29 January, 2010

Review: Drood by Dan Simmons

In the Weekly Roundup issue #40 I posted about Drood (2009) [US] [UK] by Dan Simmons who is a very versatile writer.
From Drood (about Charles Dickens) to Terror (2007) [US] [UK] (about the Sir John Franklin expedition to discover the Northwest Passage) to Hyperion (1989) [US] [UK] (a masterful work of science fiction, read Alec's review), Mr. Simmons has produced a wide range of titles. I read and liked Terror and Hyperion is on my shelf - unread. So I added Drood to my Final Reads in 2009 but I failed to read. New year, new month, new opportunity. I managed to read Drood in January 2010 and I didn't regret.
This is definitely one of my top reads in 2010! Even it is the first book I read this year! Why? Read my review....

The Setup

The last five years in the life of Britain's famous novelist Charles Dickens narrated through the eyes of his friend and collaborator Wilkie Collins.

My Take in Brief

What a book! 771 pages to narrate five years. Too much?
With Drood Dan Simmons presents an opus which eludes any unequivocal categorization.
It is an inimitable - which is also used as a description of Dickens, please forgive the pun - mix of a portrait of Victorian culture, manners and morals, mystery, gothic traces, partial biography of two men, history, drama, travelogue, relationship study, friendship and drug experience.

Brilliant researched from Staplehurst Train Desaster via the oeuvre of Dickens and Wilkie to the events, places and persons appearing in Drood and reinterpreted, the reader is offered a deep insight to the psyche of Collins and Dickens as well as an insight to the moral vision of the 19th century.

The title of Simmons' book is based on Dickens' final but unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood (reissued 2009) [US] [UK] (more details about this novel).

By using Wilkie Collins as the narrator of the novel Dan Simmons unfurls a carpet of emotions in which the reader can lascivious wallow. Like the inimitable Charles Dickens the author is more than able to to enwrap a skeleton of facts with bulging literary flesh. With the recurrent use of the direct approach in form of "dear reader" Simmons forces the reader to reflect manners and morals. If you engage in, you will boost your reading pleasure. Even if you know the inevitably end - the death of Dickens and Collins - Dan Simmons is able to twist and turn the story in new directions.
"That moment was the end of my life as I had known it." [p. 425]
In doing so Wilkie Collins' drug consumption is not insubstantial. I don't talk about the omnipresent alcohol. It is laudanum. Let Wilkie explain what is laudanum:
"Laudanum is simply tincture of opium distilled in alcohol." [p. 44]
But don't get me wrong. This is no drug story. It is a novel where you can bath your mind without getting drug addicted.

Extraordinary, pervaded by the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe, a lascivious bath for the intellect, in a prose which at any time keep up with the content. A story which takes along the reader, keeps him/her in a state of suspense and excercises the mind.
"Wilkie, do you know Edgar Allan Poe?" "No," I said. [p.101]
Do you know Drood? No? Then it is high time to read it! Highly, highly recommended.

Bona Fide's Book Oracle

What is Bona Fide's Book Oracle? To keep it short. It is a palaver about the reviewed book held by ediFanoB and his alter ego Bona Fide. And I am the keeper of the minutes. Now read my minutes.

Bona[singing]: "One pill makes you larger, And one pill makes you small, And the ones that mother gives you, Don't do anything at all..." Fide: "Gosh! Stop singing this narcotic song!" Bona: "Do you really think somebody cares?" Fide: "No, with the first note leaving your mouth everybody will run away instantly!" Bona[giggle]: "Hey my fans in front of the screen when you want to enjoy this song then click here." Fide: "Do you get any money for this stuff?" Bona: "Yes, every time when I stop singing." Fide: "Come on. Let's slobber about Drood." Bona: "I'm in the mood to talk about Drood but shoot me in the food." Fide: "Bastard! You shared something with Wilkie Collins."
"One for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to get ready,
And four to GO!"[Source]
Fide: "I will kill him! He did it again. You don't need laudanum. And you know what will happen again!" Bona: "Yyyyyeeess, yyesss. Noooooooo, I don't want it again."
"One, two, Drood's coming for you
Three, four, better lock your door
Five, six, grab your crucifix
Seven, eight, gonna stay up late
Nine, ten, never sleep again!" [Source, slightly modified]
Bona: "Please, please help me! You learned it from Dickens! Mesmerize me!" Fide: "Will do! Sit down, relax and follow my finger. Left.....Right......Left....Right....and now close your eyes and tell me your opinion about Drood." Bona[talking monotonously]: "Awesome, stunning, gorgeous,splendid.." Fide: Stop! Stop! Be more precise. Tell me what you didn't like." Bona: "It was such a short but still amusing story. I don't think that Wilkie Collins is a reliable narrator." Fide: "How can a 771 page novel be short?" Bona: "Extraordinary books should never end..." Fide: "Dream on. I want to read more than one book in my life." Bona: "I love Victorian era. I love London. I like to dive into the psyche of people. I love mysteries. I love history. And I got all in just one book!" Fide: "Hmm, did I something wrong by mesmerizing Bona? No! definitely no! Only a few pages and Wilkie Collins er, er, er, Dan Simmons had got me on the hook. Absolutely splendid book." Bona: "I'm so tired. Let me sleep..." Fide: " Sleep well my friend. Next time we will force our doppelgänger to sobber. And now it's your turn keeper of the minute. I fall silent now. ...."
I'm the keeper of the minutes. Drugs and mesmerizing means nothing to me. But I'm a fervent lover of history.
Let me form an equation:
Loaded Victorian Weapon = Drood.
Wilkie: "I assume that the general idea is to aim the end with the opening at one's target and pull the trigger." [p. 100] = Put the book in front of your opened eyes. Open it and you will be hit immediately by the content.

More Dan Simmons

For more information about the author you can use following links: Dan Simmons official website,

Origin of the copy

I bought the copy of Drood which I read and used for this review.


Michelle Stockard Miller said...

Thanks for the great review! I have purchased this book and I have it on my list to read this year.

Yagiz [Between Two Books] said...

Thanks for the review... So many good books but so little time...

ediFanoB said...

thanks for the kind words. I know a lot of people hesitate to read it due to the large number of pages. I hope you enjoy Drood as much as I did. Let me know what you think about it.

ediFanoB said...

that is the burden we all have to cope with. But as I wrote Drood is several books in one...

Legolas said...

What a pleasure to read your review.
I love Bona and Fide- they light up my day.

Dave said...

Looks like quite a book! If I see it somewhere I might pick it up and learn a bit of history...!

ediFanoB said...

there is ediFanoB, Bona Fide, Bona and Fide, the keeper of the minutes and there am I. We all share one body and one brain :-) You may understand now where my sometimes strange behavior comes from ;-).
Anyhow on behalf of the mentioned beings I want to say thank you for your kind words. Even as we know that neither Bona nor Fide can't deal with compliments.

ediFanoB said...

from my point of view the book is splendid.
But I also read comments from people who find totally boring.
That means the only way to find out whether you like it or not is to read it by yourself :)

You can buy for 8.74 EUR (VAT included, which you have to pay in Germany) at Book Depository UK.

Bryce L. said...

Haha, "every time I stop singing" - classic.

Thanks for the review, chalk another one up to the TBR pile.

ediFanoB said...

glad you liked it. You know not every one is gifted with a singing voice :))

Unknown said...

Very nice review. This is definitely one I need to read some time, hopefully soon. Have you read The Terror by any chance? That's another Simmons novel, quite lengthy, that sounds promising. The dude can write a good yarn, I'll give him that.