Saturday, May 01, 2010

Book A Week: Drood By Dan Simons

I read. Voraciously. Every night. Throughout the day. Cindy loathes the piles of books and printouts that  accumulate around my side of the bedroom. When the insomnia is bad, I can tear through two novels a week. And I usually keep at least half a dozen books at arms length. So I figured I'd write about one book each week, then stick it in storage.

Dan Simmons is one of my favorite authors. I honestly idolize the guy. He was a teacher who dipped his toes into the fiction pool and out-of-nowhere produced some of the most amazing stories I've ever read. Song Of Kali, Carrion Comfort, and Children Of The Night were staggering master pieces of Horror. Then came The Hyperion Cantos, which brought Chaucer's Canterbury Tales into the realm of Science Fiction. And now he has given us another brilliant break-out novel: Drood.

At its core, Drood centers on the long-time friendship of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. They were not only friends, but also co-contributors on many literary works of the time. Wilke is attributed with writing the first detective novel ("The Moonstone") and Dickens was working on a detective novel entitled "The Mystery Of Edwin Drood," which he did not complete before he died in 1870. In Dan Simons' novel, Charles Dickens survives a train wreck, and while crawling out of the debris he bumps into a tall, gaunt man in a heavy dark cape, with a "shockingly pale, skull-like visage," and lidless eyes... Drood.

Wilkie Collins is the opulent,  gluttonous narrator of the adventure, as the two seek out the original and intentions of this new mysterious. There's a journey to the underworld. A constant struggle to plumb the full depth of Drood's history and nature. And a complex love/hate relationship that unravels between Wilkie  and Dickens, up until the moment of Dickens' death, and beyond.

Simmons masterfully re-creates the world and life of Charles Dickens while introducing the reader to the equally interesting Wilkie Collins. Drood, of course, is an epic villain that swirls around the two protagonists like a bad hangover.

Even at more than 700 pages, I could barely put Drood down. A fantastic read and a glorious new medal on Dan Simmons' belt. It is also rumored that Guillermo DelToro immediately picked up the movie rights after reading it. I'll be there opening night!

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