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Drood [Paperback]

Dan Simmons
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Mar 2009

Sealed for 125 years, a secret manuscript by Charles Dickens' friend and some-time collaborator Wilkie Collins, reveals the dark secret that obsessed both men - a secret that not only ended their long friendship, but also brought each writer to the very brink of murder. 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 - hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever. His train jumped the rail and plummeted into the marsh below. Dickens assisted the maimed and dying but the experience shook him to the core. His personality visibly darkened, his famous public readings began to focus on the most violent scenes he'd ever written, especially the terrible murder of Nancy by Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist. The author acted out the murder, adding dialogue and gesture, screaming, begging, strangling and cutting. By night Dickens and Collins began stalking the underbelly of London, obsessed with corpses, catacombs, murders, lime pits, opium dens, disguises and serial killers. Research… or something darker? Or perhaps Wilkie Collins - a laudanum addict with a seething, Salieri-esque jealousy of Dickens' success - had another agenda?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (5 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847247954
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847247957
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 819,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Simmons was born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1948, and grew up in various cities and small towns in the Midwest, including Brimfield, Illinois, which was the source of his fictional "Elm Haven" in 1991's SUMMER OF NIGHT and 2002's A WINTER HAUNTING. 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.

Dan received his Masters in Education from Washington University in St. Louis in 1971. He then worked in elementary education for 18 years -- 2 years in Missouri, 2 years in Buffalo, New York -- one year as a specially trained BOCES "resource teacher" and another as a sixth-grade teacher -- and 14 years in Colorado.

His last four years in teaching were spent creating, coordinating, and teaching in APEX, an extensive gifted/talented program serving 19 elementary schools and some 15,000 potential students. During his years of teaching, he won awards from the Colorado Education Association and was a finalist for the Colorado Teacher of the Year. He also worked as a national language-arts consultant, sharing his own "Writing Well" curriculum which he had created for his own classroom. Eleven and twelve-year-old students in Simmons' regular 6th-grade class averaged junior-year in high school writing ability according to annual standardized and holistic writing assessments. Whenever someone says "writing can't be taught," Dan begs to differ and has the track record to prove it. Since becoming a full-time writer, Dan likes to visit college writing classes, has taught in New Hampshire's Odyssey writing program for adults, and is considering hosting his own Windwalker Writers' Workshop.

Dan's first published story appeared on Feb. 15, 1982, the day his daughter, Jane Kathryn, was born. 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 Colorado -- in the same town where he taught for 14 years -- with his wife, Karen. He sometimes writes at Windwalker -- their mountain property and cabin at 8,400 feet of altitude at the base of the Continental Divide, just south of Rocky Mountain National Park. An 8-ft.-tall sculpture of the Shrike -- a thorned and frightening character from the four Hyperion/Endymion novels -- was sculpted by an ex-student and friend, Clee Richeson, and the sculpture now stands guard near the isolated cabin.

Dan is one of the few novelists whose work spans the genres of fantasy, science fiction, horror, suspense, historical fiction, noir crime fiction, and mainstream literary fiction . His books are published in 27 foreign counties as well as the U.S. and Canada.

Many of Dan's books and stories have been optioned for film, including SONG OF KALI, DROOD, THE CROOK FACTORY, and others. Some, such as the four HYPERION novels and single Hyperion-universe novella "Orphans of the Helix", and CARRION COMFORT have been purchased (the Hyperion books by Warner Brothers and Graham King Films, CARRION COMFORT by European filmmaker Casta Gavras's company) and are in pre-production. Director Scott Derrickson ("The Day the Earth Stood Stood Still") has been announced as the director for the Hyperion movie and Casta Gavras's son has been put at the helm of the French production of Carrion Comfort. Current discussions for other possible options include THE TERROR. Dan's hardboiled Joe Kurtz novels are currently being looked as the basis for a possible cable TV series.

In 1995, Dan's alma mater, Wabash College, awarded him an honorary doctorate for his contributions in education and writing.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Drood is something of a change of pace for the talented American writer Dan Simmons, who made his mark with highly ambitious, sprawling futuristic epics such as Hyperion, (which won the prestigious Hugo award) and The Fall of Hyperion, creating -- with tremendous panache and invention -- alternate worlds and societies. Here, however, is Simmons’s take on 19th Britain and two of its greatest creative artists: the writers Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins (the title, of course, is a reference to Dickens’s last, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood). Dan Simmons’ Drood, however, is a very different literary endeavour, with the two writers plunged into a darkly atmospheric Victorian world where supernatural creatures haunt the shadows (and, beneath the streets, an alternative cityscape exists).

All of this is handled with the energy we have come to expect from Dan Simmons, and along with his eventful narrative, he is able to take on notions of creativity and the gulf between genius and talent (Dickens and Wilkie Collins are pungently characterised). Perhaps those more used to the intergalactic reach of Simmons’ earlier work may need to adjust (and an interest in Dickens, Collins and in the 19th century classics is definitely an advantage), but for those persuaded to join Simmons and his two protagonists on their sinister and terrifying odyssey (a rather long one, it should be noted – the book is nearly 800 pages), this is a journey they will not regret undertaking. Simmons’s early work utilised elements from the horror genre (a constant here) – and horror reappears frequently in Dickens’ world, making this a strong literary marriage. --Barry Forshaw


I am in awe of Dan Simmons - Stephen King

Peopled by characters worthy of Dickens novel …. a fascinating book that adds to the speculative writings about the Victorian author's last and unfinished work. A must-read for all Dickens and Wilkie Collins admirers' Daily Mail.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong novel with a disappointing conclusion 7 Mar 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback
In 1865 a steam train derails whilst it is crossing a bridge at Staplehurst in Kent. Ten people are killed and forty more injured, some very severely. Amongst the shaken but unhurt passengers is the novelist Charles Dickens, who lends aid and succor to the dying and injured. Dickens is lauded as a public hero for his efforts, but the accident has a tremendous psychological impact on him which only seems to worsen as the years pass.

Wilkie Collins, a fellow novelist and sometimes-collaborator of Dickens, observes Dickens' decline following the accident, and is particularly bemused by Dickens' account of a spectral figure called 'Drood' who appeared in the aftermath of the crash. Dickens apparently becomes obsessed with finding Drood, embarking on lengthy explorations of London's criminal and literal underground in search of the figure, aided by Collins. A private investigator named Fields joins the chase, informing Collins that Drood is a serial killer and mass-murderer, and Collins soon finds himself embroiled in a complex and clandestine struggle. These events are made all the more confusing due to Collins' own reliance on opium (a painkiller for his gout) and the fictional events of the two novels that Collins and Dickens are inspired to write by these events (The Moonstone and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, respectively) become entwined with the 'real' events that are transpiring.

Drood is a complex novel, huge in length, exacting in detail and relayed to the reader through a narrator so unreliable - Collins - that is very hard to know what is 'real' (as in 100% back up by historical fact), what is reliable (or true in the sense of the novel's narrative) and what is pure fantasy (either an outright lie or a drug-induced fantasy).
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
This journey through the cemeteries, opium dens and underground sewers of Victorian London is a good atmospheric read, but doesn't quite live up to its fascinating premise. However, it will almost certainly leave you wanting to learn more about Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins and their works, which can only be a good thing.

Drood begins with the Staplehurst Rail Disaster of 1865, when the train on which Charles Dickens is travelling crashes. As Dickens helps to rescue people from the wreckage, he encounters a mysterious figure dressed in a black cape who introduces himself only as 'Drood'. In the days following the train crash, Dickens becomes obsessed with discovering Drood's true identity. With the reluctant help of his friend and fellow author, Wilkie Collins, Dickens begins a search for Drood which leads them through the dark alleys and underground catacombs of London.

Interspersed with the Drood storyline are long passages in which we learn about the family life of both Dickens and Collins, how much they earned for their various novels, the details of Wilkie's laudanum addiction, Dickens' interest in mesmerism and every other piece of biographical information you could wish to know. Some readers might find this boring, but I enjoyed these sections - I thought the descriptions of Dickens' reading tours were particularly interesting. Another thing I liked about the book was the way Simmons deliberately tries to confuse and mislead the reader - at several points in the novel we are made to wonder whether something we've just read is real or an illusion.

The book is told in the form of a memoir written by Wilkie Collins and addressed to an unknown reader in the future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great start followed by 300 turgid pages 1 Feb 2010
By Robert
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I tore into this book having enjoyed so many other works by Simmons. The opening chapters are racy and give a sense of mystery and adventure. Dickens in a train crash encounters Drood, a vampiric mystery man whose motives are unknown. Was he helping the injured towards death? Then the story started to flag and I read 300 pages of life in Victorian London. Sometimes the language jarred, but I forgave that. What I disliked was the continual unfulfilled promise that something was going to happen. I wish I had read the reviews here before I bought this book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Americanisms galore 18 Aug 2011
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I've been coming to the conclusion lately that fiction publishers no longer employ editors. Or are they so awed by their successful authors that they daren't say, "Hold on a minute, Dan, er, Mr Simmons, I think you've made a crashing blunder here"?

This book is supposedly narrated by Wilkie Collins, a good writer of nineteenth-century British English. What do we get here? Twenty-first century American English. Nothing wrong with that in itself, but it won't do here. The list is endless. Here are just a few examples: "Christmas and New Year's" (no apostrophe S, please), a restaurant order "with a side of eggs", "engineer" for engine driver, "jug" of laudanum for a type of bottle... These are just from the first few pages. The author also seems to make no attempt to write in a nineteenth-century style. If he couldn't do British, imitating Mark Twain would not have been a bad place to start.

By the way, pāté de foiE gras with an E on foi. Liver, not faith. See what I mean about editors?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three stars for the authors imagination
Where do I begin folks.

I have written a few reviews now on amazon & I hate writing negative ones. Hate it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by I W C
1.0 out of 5 stars Overwrought rubbish
Drood has been my first and last foray into the work of Simmons, of whom I have never heard. A lover of the work of both Dickens and Collins, I ought to have known better, and left... Read more
Published 6 months ago by MallingFox
1.0 out of 5 stars Inimitable waffle and tedium
I rarely bother writing a bad review, but couldn't help myself with this. I tried very hard to get into this novel, and there are some interesting parts, but it is spoilt... Read more
Published 7 months ago by I CLARK
5.0 out of 5 stars truely a brilliant read
l am a big reader and there is not many book l read twice but this one l have first in book from [ then l gave it to a friend who love it also ask if she could keep it so brought... Read more
Published 8 months ago by stjamespark
2.0 out of 5 stars Leave Dickens alone.
Did not like the way it was written or the idea of the story. Felt let down by the author.
Published 9 months ago by Kindlenovice
4.0 out of 5 stars Rival writers writhe in massive murder-mystery.
The schtick here is that Charles Dickens, helping victims at a train crash, encounters a cadaverous and mysterious 'gentleman' called Drood, who seems to have a hand in hastening... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jason Mills
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it
Some fairly polarised reviews for Drood, and I can understand why. Recently there's been a huge increase in the amount of historical fiction novels kicking about. Read more
Published on 20 Aug 2012 by Reader
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly researched parody of a Victorian novel
Despite a promising start, I've just thrown away this tedious hokum in disgust.

Simmons has obviously done a fair amount of research, which he constantly throws at us by... Read more
Published on 16 April 2012 by R. HOW
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasure to read, I was hooked.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this novel by Dan Simmons, the first book that I've read of his. It is one of my favourite novels for sure and I can't recommend it enough. Read more
Published on 28 Jan 2012 by Jakabok Botch
2.0 out of 5 stars Truly Droodful!
I'm on page 463 and I can't stand any more of it! I've been skipping the last 50 pages or so, which is something I very rarely do with any book. Read more
Published on 16 Dec 2011 by Rich
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