Monthly Archives: July 2010

You Said It…

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat. “We’re all mad here.”
                                                                   -Lewis Carroll

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Haunting, yet Cumbersome: Drood by Dan Simmons

Mystery? Check. Intrigue? Check. The Occult? Check. Vivid, haunting imagery? Check.

Drood, a 700+ novel by Dan Simmons, explores the last years of the life of Charles Dickens as seen through the eyes of Dickens’ Saliari-esque friend and the narrator of our journey, Wilkie Collins. Dickens, increasingly tormented by a train accident that smashed all but his car into a ravine, drags Collins into the Undertown of late 19th century London where vividly described and chillingly concocted ghost stories abound. Dickens seeks the mysterious figure called “Drood,” who, according to some, is a mass murderer and a leader of an ancient Egyptian occult religion, or, according to others, is simply a local legend. However, bald, snake-like, eyelid-less and with the ability to seemingly manipulate the lives of all, Drood certainly is a mysterious figure who the reader cannot wait to unravel.

Simmons does an impeccable job of not only capturing the voice of Wilkie Collins, but of also capturing the spirit of late 19th century London. The novel truly grabs hold of all of our senses, and parts of Drood unsettled me (in a good way) so much I had to sleep with the light on.

The real mystery, however, is why Dan Simmons had to include every detail of gossip, every minute bit of information he collected while researching in his attempt to tell the story of Charles Dickens’ last years. This 700+ page tomb could (and certainly should) be shortened into a much more digestible and more lively version of this effort. Of course, Mr. Simmons, we appreciate your efforts of dedication to reality and your immaculate attention to detail. But for the sake of your audience, we could do without the vapid tributes to the 19th century gossip columns.

There is an excellently written ghost story hidden inside Simmons’ book, for those brave enough to slosh through the rest.

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