Death: The Time of Your Life
by Neil Gaiman
(DC/Vertigo, 1997)

My first thought, upon seeing the cover, was that Claire Daines doesn't evoke the qualities of Death as well as Tori Amos did in The High Cost of Living.

My second thought, after reading the book, was that Death doesn't really do all that much in a book bearing her name. Mostly, she talks -- or, rather, listens.

But, wow, the story told and the characters developed in Death: The Time of Your Life are deep, bold and thought-provoking.

We've met the two main characters in previous Neil Gaiman titles: Foxglove, nee Donna, was singing in small venues in High Cost, but she's graduated to the big time now and is in New York City for a Letterman appearance; Hazel, Foxglove's lover, is raising the son she had after a disastrous flirtation with heterosexuality (revealed in The Sandman's dramatic A Game of You storyline) and is pretending to be Foxglove's live-in secretary to avoid "outing" her prematurely.

Then there's Larry, Foxglove's motherly manager; Boris, her protective bodyguard; Vito, a male underwear model; and Alvie, Hazel's young son. And, of course, Death, who comes calling to collect on a deal. Death, who doesn't usually make deals, is beautiful, gracious, friendly, compassionate and genuinely interested in people. Today she's in a chatty mood, and much of Hazel and Foxglove's relationship is revealed in flashbacks through that conversation.

This is definitely a "talky" book, an insightful look at life, not death -- although death, being that it's a book about Death, does occur. It is, too, an impetus to appreciate living while you have the time. Gaiman demonstrates his usual talent for characterization and dialogue -- and deep, deep thinking about the sorts of things that most people ignore, and shouldn't.

Death should exist, exactly as Gaiman has imagined her, and when she comes, I hope she'll spend some time chatting with me, too.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 20 September 2003

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