AUTHOR: DAN SIMMONS
This was a very hefty, at times cumbersome, yet fascinating book.
This is the story of the last five years of Charles Dickens's life as told by his colleague and friend, Wilkie Collins. It starts with the train crash in Staplehurst, which Dickens miraculously survives, and goes on from there.
Wilkie Collins, being a user of ever increasing amounts of opium and later morphine as well, is a very unreliable narrator who suffers from paranoia and delusions.
When Dickens tells Collins about the rail crash, he also tells him about a mysterious and ghostly figure he encountered there, a creature called Drood who resembles Death both in appearance and in actions.
Initially Collins refuses to believe in the existance of this Drood, but that doesn't stop him from joining Dickens on a quest to find this shadowy figure and the two authors find themselves searching the Slums of Victorian London as well as its opium dens, catacombs and sewers.
When Collins starts believing in Drood, this belief takes over his life and his actions, but because his use of drugs is increasing at the same time the lines between our narrator,s realitiy and his hallucinations becomes increasingly unclear and his actions ever more driven by paranoia, eventually leading to murder.
Like I said, this book was fascinating. However there were a few things that rubbed me the wrong way.
To start with, the book was too long, and contained quite a few repetitions.
I didn't like the way the Collins, who wants this particular manuscript kept unpublished for over 100 years, keeps addressing his future reader, keeps on referring to what that future world might look like, yet seems to know too much about it.
I also found the long discussions of the works by both authors as well as comparisons between their stories getting somewhat tiresome after a while.
And considering the book is called DROOD, I would have expected this shadowy figure to play a more dominant role in the book. Instead he seems to hover in the background for the majority of the story.
However, I did enjoy reading about these two authors, their friendship, their writing and the world they lived in. I am convinced though that I would probably have enjoyed this book more if I had known more about Dickens and Collins and had been (more) familiar with their works.