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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong novel with a disappointing conclusion
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...
Published on 7 Mar 2010 by A. Whitehead

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sounded fascinating but could have been so much better
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...
Published on 14 Mar 2010 by Helen S


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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
By 
A. Whitehead "Werthead" (Colchester, Essex United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Drood (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). As with Suzanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Simmons has attempted to write a book that is almost Victorian in its own construction (not to mention its formidable and possibly unnecessary length), but unlike Clarke's book, Drood is less obviously a fantasy, existing somewhere between historical novel and a literary and metaphorical work. Simmons also raises a lot of issues and ideas here, from the struggles all novelists and writers face in writing their books (thankfully without descending to self-indulgence) to the social issues the day. He even finds time to further explore the aftermath of the events of The Terror, his previous novel about the Franklin Expedition, which took place a few years before the start of this novel.

The result could have a confusing mess, but Simmons' skills as a writer and the orchestrator of an immense and complex narrative shine through here. The writing is strong, the story is page-turning and the characters are convincing, although also increasingly repellent as the book goes on. Wilkie Collins, our narrator, becomes particularly unlikable as the book nears its conclusion and his less savoury aspects (such as his scandalous home life) are emphasised whilst some of his more positive ones (his work on behalf of 'fallen women') almost go unmentioned. In particular, whilst the book's fantastical elements and more far-fetched moments can be explained as part of Collins' drug addiction, one plot point towards the end of the book is pretty hard to swallow and rather unconvincing.

Overall, Drood (****) is a rich, well-written and satisfying novel, very clever in construction, which will reward re-reading. However, the ending is something of a let-down and the motives ascribed to (very well-known) historical characters are sometimes dubious. The book is available now in the UK and USA. Guillermo Del Toro has bought the movie rights to the book and is planning a film adaptation for the time after he has completed work on The Hobbit.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sounded fascinating but could have been so much better, 14 Mar 2010
By 
Helen S - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Drood (Mass Market Paperback)
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. Simmons has attempted to imitate Collins' narrative style but I felt that he didn't get it quite right. He uses a lot of words and phrases that just sound either too modern or too American to me. Collins is one of my favourite writers, but in Drood he is portrayed as a mediocre author who is consumed with jealousy of the more successful Dickens and becomes increasingly bitter and unlikeable as the book goes on. I've read a lot of Wilkie Collins books and loved every one of them - I think he was a much better writer than this book suggests.

Overall, Drood could have been a fantastic book but left me feeling slightly disappointed.
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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 (Uxbridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Drood (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
This review is from: Drood (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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and Gripping, 20 April 2010
By 
S. Clarke "Zombie Survivor" (Bordon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Drood (Mass Market Paperback)
Given to me as a present, I wasn't sure I would like this and for the first thirty or so pages I didn't. However, the story gradually reeled me in until I was mesmerised by this mysterious tale and I made it through it's 775 pages very quickly. Simmons paints a delightfully gloomy and dangerous picture of 19th Century London, which gives the story a dark and intriguing edge. Drood is a meld of light horror and a Dan Brown style mystery-thriller, which keeps the reader guessing throughout, as reality becomes blurred and confused. This is a very clever idea for a novel which only somebody of Simmons's caliber could execute.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Drood: beyond Genius lies boredom!, 14 July 2009
By 
N. Mcrobert (Rossendale, Lancashire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Drood (Paperback)
Whenever i find myself mentioning Dan Simmons to someone who hasn't come across his books i always praise two things: his grasp of story and his ability to turn this skill to any genre. "Summer of Night" is a masterful horror tale, in many ways better than Stephen King's IT that is is often unfairly compared to. Hyperion is simply the best sci-fi i have ever read and "The Terror" was a brilliant melding of historical fiction and overt thriller.

However, it is this latter that Simmons tries to repeat with "Drood" and sadly he fails appallingly in my opinion. I have read Dicken's and Wilkie Collin's both academically and for pleasure and i was massively looking forward to the story once i saw it's synopsis. Sadly i found it to be an extremely tedious and uneven mixing of miniscule historical detail and ridiculous sensationalism. Simmons has clearly done an awful lot of research for the novel and my god does he want the reader to know about it. I'm all for inclusion of reality and anecdote but most of the time "Drood" reads like a dry-as-dust textbook. Andrew Sanders' biography of Dickens, despite it's non fiction status, is twice as involving and at least we can be sure of its accuracy.

The character's of Wilkie Collins and Dickens are the only two that the reader is ever invited to know. Everyone else orbits the pair without being suitably fleshed out. Most often they seem included merely to display the extent of Simmons' knowledge of Dickens's social circle. And the inclusion of Drood himself is so ludicrous that it almost seems to belong to another novel. It is obvious that the contrast betweent the dry factual passages and the sensational chapters involving Drood and the subtteranean London landscape serve to emphasise the two speheres of Dickens's existence. Unfortunately they are so poorly melded (unlike in "The Terror" where Simmons excels) that they jar and each makes the other seem ridiculous.

In short, if you want to know about the lives of these high victorian gentlemen, then the most worthwhile part of "Drood" is the bibliography of sources. If, on the other hand, you desire a great historical adventure story then read "The Terror" or indeed, Dickens himself.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly researched parody of a Victorian novel, 16 April 2012
By 
R. HOW "gymnophoria" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Drood (Mass Market Paperback)
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 quoting whole passages of original letters or text, like an overeager undergraduate student. But since he is supposedly writing in the voice of Wilkie Collins, he totally fails to even evoke the era, let alone emulate the literary style. He also throws in some howling anachronisms which show he really doesn't understand Victorian Britain at all, for example having a character describe a distance as "a few city blocks away". English cities don't *have* blocks!

Love some of your other books Dan, but I'm sorry, poor effort this time.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric chiller, 11 Dec 2009
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This review is from: Drood (Mass Market Paperback)
I loved this book - I wish it had been longer. It is interesting, well-written and fascinating blend of fact and fiction. The details of the main characters lives are fairly true to what we know, but the events surrounding 'Drood' are, obviously, fantasy. Simmon's blends the two aspects of the story with great skill. The book is surprising - sometimes it is subtle and sophisticated, other times it is incredibly lurid. I enjoyed every page and always looked forward to diving into the foggy atmosphere of the world created by Dan Simmons.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brood on drood...., 23 Jan 2010
This review is from: Drood (Mass Market Paperback)
Well, what a mixed bag of reviews! And in a strange way they are all right about 'Drood'. But if you are willing to immerse yourself in it and suspend your disbelief occasionally then you will thoroughly enjoy all 800 plus pages of this book as much as I did.
The book's faults pale into insignificance beside the sheer pleasure of reading, and sustaining my interest throughout is no mean feat on Simmons's part (I consider myself a fairly discerning reader - English graduate, former English teacher, librarian, blah-de-blah).
Part of me was dreading being disappointed by the book's denoument, but no - it was satisfying and moving. I read the bulk of this book over Christmas, and it has stayed with me since.
So, if you have any doubts about purchasing/reading - go on, plunge in and enjoy without guilt. You know you want to!
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Yet another pastiche..., 14 April 2009
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This review is from: Drood (Paperback)
Marginally better than The Last Dickens, this contains the funniest solecism I've come across recently: 'goose' shooting for 'grouse' shooting. It took me several minutes to realise that Dan Simmons hadn't heard of grouse and thought that goose would do. I don't know why publishers assume that we will tolerate Americans pretending to write English as if they were Victorians and doing it so badly. There are bits of good Wilkie Collins and even Dickens in this novel but they are all plagiarised from letters, memoirs and novels which are now out of copyright. There is almost no 'story' because there are hardly any developed characters, other than 'Dickens' and 'Collins', and considering the number of pages I've ploughed through that's quite a feat and totally un-Dickensian. The apparent 'plot' is simply nonsense. The research is poor and only in that marginally better than The Last Dickens which is just fanciful and full of errors of fact. Please, please learn the English for 'drapes' (curtains), 'sidewalk' (pavement - but he gets it right when he's copying), 'rubbers' (galoshes), 'gotten' (got, or obtained, but NEVER used in English) and the rest. Poor stuff.
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Drood
Drood by Dan Simmons (Paperback - 5 Mar 2009)
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