March 2023
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Review: Drood, Dan Simmons

From the back cover:

“On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, fifty-three-year-old Charles Dickens – at the height of his powers and popularity, the most famous and successful novelist in the world and perhaps in the history of the world – hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever.

Did Dickens begin living a dark double life after the accident?  Were his nightly forays into the worst slums of London and his deepending obsession with corpses, crypts, murder, opium dens, the use of lime pits to dissolve bodies, and a hidden subterranean London mere research … or something more terrifying?”

First off, I love fiction featuring my favorite authors.  Considering I don’t like to know much about their lives, that’s probably weird, but I find it gives me a bit of an attachment to them right before I start off, and there’s something about watching them live again that makes it all very enticing.  This is even more the case in the Victorian period because this is my absolute favorite point in literature and it just doesn’t get any better.  Even more exciting, this book is narrated by Wilkie Collins, who is sadly left off many curricula because I don’t think he’s enough of a “classic” for most teachers.  Regardless, I loved The Moonstone AND The Woman in White, so I was all set for this book, and it didn’t disappoint me.

I found the mystery really intriguing.  Obviously, there are no ghostlike guys named Drood walking around in actual London, but this works very well as a spooky, supernatural thriller which makes you wonder what parts are real and what parts are made up.  At one point, the novel moves seamlessly into a dream and had me going, “OMG!” until the author stepped back a bit and made just what was going on a little bit clearer.  I thought the plot was very well-crafted, especially for such a long book.  This one clocks in at 773 pages, which is much bigger than anything I’ve read in a while.  I will admit that I felt sort of bogged down by its length, but I think that’s more down to my anxiety towards slimming down my TBR pile than anything wrong with the book.

I really enjoyed the characterizations as well.  One can easily imagine poor Wilkie standing in the shadow of the mighty Charles Dickens, one of few brilliant authors to achieve greatness while alive, feeling sorry for himself while still admiring his talented friend.  I loved describing Dickens as “the Inimitable” and overall I felt that his fictional character here was about how I’d imagined him in my head.  Also fascinating were the descriptions of his readings.  I’d be really intrigued to know how close these depictions are to what really happened.  We must have accounts of them somewhere.  I think it would be truly amazing were he to be so active despite his advancing years.

This novel is just so huge that it’s very difficult to review!  I would certainly recommend it though.  It’s engrossing and a fabulous way to spend some time.  I’d particularly say that you should read it if you love 19th century fiction, though.

Buy Drood on Amazon.

A quick video of Dan Simmons discussing Drood:

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