CriminOlly thinks: A wonderfully rich and absorbing mix of supernatural mystery and biography. 5/5
Drood is an absolutely fascinating book and a very ambitious one. Like Simmons’ The Terror it’s a vast period novel, that takes historical characters and blends in heavy doses of weirdness and pulpy adventure. At almost 800 pages it’s very long, but Simmons’ writing is skilful and it never drags or feels dull.
The book is narrated by author Wilkie Collins and largely revolves around his friendship/rivalry with Charles Dickens. Woven into all of this is the titular Drood, a mysterious figure who Dickens first meets at the site of a train crash and to whom he later introduces Collins. Drood reads like the villain from a Penny Dreadful – suspiciously foreign, devious and supported by an army of minions doing his bidding. He doesn’t get much screen time, but his presence infuses every page of the book, as Collins tries to work out who or what he is.
The book is filled with a huge amount of detail about the lives of Collins and Dickens, but somehow that never gets in the way of the central narrative. The mystery of Drodd keeps pulling the reader along. As with The Terror, the sense of place is spectacularly well done. Victorian London leaps from the page, and Simmons’s throws in graveyards and sewers as well as more respectable locations. It’s clearly a meticulously researched book and Simmons’ familiarity with his subjects makes for a book that is genuinely interesting as well as very entertaining.
Perhaps most notably of all, Collins is a brilliant narrator. His self-delusion is fascinating and lends a fantastic air to everything. It’s hard to know what is real and what isn’t and as the book progresses that sense grows. It really makes for a compelling and richly enjoyable read and one that I’ve kept mulling over after finishing it.
Title: Drood | Author: Dan Simmons | Publisher: Quercus | Pages: 775 | Publication date: 1st February 2009 | ISBN: 9781847249326 | Source: Gift
Sealed for one hundred and twenty-five years, Wilkie Collins’s scribbled words launch a feverish descent into the underbelly of Victorian London as he is dragged into Charles Dickens’s pursuit of a spectral figure known only as Drood.
Content Warnings: Racism, drug addiction