Sealed for 125 years, a secret manuscript by Charles Dickens' friend and some-time collaborator Wilkie Collins, reveals the dark secret that obsessed both men - a secret that not only ended their long friendship, but also brought each writer to the very brink of murder. On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, ...
Sealed for 125 years, a secret manuscript by Charles Dickens' friend and some-time collaborator Wilkie Collins, reveals the dark secret that obsessed both men - a secret that not only ended their long friendship, but also brought each writer to the very brink of murder. On June 9, 1865, while traveling by train to London with his secret mistress, 53-year-old Charles Dickens - at the height of his powers and popularity - hurtled into a disaster that changed his life forever. His train jumped the rail and plummeted into the marsh below. Dickens assisted the maimed and dying but the experience shook him to the core. His personality visibly darkened, his famous public readings began to focus on the most violent scenes he'd ever written, especially the terrible murder of Nancy by Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist. The author acted out the murder, adding dialogue and gesture, screaming, begging, strangling and cutting. By night Dickens and Collins began stalking the underbelly of London, obsessed with corpses, catacombs, murders, lime pits, opium dens, disguises and serial killers. Research or something darker? Or perhaps Wilkie Collins - a laudanum addict with a seething, Salieri-esque jealousy of Dickens' success - had another agenda?
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It is hard to empathize with main character William Wilkie Collins in Dan Simmons ?Drood?. But that is the author?s point. Set in the mid-to-late 1800s in Victorian England, and told in an autobiographical style, this is a tale of envy, snobbery, and horror. Wilkie Collins was a colleague of Charles Dickens. He collaborated on plays, books and magazines with ?The Inimitable One?, and spent a great deal of social time with the world?s most famous author as well. But, according to this book, he was never accepted as an equal, (in Dickens? mind or the public?s). And there lies the rub. When you add opium addiction to the mix, (Collins), and mesmerism/hypnotism, (Dickens), you get an interesting dash through the fog.
The length of the book is an issue, (771 pages). The author takes a number of sidetracks. The haze of ?recreational? chemistry, (which was supposedly taken to cure Collins? gout), allows for a certain of amount of ambiguity. (Did he really see that apparition or not?) Collins? callousness and disregard for the servant class is evident throughout the story, (to the point of murder). Animal cruelty is taken as a given. In other words, if you are expecting a Dickens story you will be sadly disappointed. But the author has his own style, (and it would be a frustrating experience to try to compete with the original, which was, of course, the main problem for William Wilkie Collins).
At times, when our dynamic duo, (Collins and Dickens), find themselves wandering through cemeteries and crypts; you get a whiff of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. At other times it is more like Mozart and Salieri. In the story Collins has a love/hate relationship with Dickens. Dickens never fails to give his protégé the critical eye, and Collins gives it back, (and the very notion of calling Collins a student of Dickens was enough to send the storyteller for his laudanum bottle). There were times when Collins wanted Dickens dead, (which almost happened in the Staplehurst train wreck which Dickens barely escaped from).
But the main focus of this book is a mysterious murdering spectre with ancient Egyptian roots named Drood. Dickens? last unfinished work was, of course, ?The Mystery of Edwin Drood?. You will have to read the book yourself to get the connection. (Just allow yourself a lot of time).
Aug 26, 2010
Deliciously dark read.
Being a lover of Dickens and Collins, it was great to read a fiction about them. I really enjoyed the dark side of this book, murder, betrayal, jealousy, it had it all. If you enjoy the seamier side of 'Dickens London', you will love this. Dan Simmons descriptions of the poor and criminal classes are horrifying and, unfortunately for the people who experienced them, completely believable. Riveting.
Dec 26, 2009
The Best Book of 2009!
This tale, "penned" by Wilkie Collins, recounts the last few yers of Dickens' life. Like a newly discovered Sherlock Holmes story, the Drood manuscript has been withheld from publication until many years in the future so that the involved parties will have shuffled off the mortal coil. It starts with a train wreck, ends with the death of an author, and, in between, chronicles a descent into madness, drug abuse, jealousy, and paranoia that never fails to be compelling reading.
Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens were friends and frequent collaborators. Dan Simmons writes about that friendship and places the two men in a tale of mystery tinged with the supernatural. Drood is populated with characters taken from the lives and works of both men; many of the characters from The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Dicken's unfinished novel) have analogues in Drood.
In the opening chapters, Dickens and Collins are, to my eyes, parallels to Holmes and Watson. Dickens, the energetic, highly observant guide, takes long walks, makes Holmes-like deductions, and appears puzzled when Collins, overweight and suffering from gout, fails to be interested by these observations. As the story progresses, Collins becomes increasingly jealous over Dickens' success (Collins repeatedly writes that in the future Dickens's works will still be read but he dobuts his own will even be remembered). Dickens, as seen through Colllins eyes, also undergoes severe character changes as he boots his wife from his house and tries to be happy with his mistress.
Into this mix is added the seemingly supernatural character of Drood, a mysterious, gruesome man of the east, who is a master of mesmerism (more powerful than Dickens as Dickens himself mentions). Drood first appears in the novel's opening when Dickens survives a train wreck and meets the figure hovering over bodies like an embodiment of death. Drood places Dickens under a spell and Collins tries to understand what is happening to his friend.
Through over 800 pages of compelling prose, Simmons takes the reader to a secret London underworld, to opimum dens, to graveyards and to the London theater. Collins resorts to heavier doses of opium and ultimately, morphine injections, as he tries to comprehend who Drood is. Eventually he, too, becomes Drood's slave. As his dependence on the drug increases, so does his paranoia and he concludes that his only chance at freedom is to murder his friend, Charles Dickens.
I read this on my Kindle in a little over a week. My interest never flagged and there were times when I was completely shocked. In fact, when I finished Chapter 47, I lowered the Kindle and probably had a stunned look on my face because the person sitting next to me on the bus said, "What's the name of the book you're reading? I'm always looking for a story that will do that to me."
Some readers have complained about the ending, but I feel that it was exactly what the story required. Clues have been planted throughout and the ending does not seem forced or false. To say more would be to give it away. Trust me, it's worth the ride.
This is an excellent and fun read. Newcomers to the world of Dickens and Collins may next be driven to explore the works of those authors. Those familiar with Dickens will probably enjoy seeing the "source" of that author's characters and how they wind up in his books, especially in his last novel. And those who enjoy a good thriller and a story about love and friendship will not be disappointed.
Drood is highly, highly recommended.
Jun 21, 2009
Delightful for Dickens fans
Drood is dark, disturbing, and detailed to the extreme, but it is also an absolute delight for any lover of Dickens' writing. The accuracy of the biographical information on Charles Dickens was much appreciated, as well as some little known anecdotes that the author included. This book is an entryway into the seamy, drug-obsessed world of London in the 1800s, as well as an intricate look at Victorian society and values. A dreary tale, but a very interesting read.
May 28, 2009
A delightful book about books and quirky authors
Drood is one of those wonderful books about books, this one full of all sorts of real life literary characters as well as some wonderfully ghoulish characters roaming the streets of a foggy, creepy nineteenth century London. Listening to this audio was fun, but something tells me this would be even better to curl up with as a real book on some cold and rainy day, escaping into it's pages and getting swept up in the mystery and adventure. It reminded me in many ways of the highly enjoyable The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon with it's own wonderful story of books and sketchy characters.
Publishers Weekly, 2008-11-24 Bestseller Simmons (The Terror) brilliantly imagines a terrifying sequence of events as the inspiration for Dickens's last, uncompleted novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, in this unsettling and complex thriller. In the course of narrowly escaping death in an 1865 train wreck and trying to rescue fellow passengers, Dickens encounters a ghoulish figure named Drood, who had apparently been traveling in a coffin. Along with his real-life novelist friend Wilkie Collins, who narrates the tale, Dickens pursues the elusive Drood, an effort that leads the pair to a nightmarish world beneath London's streets. Collins begins to wonder whether the object of their quest, if indeed the man exists, is merely a cover for his colleague's own murderous inclinations. Despite the book's length, readers will race through the pages, drawn by the intricate plot and the proliferation of intriguing psychological puzzles, which will remind many of the work of Charles Palliser and Michael Cox. 4-city author tour. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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