|Drood: A Novel
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On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens--at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world and perhaps in the history of the world--hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever.
Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident? Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepening obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies, and a hidden subterranean London mere research . . . or something more terrifying?
Just as he did in The Terror, Dan Simmons draws impeccably from history to create a gloriously engaging and terrifying narrative. Based on the historical details of Charles Dickens's life and narrated by Wilkie Collins (Dickens's friend, frequent collaborator, and Salieri-style secret rival), DROOD explores the still-unsolved mysteries of the famous author's last years and may provide the key to Dickens's final, unfinished work: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Chilling, haunting, and utterly original, DROOD is Dan Simmons at his powerful best.
- Mysteries wrapped in enigmas entangled in questions.
On June 9, 1865 Charles Dickens had what would understateably be called a life-changing experience. The train in which he, his mistress, and her mother were travelling on violently skipped over a gap in the trestles. Every passenger car except for the one Dickens and company were on was disconnected from train and sent hurling toward the unforgiving ground below. Dickens narrowly escaped physical injury, but the massive psychological and emotional trauma from seeing the dead and horribly injured would haunt him until his death five years to the day later.
Soon after the accident, he developed an interest with death, cemeteries, and mesmerism. His health began to steadily decline with one of his feet swelling and one side of his body weakening presumably from mini-strokes. To make matters worse he would go on exhausting reading tours, with the latter ones including him reenacting the brutal murder of Nancy by Bill Sikes from Oliver Twist much to the horror of the audience. During this time he would take a hiatus from his writing that lasted until shortly before his death. At that time he was halfway through The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a book that many believe had the potential for being Dickens' greatest book in an already unbelievably fine canon.
What this novel does is explore what happened during those five years through the narration of one the people who knew him best - fellow writer and protege Wilkie Collins. Even though Collins had what could be called by many an impressive career in his own right with books like The Woman in White and The Moonstone, he was not man without baggage that clouded his objectivity.
Here are some of his problems:
1. He took massive doses of laudanum, an opium derived drug, to alleviate the pain from gout.
2. He was delusional insofar as he believed he was stalked by a doppelganger.
3. He was jealous of Dickens' success.
4. He blamed the failures of his joint enterprises on his partners, never himself.
5. He was grossly hypocritical particulary when he comes down on Dickens for divorcing his wife for the far younger actress Ellen Ternan. Collins at the time was carrying on affairs with two different women, one of which he would have three children by out of wedlock.
The key to understanding the book is to understand that Collins is not a reliable narrator. Having listened to an interview on YouTube that Simmons did promoting this book, he describe Collins as a "mediocre writer". Here is where I think the controversy of the book begins. What I think that Simmons is doing is trying to mimic the "mediocre writer" by using Collins' overdescriptive and rambling prose. The reader has a challenge on his or her hands sifting through Collins' thoughts on a myriad of social issues such as 1860 waste disposal, Victorian attitudes toward marriage, and Muscular Christianity to name just a few. Furthermore, we are posed with the question as to the validity of the title character's existence. Is this book long and ponderous? Yes, but that's the point.
This is not a book for all tastes. It is very long and demands something from the reader that a book from someone like V.C. Andrews would not. With Simmons' previous novel The Terror, much of the naysaying came from people who were put off by the profanity, sex, homosexuality, and supposed political correctness - which in my opinion were pretty flimsy and shallow reasons to codemn the book. Yet with Drood, I understand the frustration of some readers even though I loved the challenge the book presented. Admittedly, I didn't have an easy time the book. Then again, I wasn't wanting an easy book. Only a good one. On that count, I was not disappointed.
- Literary types, creepy villains and one unreliable narrator
Drood is one of those wonderful books about books, this one full of all sorts of real life literary characters as well as some wonderfully ghoulish characters roaming the streets of a foggy, creepy nineteenth century London. Listening to this audio was fun, but something tells me this would be even better to curl up with as a real book on some cold and rainy day, escaping into it's pages and getting swept up in the mystery and adventure. It reminded me in many ways of the highly enjoyable The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon with it's own wonderful story of books and sketchy characters....more info
you'd think it was writen by collins himself (or even dickens): perfect for lovers of victorian novels and the macabra. sharon nelson...more info
- So incredibly boring and drawn out.
I am a huge fan of Simmons Sci-Fi novels. They are on my list of favorites. However, with this novel I kept waiting for the part where the book go interesting. 771 pages later I was still waiting. This book can be summed up quite easily. zZzZzZzZzZ. . ....more info
- The Bobby Ewing Effect
The Bobby Ewing Effect (a la the tv show "Dallas") is what you feel after investing a great deal of time and emotional energy in one narrative line only to be abruptly told that 't'was all but a dream. Note that this effect is quite different from a surprising plot turn: plot twists intensify and redirect the narrative to good effect; the Bobby Ewing approach, by contrast, is a violation of the fundamental compact you make with a writer, which says you'll read obediently if he writes honestly.
I think Simmons--despite creating a marvelous character in Wilkie Collins and sustaining a steady sense of dread throughout--broke his bargain with me in this book. He does so at two levels: one, by revealing that the stakes of the novel were in the end merely literary rivalry and not, as we had expected, both literary jealousy AND prime evil; and two, by revealing that the plot was driven not by any real menace but simply by a monstrous, long-running, completely out-of-character practical joke by Dickens perpetrated on his drug-addled collaborator, Collins.
To be fair to Simmons, I re-read many of the earlier portions of the novel to see if he had indeed prepared us for this ending, and I think he did do so: in retrospect, Dickens, over the period between the Staplehurst disaster and his confession to Collins (who, in his megalomania, rejects Dickens' explanation of the Drood affair), does look to have been "putting one over" on Collins. So from one perspective I can acknowledge that Simmons' solution to the mystery of Drood honors the fabula he has set up. But what is troubling is that the novel has now been reduced from a great and terrifying mystery rooted in a solid if very slippery reality to whether or not it was nice of Boz to take advantage of his friend's perilous mental state. Both Dickens' and the reader are not served well to have the novel finish on that note. When I put down this novel, I felt I wouldn't forget Wilkie Collins. But I'd already forgotten Drood....more info
- Disturbingly Good
Dan Simmons has created an authentic feeling period piece and Psychological thriller. Drood is narrated by the semi-known writer, Dickens pal and opium addict, Wilkie Collins. The story meanders through the graveyards, dark alleys and sewers of Victorian London in pursuit of the fiendish Drood as it travels the twists and turns of Wilkie's laudanum marinated mind. There are several chilling scenes that brought to mind E.A. Poe and were quite disturbingly good. The slow pace may not suit some readers' tastes but I did become engrossed in the time period and characters of this diabolical tale that entwines the mysterious Drood with the lives of Dickens and Collins. Wilkie Collins is channeled convincingly by Dan Simmons as a despicable yet sympathetic type I have not experienced since Patricia Highsmith's charming killer Tom Ripley. Take your time with this one and savor it....more info
- Opium dreams?
"The Mystery of Edwin Drood" was the strange novel left half-finished (six of the twelve planned serial numbers complete with none of the usual outline and notes for the rest of the planned length) when Charles Dickens died as a relatively young man of 58. Since then many authors and literary professors have tried to finish Drood or speculate on Dickens's planned ending.
Five years before his death, a great train accident that Dickens narrowly escaped had left him physically weakened and emotionally fragile. Simmons uses this as the historical starting point for his own Drood, which doesn't attempt to complete the story (although it does suggest an outline of how Dickens might have finished it) but rather tells how Dickens came to start it.
The story, both Dickens's and Sinmons's, revolve around Wilkie Collins, Dicken's friend and fellow author in real life, who is best known for his ground-breaking mystery "The Moonstone", widely considered the first detective fiction and which spawned the monstrous mystery genre that now rivals or exceeds the shelf footage of general fiction in every book store and library. While close friends, Collins and Dickens drifted apart in those last give years of Dickens's life. Collins was a Victorian rebel, living with two different women at the same time and marrying neither, and a heavy user of laudanum, an opium and alcohol brew used medicinally and abused recreationally by gentlemen who could find, afford, and needed such release from physical and mental pain.
Simmons's Drood is written in the form of a first-person narrative sealed for 125 years after the death of its author Collins, when it will be released to the public, wherein Collins tells the story of his friendship with Dickens and why it deteriorated after the nearly tragic train wreck. We find (as told through Collins' opium-soaked pen) that Drood was a real person whom Dickens encountered at the train wreck, and who helped Dickens extract survivors and pull them to safey--or to death. As Dickens tells the story to Collins, he is not sure.
The rest of the story is Collins's account of how he and Dickens tried to find Drood and then to kill him. There are trips to the deepest slums of London, the vilest opium dens, and below the streets to the slums and "Undertown" beneath London's dark, dirty, fog-shrouded streets. There are mysterious private detectives, foreboding visions and dream, and romantic entangles between Collins and his two paramours and Dickens and his own mistress. There are moments of collaboration and confrontation between two strong personalities both secure in their professional abilities yet competitive in their seeking for public success and adulation (the factual and fictional Collins were both bound to be losers in this regard to the most beloved and most read writer in English history not named William Shakespeare).
Through it all, the reader must remember that the tale is told by a man often controlled by a powerful addiction assuaged only by higher and higher doses of his laudanum, opium, and finally morphine. Simmons keeps the story boiling (a bit too long, perhaps, although the florid writing style is appropriate to the time and the author Collins, noted for his florid Gothic turn) and the reader guessing at what is real, what has happened and what may in the end be merely opium dreams. Simmons's account is solidly based in the biographies of the two writers and the history of their relationship, and suggests interesting and sometimes plausible reasons for both their cooling relationship and Dickes's rapid aging and failing health after the train wreck.
But more than anything, Simmons is an entertainer, not a historian, so keep the history in its place and enjoy the tale as Simmons rolls it out....more info
I really enjoy getting into a nice thick book and get involved in a great story, with great characters and a plot line. Sadly this book missed the mark. It dragged on far too long with too much uneeded detail. This could have been much better if it had been a bit shorter. Simmons really tests his readers endurance. I could not find any sympathy for any of the characters and found Wilike Collins and his ghosts very trying. This started off with such promise and quickly went underground like its characters....more info
- What's real and what is simply a drug induced dream?
Let me start out by first saying that I'm a big, big fan of the novels by Dan Simmons and have been for over a decade. I think his last book, The Terror, was one of the finest horror/historical novels ever written, and I was hoping for more of the same with Drood. Unfortunately for me, Drood proved to be one of the most boring books I've ever read. It's nearly eight hundred pages long, and the blasted thing took me a solid month to read. I almost stopped reading the novel several times during the course of those four weeks, but only kept at it because of a promise I'd made to review it. The Terror, on the other hand, is nearly a thousand pages in length; yet, I read that in eight days, which pretty much says it all.
Drood deals with the last five years of Charles Dickens' life as told by his one-time friend and collaborator, Wilkie Collins, the author of Moonstone. In 1865, Dickens was in a terrible train accident that left dozens of people dead or injured. As the great English author was helping those still alive, he encountered another passenger named Edwin Drood, who's appearance would be enough to give children nightmares for the rest of their lives. While Dickens is attempting to give comfort to other passengers, Drood appears to be sucking the life right out of the ones he comes into contact with and bringing about their deaths. The actions and strange physical appearance Drood begins to haunt the author's mind after he returns to London and his life of writing, public readings, his family and mistress, and to his close friends in the literary community. In time, Dickens tries to find out more about Mr. Drood and eventually discovers that the man is supposedly an outcast from Egypt and lives in the catacombs of underground London. Dickens' trip through the catacombs with his friend, Wilkie Collins, is one of the most suspenseful and terrifying journeys he has ever traveled and it leaves a definite mark on Wilkie's psyche. Still, in many ways, this is only the beginning as Dickens makes contact with Drood and then quickly finds himself bound to this unusual person for the last few years of his life. The rest of the story pretty much deals with Collins and how his relationship with Dickens slowly deteriorates over time and how he, too, becomes a victim of Drood's mesmerizing powers.
Now, that brief synopsis makes the book sound rather interesting, doesn't it? Yet, the book completely fails to deliver. I will say that the novel does offer a great deal of information on the lives of both Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, and there will be some readers who'll enjoy that. In fact, I found the descriptions of eighteenth century London and the life of Dickens to be interesting for the first couple of hundred pages, but after passing the halfway mark, the story began to drag, and I was like a kid being led to the dentist's office every time I had to pick it up. Why? The main reason is that though Edwin Drood is discussed throughout the book, he only makes a short number of actual appearances, covering less than forty pages of this massive tomb. Also, though Drood is the most intriguing and scary character in the story, the tale seems to center around Wilkie Collins and his growing jealousy of Dickens' success. I wanted more of Edwin Drood. After all, the novel is named Drood, not Wilkie Collins. Instead, what happens is that the reader gets a series of long dissertations on how Charles Dickens spent the last five years of his life doing public readings in England and America, working on his magazine, arguing with Collins over trivial matters, divorcing his wife, visiting his mistress, complaining about his son-in-law, who happens to be Wilkie's brother, etc., etc., etc. You also have the same experiences being discussed by Wilkie Collins about his own life, but at least they hold your interest for longer periods of time and are occasionally inter-mixed with information about Edwin Drood.
Dan Simmons is one of the best writers today in the field of horror, and when he writes a descriptive horror scene, it will stay in your mind for weeks to come. He does this with about five scenes in the novel: the train wreck at the beginning, the journey of Dickens and Collins through the underground catacombs, the hunt for Drood in the catacombs by Detective Field and his team of a hundred men, the journey through the top floors of several buildings by Collins and Detective Barris, and when Collins goes up the employee's staircase in his new house and encounters a dangerous ghost. If there had been more scenes like this in Drood, the novel would've reached the excellence of The Terror because Simmons knows to create atmosphere and dread and danger lurking in the dark shadows. This is when the novel flows with an energy that captures you within its grasp, holding you prisoner until the scene has ended, lost in another world where death is anxiously awaiting only a few feet away. I literally couldn't put the book down during these magnificently written scenes, and Drood is one heavy book to hold. I should also note that Mr. Simmons creates many fabulous characters in Drood such as the tough police officer, Hatchery, and private investigators, Field & Barris (though Field may be based on an actual individual), plus the student from the train wreck, Edmond Dickerson, who's befriended by the famous writer. There's also King Laazaree, who controls the opium den in the underground part of London; and, of course, the infamous Edwin Drood. Still, all of these positives weren't enough to win me over, especially when I finally reached the ending. The final pages of Drood leave the reader hanging and not knowing what to believe. Dickens says one thing about Edwin Drood, while Collins believes the opposite. At this point, the real question would probably be--Who cares?
Maybe I was expecting too much from Drood. I mean two years is a long time to wait for a novel to come out. Still, if I could talk to Dan Simmons (he doesn't respond to e-mails from fans), I wouldn't ask for my money back, but rather the thirty-or-more hours I spent in reading Drood and then writing the book review. That's time I'll never get back, and at my age, I don't have a lot of hours left. Now, if you want to read a truly horrifying story that will leave you awake at night and shivering beneath the bed covers, I would highly recommend that you pick up a copy of The Terror by Dan Simmons. This is the author at his absolute best!
- Rather disappointing
i am a huge fan of this author and the Terror is one of my all time favorite books. However this one is just plain too long for the subject matter. You know how sometimes you put so much time into a book and you get to page 500 and realize you not only dislike all the main characters but are kinda bored at the same time? Yet you continue on and finish it anyway? This book is like that. 400 pages out of 800 could have been trimmed for a better read. K. Kranz Wisconsin...more info
- Hardly worth the time
Is this an excellently researched story with copious quantities of literary references? Yes. However, the actual story is thin with little to entertain the reader beyond studies on the culinary habits of its protagonist. Your interest in the story will wane as you come to grips with the reality that the author will never get to the point and end the novel....more info
- An Intriguing Delight!
WOW! This is the first word that pops into my mind when I think of this astonishing novel, Drood, by the talented author Dan Simmons. I have to say that the length of this book was highly intimidating to me - but I am sooo thrilled that I did not let that stop me. With the focus being on Charles Dickens, as narrated by his good and close friend Wilkie Collins, I am now fascinated with both of these people and want to learn all that I can about both. I would also love to read a work by Wilkie Collins, since, to be quite honest, I don't recall ever hearing of this literary figure prior to reading Drood. I absolutely love how this is a "what if" take on what may have happened with Dickens after a near death accident - delving into his psyche and reason for his actions - was he indeed driven to the insane side after his accident or was what he was seeing and experiencing real?
Dan Simmons uses excellent and very vivid descriptions in his writing. The beginning of the book seems a bit on the lengthy wordy side, however, that is all for a purpose. Mr. Simmons writes in a way that never leaves the reader shaking their head in bewilderment or confusion. For the length of this novel, it is wonderfully excecuted and draws the reader in from the beginning.
Drood is not a light read, by far. Bordering on the dark side and questioning sanity, this novel will take you to an entirely different diminsion. One thing that I wanted to mention, also, about the author's style of writing in Drood - Mr. Simmons's writing takes on a very old time, era precise style, at least to me. This makes the story even more believable, coming from the voice of Wilkie Collins. Even the length, it seems, is appropriate for that time period, from which Dickens and Collins lived. As I stated before, I have not read anything else by this author, so have nothing to compare it to, but his style in Drood, just brought the story to life and almost transport the reader back into that time period.
Drood is a true delight and one that I highly recommend!...more info
- Please read this book. You can thank me later.
In this incredible, enjoyable and involved story, Charles Dickens' close friend shares with you the last years of Dickens' life, and his own.
Expect the unexpected. Enjoy the rich prose, the amazing descriptions, the complex characters, the compelling storyline, the twists and turns, the unexpected plot complications.
It is a very long book -- but the only drawback of that is that it will take you longer to get to the very rewarding and satisfying end.
I plan to re-read it again in about six months, just so I can see what I missed in the rush to devour this book in my first sitting....more info
- Deliberate, thoughtful Simmons thriller
"Drood" is Dan Simmons's fictional account of the last five years of Charles Dickens's life as seen through the eyes of fellow writer and possible bete-noire Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White, Moonstone). Simmons is downright hilarious as he imagines Collins's snarky, sarcastic reactions to Dickens's fame and popularity in England and abroad. Simmons starts strong, but the ending was a little too ambivalent. He borrows the plot device of the unreliable narrator from Collins's own "Moonstone" to confound the reader. "Drood" is not as good as "The Terror" and Simmons is best when he's not trying too hard (Ilium, Olympus)....more info
- Drood - a study in opium dreams
The writing is slow but excellent. The book is huge. I enjoyed the first part but had to leave the remainder unread for now as it is so fantastical and violent and horrifying. He gets into the opium dreams which one doesn't realize fully if they are real or not. It was just too ghastly for me....more info
- I was spellbound!
This tale, "penned" by Wilkie Collins, recounts the last few yers of Dickens' life. Like a newly discovered Sherlock Holmes story, the Drood manuscript has been withheld from publication until many years in the future so that the involved parties will have shuffled off the mortal coil. It starts with a train wreck, ends with the death of an author, and, in between, chronicles a descent into madness, drug abuse, jealousy, and paranoia that never fails to be compelling reading.
Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens were friends and frequent collaborators. Dan Simmons writes about that friendship and places the two men in a tale of mystery tinged with the supernatural. Drood is populated with characters taken from the lives and works of both men; many of the characters from The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Dicken's unfinished novel) have analogues in Drood.
In the opening chapters, Dickens and Collins are, to my eyes, parallels to Holmes and Watson. Dickens, the energetic, highly observant guide, takes long walks, makes Holmes-like deductions, and appears puzzled when Collins, overweight and suffering from gout, fails to be interested by these observations. As the story progresses, Collins becomes increasingly jealous over Dickens' success (Collins repeatedly writes that in the future Dickens's works will still be read but he dobuts his own will even be remembered). Dickens, as seen through Colllins eyes, also undergoes severe character changes as he boots his wife from his house and tries to be happy with his mistress.
Into this mix is added the seemingly supernatural character of Drood, a mysterious, gruesome man of the east, who is a master of mesmerism (more powerful than Dickens as Dickens himself mentions). Drood first appears in the novel's opening when Dickens survives a train wreck and meets the figure hovering over bodies like an embodiment of death. Drood places Dickens under a spell and Collins tries to understand what is happening to his friend.
Through over 800 pages of compelling prose, Simmons takes the reader to a secret London underworld, to opimum dens, to graveyards and to the London theater. Collins resorts to heavier doses of opium and ultimately, morphine injections, as he tries to comprehend who Drood is. Eventually he, too, becomes Drood's slave. As his dependence on the drug increases, so does his paranoia and he concludes that his only chance at freedom is to murder his friend, Charles Dickens.
I read this on my Kindle in a little over a week. My interest never flagged and there were times when I was completely shocked. In fact, when I finished Chapter 47, I lowered the Kindle and probably had a stunned look on my face because the person sitting next to me on the bus said, "What's the name of the book you're reading? I'm always looking for a story that will do that to me."
Some readers have complained about the ending, but I feel that it was exactly what the story required. Clues have been planted throughout and the ending does not seem forced or false. To say more would be to give it away. Trust me, it's worth the ride.
This is an excellent and fun read. Newcomers to the world of Dickens and Collins may next be driven to explore the works of those authors. Those familiar with Dickens will probably enjoy seeing the "source" of that author's characters and how they wind up in his books, especially in his last novel. And those who enjoy a good thriller and a story about love and friendship will not be disappointed.
Drood is highly, highly recommended.
The difference between carrying around an 800 page book and a thin piece of plastic is amazing. Because the story is so riveting, the Kindle became an unnoticed device as I clicked through the pages. My only gripe is that the formatting of the chapter beginnings sometimes lacks a word space between the tall standup capital and the rest of the type. But that's a minor quibble....more info
- Don't Judge This Book By Its Jacket
I have been a fan of Dan Simmons work for over 20 years and this is the 25th book that I have read by him. I almost always enjoy his work. That being said I have never been so surprised by all the 5-star reviews for a book as I am with this one. If you read the jacket blurb on Dan Simmons' latest novel you would think that this book was about a mysterious underworld character named Drood, who Charles Dickens obsessed over in the last 5 years of his life. Or you may think that the book is centered on Dickens himself. Both of these sound interesting but unfortunately this book is about neither. It is about, and narrated by, one Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens' friend, collaborator and competitor. This is more of a personal diary than an actual story. When you read this you will want Wilkie to get to the point on Dickens and Drood but what you will get get for most of the book is Wilkie's ramblings about every aspect of his personal life. You will get detailed self-absorbed descriptions about his writing, his 2 relationships with women, his theater work, his dining habits, his relationship with his mother, his appearance, which one of his various places he will sleep on a given night, his increasing dependence on opium, and lengthy descriptions of his domestic situations. Over 771 pages he will spare you no detail. Simmons is a good writer so some of these are interesting or humorous but nowhere close to entertain us over almost 800 pages. Yes, there is a story in here about Dickens and Drood (sort of) but maybe this covers one third of the book. To say that half or more of this book should have been lopped off by a good editor is in no way an exaggeration. But what is truly amazing is that if one manages to wade through all the minutiae of Wilkie Collins' life to get to the meat of the Dickens/Drood story there is an additional caveat - as the story goes on Wilkie is more and more impaired by opium so you can't rely on everything his says being true! Did this event actually happen? Did Wilkie imagine it? Have a hallucination? Often we never find out and you realize that most of this book is pointless. (Now I suspect that the author's response to my criticism would probably point out that this is the point of the book - the jealousy, arrogance and weakness of Collins compared to the great Dickens. That may be so but I personally can't take this in such a large dose, and more importantly no one could possibly get a clue from the marketing of this book that this is in fact what it is about!) I will admit to greatly enjoying the last 50 pages of this book as Wilkie's character is exposed even further; It is just a shame that it took such a long and sometimes tedious path to get there. ...more info
- Major waste of time
I've been in a book club for 10 years, and all of us agreed last evening that this is by far one of the worst books we've ever selected. It is tedious, unfocused, verbose beyond reason and--the biggest sin of all--lacking in creativity. We had expected a compelling mystery and what we got was a lot of crypt and dark alley scenarios overused by B-rated movies. Most frustrating to me is that the author's story could have been told in about 350 pages but I had to suffer through 771. I cannot believe Dan Simmons' editors let him publish this thing. I intend to use it as an oversized paperweight in the garage....more info
- Drood by Dan Simmons
Opening "Drood" by Dan Simmons is like stepping into a time machine. I could almost feel the cobblestones of London's back alleys beneath my feet and smell the overpowering stench of raw sewage draining into the Thames.
In June of 1865, world-famous author Charles Dickens and his mistress were among the few survivors of a horrific train crash. Simmons manages to weave this real-life event into a compelling and terrifying tale of murder, jealousy, ancient Egyptian magic and mesmerism.
Drood is narrated by Dickens' fellow author, friend and sometimes rival Wilkie Collins. A laudanum addict, Collins is an unreliable narrator at best. Three days after the accident at Staplehurst, Dickens relates the harrowing experience to Collins. At the center of his tale is a mysterious man named Drood; a disfigured, wraith-like creature who seemed to float back and forth amongst the dead and dying victims of the crash. Was he rendering assistance to these unfortunate souls or hastening their departure from this mortal coil?
Dickens becomes obsessed with finding Drood, and this search will lead him and Collins into a labyrinthine world hidden below London's poorest districts. The horrors that await them there will change both of the authors - and their friendship - forever. Collins begins to wonder if Dickens has simply gone mad from the trauma he endured at Staplehurst or if he has fallen under the mesmeric influence of Drood, a man rumored to have killed over 300 people.
Victorian London is masterfully depicted; the sights, sounds and even smells seem to come alive and add a rich sense of atmosphere to this dark story.
The first 100 pages of "Drood" were slow-going for me, but they established a framework that was essential and very rewarding later in the book. I never knew what to expect with this story, and the shocking ending left me re-evaluating virtually every conclusion I'd come to over the length of the book. While it's still very early in 2009, I can certainly see "Drood" as one of my favorite reads of the year.
I have never read a novel by Dan Simmons before, but I am hooked by this one. I am a fan of Victorian fiction, Dickens being the giant among them, so I was intrigued by this title. I was never bored or disappointed. The author portrays the period so well I could almost hear the gas lights hissing...speaking of hissing, his Drood character will haunt your dreams.
I have read Woman in White but now I must read more by Collins. I already ordered a copy of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and next will be more Dan Simmons....more info