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Drood by Dan Simmons

Drood (edition 2010)

by Dan Simmons

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2,6731443,785 (3.49)1 / 248
Based on the historical details of Charles Dickens' life, "Drood" explores the still-unsolved mysteries of the famous author's last years and may provide the key to his final, unfinished work: "The Mystery of Edwin Drood".
Authors:Dan Simmons
Info:Back Bay Books (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 800 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:60 Book Challenge 2013

Work details

Drood by Dan Simmons

  1. 40
    The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (Jannes, amweb)
    Jannes: For obvious reasons. If you enjoyed Drood you might as well give it a try.
  2. 30
    What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper by Paula Marantz Cohen (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Both are Gothic 'gaslight' thrillers featuring famous authors as protagonists. Drood is a macabre story of what ostensibly inspired Dickens to write his last unfinished novella (according to his ever-unreliable friend Wilkie Collins). What Alice Knew features the James siblings (psychologist William, author Henry and their invalid sister) as they attempt to puzzle out who is responsible for the Ripper murders.… (more)
  3. 41
    The Alienist by Caleb Carr (bnbookgirl)
  4. 31
    The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox (shellibrary)
    shellibrary: This book has a very similar atmosphere and feel.
  5. 20
    The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl (suzecate)
    suzecate: They're historical mystery/thriller set in Victorian England and involving Charles Dickens.
  6. 10
    Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (Reysbro)
    Reysbro: Down below London...a fantasy tale taking place in London's Underworld / Undertown. Similar to the beginning of Drood with the descent beneath London's streets.
  7. 00
    The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens (Cecrow)
  8. 00
    The Quincunx by Charles Palliser (SheReadsNovels)
    SheReadsNovels: This book is also set in the 19th century and written in the style of Charles Dickens or Wilkie Collins.
  9. 11
    The Queen of Bedlam by Robert McCammon (Scottneumann)
  10. 11
    Mister Slaughter by Robert R. McCammon (Scottneumann)
  11. 01
    The Crook Factory by Dan Simmons (Runkst)
    Runkst: In both books, Simmons fictionalizes a famous writer and fits his story around the historical facts. (Drood: Charles Dickens, The Crook Factory: Ernest Hemingway)
  12. 01
    Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon (Scottneumann)
  13. 01
    The D. Case: Or The Truth About The Mystery Of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens (ehines)

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English (139)  French (3)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (145)
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
This is an ambitious book, even by Simmons' standard - indeed, probably by anyone's standard. Like most books that try to acheive so much, it is flawed, but by setting the sights to such a long range Simmons fires his book so far ahead of the majority of perfectly realised but narrowly circumscribed books that he can be forgiven for not quite hitting the target. So what was he aiming for and how close did he get?

Drood is written as if it is a memoir written by Wilkie Collins and then sealed until after his death. The memoir deals with strange events in the lives of himself and Charles Dickens, during Dickens' last five or so years of life. These events are connected to the mysterious Drood, who shares a name with the titular character of Dickens' unfinished final novel. The memoir attempts to keep to the known history of the period and of Collins and Dickens. It also attempts to mimic the "sensational" style of story told by Collins in his novels, plays and stories. The book is a mystery - just as Collins' pioneering The Moonstone is - and also a study in character creation. It's a historical novel and a supernatural story, too, and an examination of creative rivalry, friendship, hatred, madness and the works of Collins and Dickens.

Starting with the failures, Simmons sometimes uses words or phrases that are anachronistic or foreign: "Gotten" appears once - I think this had faded from use in Britain before the 1850s, though it appeared in Defoe's Moll Flanders in the previous century. "London Times" appears once, though "The Times" is used in every other instance - I blame the editor, who should have spotted the inconsistency. "Drapes" and "sidewalk" haven't appeared in any genuine Victorian fiction I've read and I doubt anybody used the phrase "city blocks" either but the worst, most horrible, glaring offence against accurate usage of the place and period is when Simmons mistakes Britain for England and thereby makes Sir Walter Scott English. Harumph! This occurs very early on and it sensitised me to the whole issue of accurate usage which didn't help Simmons' cause. Now Simmons is an American, so the audacity required to attempt to write a book not merely from the perspective of a Briton, but a Victorian Briton, too, is enormous and he gets it right far more than he gets it wrong but still, the errors stand out to a British reader: I would love it if the author would introduce a second edition of the novel that corrects these distracting errors.

An issue that many might consider a theme of Simmons' writing is, in my view, becoming a liability; this is Simmons' urge to pass off literary criticism as fiction in his books. It's not entirely absent from any of the Simmons books I've read (approx. 10) and in some cases it becomes a bore and throws one out of the story altogether. Usually this lit. crit. is put convincingly in the voice of characters but in some cases it descends into obvious authorial voice opinion expression seated unnaturally in dialogue passages or reveries. In this case, there is one passage about Dickens' Our Mutual Friend that really should have been saved for the lecture theatre. I am also developing something of a feeling that Simmons might not be celebrating literature so much as showing off about how well-read he is. Some of your readers have read some famous books, too, you know, Dan! That said, Simmons books do usually leave me with an urge to read one or more of the authors he has been discussing (unless it's Proust, in which case he just makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs and never go near a copy of any of his works).

The central mystery of Drood is pretty mysterious but I was disappointed to find that I was fairly close to being correct when the revelation finally came. There were also periods when the book became a little dull as nothing apparently relating to this central mystery seemed to be occurring.

So that was the bad: here's the don't knows: Simmons obviously wished to write believably as if Collins was the author, i.e. to mimic his style and I cannot judge how successful he was in this, apart from the general slip-ups mentioned above; nor do I know how historically accurate the verifiable events are. I also do not know if his depictions of the historically real characters correspond with opinion expressed at the time.

Moving on to the successes:
The "sensational" passages of the story are truely delightful; the early scene of the train crash and the first visit to Undertown are excellent and a number of other scenes stand out. (Wilkie vs. The Entity is another personal favourite.)

The characterisation is excellently realised - Collins and Dickens are as real seeming, complex and believable as any denizens of the pages of novels. The relationship brings to mind that of Salieri and Mozart and shows how it is possible to both love and hate a friend at the same time - this is a real triumph of the novel, as is the depiction of a man slowly going insane (or possibly just more insane) without properly understanding why or even fully recognising that it is happening.

A favourite aspect of the book for me is that the explanation of the central mystery (i.e. Drood) does not actually explain all of the weird occurances in the book. The reader is left to figure out some of them from clues in the book and still others one has to make a determination about without much evidence one way or another as to the solution. I have my own theory and I'll keep it to myself so as to keep the spoilers down to the trivial level.

My feeling is that this book is worth the time (and effort on occassion) for anybody who was able to enjoy Simmons' most famous SF novels and who also reads widely beyond that single genre - I suspect that if you know the works of Dickens and Collins you will gain more from it in some ways than I did. The imperfections are irritating but, coming full circle, few books this ambitious are without some and they are not so deep as to undermine the book in its entirety.

Some final thoughts: Salieri and Mozart is an obvious comparison, so is Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman; but the latter has completely different aims and is, astonishingly, far less ambitious and far more nearly perfect. ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
A struggle to finish.

In fairness, some of that is on me - I hate Dickens and I've never read anything by Wilkie Collins, the apparent narrator. The fictional versions of both men were deeply unpleasant (maybe the real versions were too, idk), the confusion about what was real and what was a drug-induced hallucination was tiresome, the reveal was underwhelming, and the whole thing was several hundred pages longer than it needed to be. ( )
  a-shelf-apart | May 4, 2020 |
"I did what any writer would do in such an emergency: I drank more laudanum, took my nightly injections of morphine, drank more wine, bedded Martha more frequently, and began a new novel."

It is finally over. I honestly do not know the last time I was this relieved to reach the final page of a book - this has tested even my motto to always finish a book I've started. But I did it. Somehow.

Truly, I expected this to be good. Not only is Guillermo del Toro interested in making it into a movie, but Simmons' Carrion Comfort was not only one of the best books I read in 2018, it's definitely one of the best books I've read... ever. But this.... this was a disappointment. I think it might've been an okay story if it was 300 pages or so less, because honestly.... it's Wilkie Collins rambling for about 400 pages and barely 100 pages of, y'know, action and things actually happening. What seems like an attempt to set a certain mood and setting only caused agony; rather than feeling like I could picture each scene in my head... I just wanted it to stop.

Perhaps what will haunt me the most is just how unlikable Wilkie Collins is. I'm not necessarily a believer that main characters, or narrators, must be good or liked but... Wilkie is the most hypocritical, boring and awful character in a long time - perhaps partly because there is absolutely nothing to counter it. The irony behind a lot of his rambles is noticeable but does little to change this. In all honesty, this made me feel like I never want to read a Wilkie Collins book, let alone hear his name ever again.

I think it's most disappointing because the story could have been so good. The premise is exciting and mysterious in a way that makes you want to read it, but once you start reading.... I'll give Simmons this though; he did a swell job at nailing the historical aspect of it. Wilkie's narrative often made me forget that the book isn't actually written by an English snob in the late 1800s. For better or worse.

I read this so y'all don't have to. Please don't. It's not worth it. I'll be happy to summarise it for anyone interested in the main story. Read Carrion Comfort instead. Thank you. ( )
  autisticluke | Nov 14, 2019 |
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. ( )
  MaraBlaise | May 19, 2019 |
"His imagination was always more real than the reality of daily life."

Drood commences on June 9th 1865 when Charles Dickens, at the pinnacle of his writing career, was making his way to London with his mistress when the train that they are travelling on becomes derailed. Dickens is uninjured and goes to the aid of the crash's survivors in the process spotting another mysterious character apparently giving succour to the victims, Drood.

Recalling the meeting to Collins Dickens describes Drood as “ cadaverously thin, almost shockingly pale, and stared at the writer from dark-shadowed eyes set deep under a pale, high brow that melded into a pale, bald scalp. A few strands of graying hair lept out from the sides of this skull-like visage.” The creature has virtually no nose, only “mere slits opening into the grub-white visage” and “small, sharp, irregular teeth, set too far apart, set into guns so pale they were whiter than the teeth themselves.”

Dickens becomes obsessed with Drood imagining him as a ghoulish ruler of London’s subterranean city populated by society’s poorest and most abject citizens, Undertown, with legions of minions. Such is Dickens’ obsession with Drood that he takes soon Collins into this subterranean cess pool visiting heroin dens to meet it's overlord. In turn Collins also becomes obsessed with this malevolent character but does he actually exist?

Collins’ obsession with Drood becomes intertwined with his obsession with Dickens as the two former friends become gradually estranged due to Dickens growing success and Collins’ resentment of his friend’s achievements coupled with his self-administration of ever larger doses of laudanum. This in itself creates a problem for the reader, one can never be sure if any of the events within are real or imagined by either man.

This is a pretty hefty tome (my copy was 775 pages long) and despite taking its title from the last, and unfinished, of Dickens’ novels, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, this is not intended to be seen as Dickensian. Instead it is devised as a mixture of literary biography, detective story, and posthumous memoir written by the author Wilkie Collins to a "Dear Reader" about his literary and personal contacts with his friend, collaborator and rival Charles Dickens only to be released 125 years after his death.

Simmons is a new author to me and as I was given this book I wanted to like it, the concept seemed to be a fairly original one, the real facts far enough in to the past to allow a little tinkering. However, it just didn't work for me. There are some very good set piece elements. The initial crash scene was pretty scary whilst the first descent into Undertown made my flesh crawl. I also enjoyed some of the literary oneupmanship between the two great authors but overall felt that far too many elements of the book were just muddled and repetitive. Did Drood actually exist? Did any of the events actually happen or were they merely the result of mesmeric suggestions fuelled by opium and a hyperactive imagination? None of these questions are answered, its left the reader to decide.

Overall I felt that the book was just far too long with some parts repeated almost to ad nauseum but ultimately my biggest issue with this book was with the two main characters. The fact that we only see Dickens through Collins's drug addled mind certainly doesn't help but quite frankly I found both Dickens and in particular Collins to be little more than two conceited crushing bores. Whilst this would not put me off reading another of the author's works it also wouldn't have me rushing to the nearest bookshop either. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Apr 20, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 139 (next | show all)
Se documentant énormément, lisant et relisant les œuvres des deux auteurs anglais, Simmons avoue s'être immergé dans son sujet jusqu'à ressentir le lien douloureux qui unissait les deux écrivains. Drood serait-il le roman le plus personnel de son auteur ? Lorsqu'on lui pose la question, Dan Simmons reste silencieux un long moment puis finit par acquiescer. Avec une lueur de fierté dans le regard.
L’essentiel ne tient pas à l’enquête à la Sherlock Holmes sur Drood, avec un passage gratiné où les quinquagénaires Dickens et Collins traînent leurs guêtres dans un semblant d’Achéron nauséabond et où le second s’endort malgré tout. L’enjeu du livre passe par la voix nasillarde et risible de Collins, celle de l’auteur détruite par le laudanum et les visions, celle de l’envieux devant le génial. L’histoire fourmille de détails, le ton tient de l’époque. Et Drood force Dickens, comme Salieri Mozart, à lui écrire un roman. Drood, comme une métaphore du démon de l’écrivain.
"Despite the odd mistake that only an American could make (describing Sir Walter Scott as “an English writer”, for instance), Simmons has taken great pains to make his backdrop of everyday Victorian life convincing. This is a rich and strange book, and the pages fly by."
"Drood, though trying the reader's patience (never mind credulity) in sight of its 800th page, wears its research lightly and is written with genuine verve."
added by bookfitz | editThe Guardian, DJ Taylor (Mar 21, 2009)
Simmons's novel is a long, overweight gothic fantasy, stuffed with the fruits of its author's research. The fictional Dickens, Collins and their world do not quite correspond with historical reality. But the story has a manic energy that compels shock and awe, if not belief. The closer it comes to fantasy, the better it becomes.
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"What brought good Wilkie's genius nigh perdition? Some demon whispered - 'Wilkie! Have a mission.' " - A.C. Swinburne, Fortnightly Review, Nov., 1889
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My name is Wilkie Collins, and my guess, since I plan to delay publication of this document for at least a century and a quarter beyond the date of my demise, is that you do not recognise my name.
"Drood levitated."
All those thousands upon thousands of days and nights of writing--writing through unspeakable pain and intolerable loneliness and in utter dread--and you...Reader...have not read or been in the audience for any one of them.

To hell with it. To hell with you.
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Based on the historical details of Charles Dickens' life, "Drood" explores the still-unsolved mysteries of the famous author's last years and may provide the key to his final, unfinished work: "The Mystery of Edwin Drood".

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