So... this is probably the comic I took the longest to finally check out, except for maybe Watchmen. It doesn't make much sense since I'm a fan of Neil Gaiman and this is pretty much his seminal work. I think the main reason I put it off so long is that it's a dang huge story. Something like 75 issues, most of them 25 pages long. Dang is it worth it.
It still took me a long time to read it. I started out borrowing the Absolute Edition from a friend, which was entirely amazing, but he had to take it back before I got half-way through the first volume because he had to move. So I managed to get it some other way. The version I got was not the Absolute Edition, so it wasn't quite as pretty and not always very high quality either, but it was still very enjoyable. Neil Gaiman is an excellent story-teller, and in this instance he's telling stories about stories about stories. So great. The cast of core characters is just brilliant. There's a whole lot of ancient lore weaved into it, like the Norse gods and faeries and whatnot, not unlike Gaiman's American Gods novel. That makes it especially interesting.
Possibly an even cooler thing is the tie-in with the rest of the DC universe. The Sandman character is actually sort-of based on an older DC character that I don't actually know much about. A few lesser-known characters pop up, and in one panel Batman and Clark Kent make a cameo. That was a real treat.
In essence, this is really a collection of stories, not just one. There were several that really stuck out to me. The one I remember the best is the story of the Emperor of the United States of America. That one really got me emotionally involved for some reason. Some immigrant, disillusioned by the so-called opportunity, is at his wit's end and begins to fall into the clutches of Despair, who challenges Dream (the Sandman) to keep him from her. He accepts the challenge and grants the man empirical rule of the country through a dream. Of course no one really accepts this rule except for him, but it keeps him going and makes him loved by many. In the end, Despair never gets him and he helps a lot of people. The ending really almost pulled some tears from my ducts.
So, it's a great thing. Anyone who hasn't read it should. Now I have to start reading the extensive collection of spin-offs.