Saturday, March 7, 2015


Drood is a retelling of the last five years of Charles Dickens' life.  Dan Simmons takes a lot of license, but also stays truer to the history than I realized.  I mean, a lot of the crazy stuff in the book did actually happen.  Maybe not the ritual cult based on ancient Egyptian practices, but the rest, yeah.

I have to say, this book's cover is what caught my eye. I'd never have picked it up otherwise.  It strikes the perfect mood.  The book is purportedly about Dickens, but the narrator is Wilkie Collins.  Collins is, of course, another famous writer from the Victorian era, and the two men were frenemies for much of their lives.  And, between Dickens and Collins, I've actually read a book by Collins before.  The Moonstone, which more or less launched the English detective novel as a genre.

Wilkie Collins

I still can't decide whether I love or hate Drood.  It has some exceedingly clever moments.  And some boring ones.  It literally is the last five years of Dickens' life, no moment spared.  It's this big buffet full of rich food, and you like everything on the menu but just get so danged tired of eating after a while.

The high points: an opium-addled apparent sociopath for a narrator, an interesting take on the ending to Dickens' unfinished The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the finer points of life in London slums, and a high density of very nice turns of phrase and sly witticisms. 

The low points:  the slum visits get old after a while,  the sheer length of the book gets old after a while, the role of Ellen Ternan confuses me, and Caroline's marriage and subsequent return to Collins is gonzo. I mean, what?  Opium can only account for so much here, folks.  

Final call:

I'm not sure if I can recommend this.  Maybe if you are a big fan of Dickens and Collins and the massive tomes they wrote.  But Simmons adds a fair amount of horror, so that limits the audience even further.  Proceed with caution here :)

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