Another of my favorite reads from the past few years; Drood, by Dan Simmons.
Below is the review I posted on Amazon. This was one of those books that, despite it being a lengthy work, I wish it had gone on and on and on…..
Having recently read ‘The Terror’ and having been completely WOWED by author Dan Simmons with that novel, I doubted that he could wow me any further…and I am happy to have been proven wrong.
‘Drood’, based upon the final years in the life of Charles Dickens; one of my favorite authors, as narrated by Wilkie Collins; one of my OTHER favorite authors, and weaving a story surrounding the (fictional) circumstances that led Dickens to begin his non-completed last novel, ‘The Mystery Of Edwin Drood’, is nothing short of spectacular.
Dickens, who appears here as an intelligent, capable, and engaging person as well as author, and Collins, while on Dickens’ short list of preferred conversational, travel, and holiday companions and contemporaries, are well-realized, well-drawn, and well-detailed characters. In presenting the final days of Dickens, while still riding a wave of literary success, and Collins writing what were to become his most well-known and remembered works, the personality, imagination, and quirks of both authors are eminently visible in the pastiche of the real men created by Dan Simmons. Dickens, who appears here as an intelligent, capable, and engaging person as well as author, is every bit as ‘private’ about his romantic entanglements and ‘exacting’ about his work and literary readings as he is purported to be. Collins, an author of lesser fame, comes across as a friend to Dickens, but also as a bit of a rival to the more successful of the two men, even if they frequently collaborated on ideas, and actual works, as is (factually) detailed in the book. While Wilkie Collins never quite reached the apex of popularity that Dickens did, he enjoys his own successes here with the publications of ‘The Woman In White’, ‘Armadale’, ‘The Moonstone’, and ‘Man and Wife’, all the while battling the rheumatic gout with the aide of large doses of opium (laudanum) and morphine….and suffering the reality-altering affects of those drugs.
To give a bit of the story here, (without giving too much away) Dickens; ever the prolific novelist and playwright, finds himself caught in a railway car accident that changes the last years of his life as he meets the inspiration for what is his final novel, the character of Drood. At once a shadowy, serpentine presence, this Drood is himself as much as mystery as the tale concocted by Dickens. Wilkie Collins is taken into Dickens’ confidence about the ‘creature’ and is drawn into a complex maze of dark rituals, nocturnal underworld wanderings, and the overindulgence of opium.
Author Simmons, on his website, talks about the lack of interest in ‘long’ novels any longer…which saddens a reader such as myself who eagerly anticipates finding novels of this length, quality, and complexity that are able to hold the interest of a reader for nearly 800 pages. Equal in length to many of the works of Dickens himself; this book, with discarded sub-plots and lesser characters a-plenty, is every bit as entertaining and enjoyable as any of Dickens’ novels that I have read.
Perhaps it’s my love of the works of Dickens and Collins in general. Perhaps it’s my love of a dark mysteries shrouded in Victoriana. Or perhaps it’s just because this is a crackerjack of a read….but ‘Drood’, the latest offering by Dan Simmons is, to me, the stuff that legendary novels are made of…perhaps this will be the ‘magnum opus’ of Mr. Simmons…or perhaps there is something even more wondrous to come in his future works…..either way, ‘Drood’ is an astonishing and eminently praise-worthy accomplishment for ‘the inimitable’ Mr. Simmons.