Dan Simmons: Drood A Novel

by Rachel Baker on January 3, 2009

I’ve been working on completing the book Drood by Dan Simmons.  I’ve never read any of Dan Simmons’ books, but I’ve been completely engrossed in Drood.  The narrator of this story is Wilkie Collins.  The storytelling technique is a very candid account to future readers written in 1865 of the last five years of Charles Dickens’ life after a train crash.  In some ways, this book is a very long (773 pages) engaging letter not to be published until a few hundred years after the narrators death.  Wilkie Collins is an intimate friend (remember back in 1865 the connotation of intimate friend is different) of Charles Dickens; they are both authors and Wilkie writes for Dickens’ magazine on a regular basis.

More than this, Wilkie appears to be the person Dickens’ want around for his adventures in debauchery. I have been intrigued by their relationship.  Interestingly, Wilkie does not want to shed Dickens’ in a less than desirable light, but he will be very frank about Dickens’ propensity for exaggerating the truth of actually events, and then defend Dickens by reminding the reader of Dickens’ popularity and genius in storytelling.  Throughout the story, we find complete contradictions in the man Dickens’.  In the first seven pages we find out Dickens was just awful to his wife, and Wilkie writes “All this from the man who epitomized, not just for England but for the world, the image of “the happy home.”  This is the first of the major contradictions.  Wilkie, throughout Drood, appears to place Charles Dickens on a pedestal, though not blindly, idolizing him despite his awareness of Dickens’ imperfections and contradictions.  I actually find this one of the most interesting aspects of this book.

The second aspect of Drood I find compelling is the ongoing and increased use of laudanum by Wilkie.  Laudanum is a mixture of ethanol alcohol and opium.  Apparently, its been used medicinally since the 16th century.  Here’s the interesting correlation with Drood:  I can’t help but wonder as I read this book, if maybe this WHOLE story is one prolonged laudanum-induced hallucination by Wilkie. There seems to be a pattern developing in level of bizarre when Wilkie is enjoying a laudanum trip or coming down from one.  I will have to keep you posted on this one.

The last aspect I’m keeping track of in Drood is the historical elements. Simmons has done a great job of explaining the conditions of late 1800s London and the surrounding areas.  I have found myself thinking maybe I could pick up a couple of Dickens’ novels and read them with more understanding of the times.

I haven’t finished Drood by Dan Simmons yet, but I hope to in the next week.  Its very long and there’s a great deal of detail in the book.  I find I spend a great amount of time actually absorbing and pondering the details rather than just breezing through the book as I would some others of this length.  Thus far, the book is extremely well written and wonderfully engaging; though it may be a bit much for some readers who don’t enjoy getting lost in detail.

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