Im also the narrator of this new novel Drood despite the fact that this Dan Simmons fellow is trying to claim the credit when it clearly states that I left this manuscript to be published one-hundred and twenty-five years after my death. In fact, I tend to swig the laudanum like spring water on a hot day, and while I was initially a bit frightened by the opium dens, I soon found them quite inviting. The other thing you should know is that my good friend and colleague Charles Dickens was immensely popular in his day. Even as he treated my brother, Charless son-in-law, quite terribly and had a habit of being a bit condescending when we discussed writing, I still bore Charles no ill will. (At least, not until near the end.) Anyhow, its well known that when Charles Dickens died he left an unfinished novel called The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Charles confessed to me that while helping with the wounded, he met a very strange man who called himself Drood. Charles noticed later that most of the injured that Drood appeared to be helping were later found to be dead.
Finally, don't believe other reviews that try and give a simple explanation for what happens in the story. It's nothing like Simmons other stuff (no big surprise there if you've read even a few of his novels) but it is brilliant, just maybe not in the way you'd expect.
It expertly combined several areas in which I'm interested and knowledgeable - Victorian Arctic exploration, the Franklin expedition, and supernatural fiction - and I was thrilled when I found out that his next book, Drood, promised more of the same: a doorstopper of a book modeled after the Victorian melodramas I enjoy, featuring two real-life authors whose life and works I know a lot about (Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins), and with references to Dickens's final, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which has a small reference shelf devoted to it in my library. The book contains a number of excellent set-pieces - the Staplehurst railway disaster, the forays into London's Undertown - as well as some wonderful description and characterisation, most notably in the form of the narrator, Wilkie Collins; and the relationship between Dickens and Collins was well depicted, their undoubted friendship always under attack from Dickens's dominating nature and Collins's frustration at always being in his friend's shadow.
I hesitate to recommend this book because there are bound to be people who buy this doorstop, read it, hate it, and blame me for their life choices. You, Dear Reader, will likely hate this fucking book. And I've never even attempted to read a Wilkie Collins novel. It's one of the few books over 700 pages long that I've read where the ending didn't disappoint me. You might read other reviews that say the book is not entirely about Drood, and it isn't. You'll likely read other reviews that say this is about Dickens and Collins's friendship, and it is. In summation: I don't want to be responsible for you hating this book, so read at your own risk and leisure. (view spoiler) How dare I say the book is not "open ended"? Charles Dickens used a watch to mesmerize Wilkie Collins before relaying the events of the Staplehurst train accident in order to see the effects of hypnotic suggestion on the mind of a creative person. Dickens tells Wilkie this toward the end of the book. He wasn't trying to trick Wilkie into believing Drood wasn't real.
I would have imagined that a seasoned novelist of big books steeped in historical context might have avoided the beginner's error of forgoing actual narrative for HUNDREDS OF PAGES OF EXPOSITION, but I would have been wrong.
The only thing I can figure is the dude obviously has some serious writing/storytelling skills because I didnt get disengaged once while reading this one despite long periods of pretty much nothing happening. Possible Mildly Spoilery Content: (view spoiler)Wilkie Collins was so well drawn throughout the tale that he reminded me a bit of a Herman Koch character. Some of the early interactions with Dickens and Collins read a bit like a Sherlock & Holmes story which I thought was super interesting.
It's been some years since I read this book, but it's still one of those that I remember quite well because I liked the story so much.
Drood appears to Dickens during the wreck and the best-selling author becomes obsessessed with finding the mysterious character. And while Collins does encounter the mysterious Drood at certain points in the novel, readers will come away questioning if Drood is real or a figment of both writers' imaginations, given that Collins and Dickens rarely encounter Drood with other people around to verify Drood's existence.
I knew after the first fifty, definitely after the first hundred, that I wasnt enjoying it, but I kept reading because 1) Im a stubborn bitch, 2) Dan Simmons has written good books in the past, and 3) I just felt like it had to get better, right?
Regardless of how many books are already queued patiently on my reading list, unexpected gifts and guilt-trips will always see unplanned additions muscling their way in at the front. These are my very favouritest type of books and Ilium in particular inspired me to start my reading list quests, and to share that experience on Goodreads. But Dan-the-man also writes psychologically tense little modern-era horror stories, such as Song of Kali and The Hollow Man indeed, it was with this kind of novel that he launched his career and won his first awards. These are good books, very much worth reading, but they dont quite hit the sweet spot for me in the same way as his sci-fi. Then we come to the third category, into which this book falls a kind of merging of the two above: big, detailed, historical, creeping-gothic-horror tales, with just a dash of fantasy elements. The Terror was my least-favourite Simmons novel so far not to say its a bad book, just a bit bloated for me, but thats a different review but it meant that I came to Drood with some hesitancy. The story is narrated by Wilkie Collins Dickins friend/collaborator/rival. In case anyone feels you need to have read Dickens and/or Collins work to get the references within Drood , Im sure it would add an extra level of resonance, but I havent read any of either, and I enjoyed this tale plenty without them. One final point for anyone who was a big fan of The Terror , theres a nice tie-in towards the beginning of this book where Dickens and Collins write and perform a play based on the disappearance of HMS Terror.
Dan received a B.A. in English from Wabash College in 1970, winning a national Phi Beta Kappa Award during his senior year for excellence in fiction, journalism and art. He's always attributed that coincidence to "helping in keeping things in perspective when it comes to the relative importance of writing and life." Dan has been a full-time writer since 1987 and lives along the Front Range of Coloradoin the same town where he taught for 14 yearswith his wife, Karen, his daughter, Jane, (when she's home from Hamilton College) and their Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Fergie.