldn’t it be best to keep on living it, and to do so in reasonable comfort and health? You can certainly tell it’s twenty years old, but I like to imagine that it both helped some people and turned some people onto Gaiman’s world that might otherwise have never known to look for it.

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