Written by: Dan Simmons
The premise: Drood chronicles the last five years of Charles Dickens's life as told through the eyes of his friend, collaborator, and competitor Wilkie Collins. It starts with the railway accident at Staplehurst that nearly ended Dickens's life, and when Dickens first becomes obsessed with the mysterious person named Drood (which ended up inspiring Dickens's final but incomplete novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood). Dickens's obsession becomes Wilkie's obsession, and the two men fight to discover who this mysterious lord of the Undertown really is, what he really wants, and why he's singled them out.
Wish I'd Borrowed It: but if you must get it, wait for the paperback. Here's the thing: if you're a fan of this time period, if you're a fan of historicals and you're a fan of Dickens and/or Wilkie Collins, you may be satisfied by this book. Certainly, Simmons weaves his fiction so effortlessly with his historical fact that even if I were well-researched, I'm not sure I could separate fact from fiction. Simmons writes historicals very well in that regard, but in this case, and for readers NOT invested in historicals or this time period or in Dickens and/or Wilkie Collins, the book is ridiculously too long with very little payoff at the end to justify such a journey. There is no doubt in my mind that Simmons has done some very interesting things in regards to parallel structure (life imitating art imitating life kind of thing) and his narrative, in the end, I was far from satisfied. I cared nothing for the time period or the characters, and frankly the characters were quite unlikable or unsympathetic. There is very little horror and very little thriller in this book, and what we do get is pretty much made null, in my interpretation, by the ending. Instead, if this is a book that captures your interest, you must read it and hold on to one very important fact: Wilkie Collins is an unreliable narrator, and rather than read this book as a mystery, you may want to read this book as an exercise is separation fantasy from reality. In some places, it's easy to do so. In others, it's not, and in others, you really, really hope it's reality even though it reads like fantasy.
This is my least favorite of the Simmons that I've read, and I respect the author and his obvious talent. Certainly, talent shines from these pages despite the book's flaws. But if you really want to read a masterpiece by this author, I'd recommend The Terror or Hyperion (followed up with The Fall of Hyperion) instead. Granted, that's all else I've actually READ of Simmons, but The Terror, in my mind, was a satisfying masterpiece. Drood, for all its cleverness, was not.
The full review, which is chock-full of spoilers and also contains cover-art commentary, may be found in my journal. As always, comments and discussion are most welcome.
REVIEW: Dan Simmons's DROOD
Happy Reading! :)