Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Drood… is the name and nightmare that obsesses Charles Dickens for the last five years of his life.
On June 9, 1865, Dickens and his mistress are secretly returning to London, when their express train hurtles over a gap in a trestle. All of the first-class carriages except the one carrying Dickens are smashed to bits in the valley below. When Dickens descends into that valley to confront the dead and dying, his life will be changed forever. And at the core of that ensuing five-year nightmare is…
Drood… the name that Dickens whispers to his friend Wilkie Collins. A laudanum addict and lesser novelist, Collins flouts Victorian sensibilities by living with one mistress while having a child with another, but he may be the only man on Earth with whom Dickens can share the secret of…
Drood. Increasingly obsessed with crypts, cemeteries, and the precise length of time it would take for a corpse to dissolve in a lime pit, Dickens ceases writing for four years and wanders the worst slums and catacombs of London at night while staging public readings during the day, gruesome readings that leave his audiences horrified. Finally he begins writing what would have been the world’s first great mystery masterpiece, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, only to be interrupted forever by…
First let me tell you that this book was a challenge to read, a real doorstop if I ever saw one. On the one hand it was about Dickens and 19th century London and it was written by Dan Simmons, an author who, so far, has disappointed me only once. On the other hand it was so long…almost as long as some of Dickens’s novels. Fortunately I liked the narrative voice of Wilkie Collins.
Wilkie was a hopeless laudanum, opium and morphine addict, a sufferer of rheumatic gout, a liar and a cheat. He had a mistress and then he took another one, a younger girl called Martha because no respectable man could do with only one lady. He was, in other words, your average Victorian. At one point of the narration he actually killed a puppy with his bare hands. Additionally, as an author he had, according to Mr. Simmons at least, a love-hate relationship with the great Charles Dickens, his close friend, colleague, confidante and editor. He had an invisible doppelganger called the Other Wilkie (drugs? Schizophrenia? Both?) His story was additionally spiced by a regular appearance of a certain individual called Drood. Or maybe Dread? Who knows? Let me present that individual by a short quote:
„Drood looked out at us.
I recognised at once the pale white skin, the brittle tufts of hair over the ravaged ears, the lidless eyes, the nose that was little more than two nictitating membranes above a hole in the skull, the long, twitching fingers, and the pale, constantly turning pupils.”
You want almost say: Lord Voldemort, meet your evil Victorian twin. Yes, evil – poor Voldy wouldn’t hold a candle to that one. For one thing Drood was half- Egyptian, how cool does it sound? For the other Drood could mesmerize his victim and make them do and believe in practically everything – far more efficient than those silly potions and incantation. He was completely bald. He had a band of bald followers. I bet they were tattooed too! ;p Small wonder I liked Drood or rather I liked reading about him.
If only the lengthy narration of my dear Wilkie didn’t meander as much, containing plenty of unnecessary info about his mistresses and Dickens mistresses, his family and Dickens family, his problems and Dickens problems…Drood somehow got drowned in all these scenes and I had to plod along, missing him and hoping that he would resurface soon. In such a thick book, unfortunately, it meant the next chance was about one hundred pages or so away…
Not enough Drood in Drood. If the novel was shorter it would be better but I still recommend it for those who like Victorians and their outstanding hypocrisy.
Other books by Dan Simmons reviewed on this site: