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  • Drood
  • Customer reviews

on 28 June 2015
This book took me very long time to finish. Partly my fault for reading a set of short stories at the same time but mostly the fault of the episodic narrative of Drood. Simmons tales the tale through Wilkie Collins laudanum influenced eyes and voice of his relationship with Charles Dickens, in particular the last five years of Dickens life, after his rail crash. I found it very hard to to empathise or like any of the characters. Collins is a murderer, self obsessed, full of jealousy and generally repugnant. Dickens seems to think he is the center of the universe but how much this is Collins distorted view or has basis in reality I have no idea. Dan Simmons is one of my favourite writers. I love Carrion Comfort and Illium, and The Terror is one of my all time favourites. His research is always impeccable and this is still the case with Drood. However I think he may have been better off writing a biography of Dickens or some sort of criticism. Drood clocks in at 771 pages on my iPad and he could have easily condensed that to 400 or even 350 pages. Not a book for first time readers of Simmons and full of problems but just enough skill for me to give it 4 stars but only just.
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on 25 September 2015
I started reading the Italian translation of Drood when I soon realised that it was "really" written by Wilkie Collins, at least the author wonderfully managed to use his style. So I stopped reading it until I found the original version.
The fact that someone in 2009 still used the mid-eighteen hundreds British English is really amazing, more amazing if that was done by an American writer.

"It saddens me, Dear Reader, that no one in your future generation will have heard or seen Charles Dickens read. There are experiments in my time as I write this with recording voices on various cylinders almost as photographers capture images of a person on film plates. But all this has come after Charles Dickens's death. No one in your day will ever hear his thin, slightly lisping voice or - since to my knowledge none of his talks were ever captured on daguerreotype or other photographic devices (and since such forms of photography available in Dickens's day were too slow to record any person in even the slightest motion anyway, and Dickens was always in motion) - see the strange change that came over the Inimitable and his audiences during these performances.
His readings were unique in our day and - I would venture the opinion - will never be equalled or adequately imitated in yours (if authors still write books at all in this future you inhabit)."
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 December 2015
It's been some years since I read this book, but it's still one of those that I remember quite well because I liked the story so much. The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens was never finished and this book tells about how Charles Dickens become obsessed with the mysterious being called Drood. It's a thick book, but well-written and fascinating to read. Simmons capture the atmosphere of the late 1900-centery very well. The story is dark and mysterious and keeps you captivated.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 7 March 2010
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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on 28 May 2017
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on 12 September 2014
very clever, excellent
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VINE VOICEon 14 March 2010
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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on 24 March 2017
WOW! What an incredible journey!

Like I said in one of my progress updates, this is not just a novel about the character Drood. But it feels as though this is a biography of Wilkie Collins's life from 1865 - 1870. Yes, there are numerous parts that are set before and after these dates, but the main story is set over these 5 years. And they are very eventful.

My favourite thing about this novel is that when I was reading it, I was in London. I was at Glad's Hill Place. I was in Undertown. I can recall these locations as vividly as if I had watched on TV. The amount of detail that has been put into this novel is its main strength. It feels like everything that Wilkie is telling me, is exactly how it happened. It is 100% believable!

Once again, Simmons has developed these characters brilliantly, just as he has done so many times in his other works. You could say that the character development in Drood is possibly the strongest of all, as the characters in this novel were real people. And to adapt these well known figures like Dickens and Wilkie so perfectly is truly astonishing.

I cannot think of anything negative to say about this novel. But I have given it 4*. The reason for this is because although I enjoyed this very much, and will remember it for a very long time, I did not enjoy it as much as the other 5* books of Dan's such as the books in the Hyperion Cantos and Summer of Night. I think putting Drood as the same rating as I gave The Terror is fair. Like I say, I enjoyed Drood very much and thoroughly recommend it to anyone. But if I did have to justify why I dropped a star rating, I would probably put it down to my greed of wanting more appearances of Drood. But that is just my greed. As Wilkie even said, "All you are here for is Dickens and Drood, Drood and Dickens".

Overall, Drood is brilliant. The plot, the detail, the characters and the storytelling is by far some of the best that I have ever read. Not that I didn't expect this to be the case before reading it.

An incredibly strong 4/5.
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on 27 May 2017
Drood is an ambitious read, ponderous but often rewarding. As can be expected from a historical novel, it labours too hard to fit in factual details about its real-life characters, but that's not to say that it's dry or textbook-like. Indeed, Simmons imbues all his characters, however incidental or key, with rich personalities, foibles and even speech patterns. This keeps it engaging, even as narrator Wilkie Collins navigates its overlong duration with irrelevant tangents and opium-fuelled red-herrings.

Collins is a main character, though he vies tangibly with Charles Dickens for his role as the book's lead as well as that of England's eminent writer (one of several clever parallels that are presented in the book). He's an unreliable narrator though, and Simmons offers no easy way of understanding what scenes in the novel are laudanum nightmares, hypnotic visions or true occurrences. This makes for some fantastic scenes, including a grotesque journey through London slums to 'Undertown', a compromised Dickens live reading and a skin-crawling rendezvous with a scarab, but it makes the book somewhat disconnected. Which is no doubt the author's intention.

It's the moments horror that are most memorable throughout the story - Simmons has always been a capable writer in the genre. The terrors of the book are all the more effective as other explicit content - sex and profanity - are consciously avoided as they would have been by the author Collins himself. The juxtaposition of vintage and modern styles is well handled, though not without its drawbacks - it inherits its bloated length from its more old-fashioned mode of description.

A flawed but admirable tome, Drood could have been improved by some significant trimming. But to do so would have removed something of its effect; something of disorientating, gruelling, muddling appeal. At points it feels like the most gothic book ever penned,at others it feels frustratingly inaccessible. But it's the work of a writer with enviable skills, and invites further research and ruminations.
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on 9 November 2015
A very strange book indeed. One that some people will find fulfilling but others will give up on well before the end of a book that runs to almost 800 pages. History, literature, the supernatural, opium addiction, Victorian London are all depicted at length as the story follows the relationship of writers Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins.

But nothing is what it seems in a rolling narrative that I thoroughly enjoyed. It gives an excellent insight into both writers, although you are never quite sure how much is fact and how much is fiction. The story is written by Collins. Some readers will find it confusing that most of it is written through a drug induced haze, so you are never quite sure what is reality and what is dream induced nightmare. Put simply the story follows the relationship of the two after Dickens suffers a near death experience in a train crash which leaves him mentally scarred.

In the aftermath of the crash he meets the mysterious Drood and much of the book involves Dickens and Collins' relationship with this creature. To go any further would give the plot away too much. Considerable chapters in the book are given over to the relationship between the two writers and their decline from various ailments - some of which are self induced. It is unusual for an American writer to focus so closely on London but Simmons has done a good job. I still reckon, however, that after reading 50 pages of this you will have to make a conscious decision as to whether to stay the trip or not.
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