Friday, February 27, 2009

Book Review: Drood by Dan Simmons

Opening Drood by Dan Simmons is like stepping into a time machine. I could almost feel the cobblestones of London’s back alleys beneath my feet and smell the overpowering stench of raw sewage draining into the Thames.

In June of 1865, world-famous author Charles Dickens and his mistress were among the few survivors of a horrific train crash. Simmons manages to weave this real-life event into a compelling and terrifying tale of murder, jealousy, ancient Egyptian magic and mesmerism.

Drood is narrated by Dickens’ fellow author, friend and sometimes rival Wilkie Collins. A laudanum addict, Collins is an unreliable narrator at best. Three days after the accident at Staplehurst, Dickens relates the harrowing experience to Collins. At the center of his tale is a mysterious man named Drood; a disfigured, wraith-like creature who seemed to float back and forth amongst the dead and dying victims of the crash. Was he rendering assistance to these unfortunate souls or hastening their departure from this mortal coil?

Dickens becomes obsessed with finding Drood, and this search will lead him and Collins into a labyrinthine world hidden below London's poorest districts. The horrors that await them there will change both of the authors – and their friendship – forever. Collins begins to wonder if Dickens has simply gone mad from the trauma he endured at Staplehurst or if he has fallen under the mesmeric influence of Drood, a man rumored to have killed over 300 people.

Victorian London is masterfully depicted; the sights, sounds and even smells seem to come alive and add a rich sense of atmosphere to this dark story.

The first 100 pages of Drood were slow-going for me, but they established a framework that was essential and very rewarding later in the book. I never knew what to expect with this story, and the shocking ending left me re-evaluating virtually every conclusion I'd come to over the length of the book. While it's still very early in 2009, I can certainly see Drood as one of my favorite reads of the year.

Rating: 9/10.

Buy Drood:
Indiebound | Powell's | Amazon

For more reviews of Drood, visit:
Allison's Attic of Books | Bermuda Onion | Booking Mama | Books Ahoy! | A Bookworm's World | Cafe of Dreams | Cheryl's Book Nook | A Circle of Books | Darby's Closet | Drey's Library | Heidenkind's Hideaway | A High and Hidden Place | A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore | Jenn's Bookshelf | Linus's Blanket | Marta's Meandering | Medieval Bookworm | My Friend Amy | Savvy Verse & Wit | The Tome Traveller | Write for a Reader

22 comments:

  1. A 9/10 is quite a rating! WOW! I am definitely going to look into this book. I also liked how you established that people need to hang in there in the beginning. :) Thanks for a great review!

    Kelly :)

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  2. Great review...I had a problem with my blog..so mine just got up a couple hours ago too!! I just didn't get in to it..guess I didn't get far enough in!! Glad you liked it!!

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  3. Wow Ruth - what a great review! I'm glad to hear you really enjoyed it. I am a huge fan of Victorian England and love the incredible amount of detail and research Simmons put into Drood.

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  4. I loved this book and your review too! I found the book fascinating.

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  5. Awesome review, Ruth! I loved this as well and am so thrilled with the chance to be on this tour! I loved your opening paragraph - it is so true!

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  6. Great review! I definitely want to read this book, despite its massive size!

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  7. Great review, Ruth! I loved the atmosphere in particular. There's just something about Victorian England in fiction that never fails to draw me in.

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  8. good review..I must say I am a little put off my it's length but I am trying my best to win a copy!

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  9. This book sounds SO amazing. I loved your review.

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  10. I enjoyed this book, too! My review is here:

    http://agirlwalksintoabookstore.blogspot.com/2009/02/review-drood-by-dan-simmons.html

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  11. Well that was just moved further up in my pile. :)

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  12. I really need to read this one!

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  13. Great review!
    I'm glad to read a positive review about it; it's on my TBR pile, hopefully really soon! Your review makes me want to read it even sooner.

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  14. I am still working my way through this and I love every page.

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  15. little miss sweetMarch 5, 2009 at 3:16 AM

    What' this about Dickens mistress? Shame on you, Charles Dickens. Can't anyone control their impulses? I can and have.

    It also takes hanging in to read and Dickens knovel.. the plodding dark detailed fancy descriptions.. doesn't anyone GET that?! I wanna ask all of you the intrepretation of Dickens words just to prove how off the modern people are.. I doubt they understand have of his very flowery language..

    Read Rowan of the Wood by Christine and Ethan Rose for a true love story of virginity lasting 14 centuries.

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  16. Glad to hear you really enjoyed the book. I wasn't sure I'd want to read this, as I'm not a big Dickens fan, but I've been hearing such good things about it that I might give it a go. It also helps that I like dark stories. Great review!

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  17. It's on my TBR pile. It says read me next every day.

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  18. First 100 pages? I wouldn't have lasted. Too ADD.

    =(

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  19. I just could not disagree more with your assessment of this novel. I got about half way through it and wondered why in the world I was still reading it... I thought it might get better so I continued on to the end only to wish I had never picked it up in the first place!

    I also disagree with your thoughts on Wilkie Collins. His arrogance made it even more painful to have to read through his point of view...not to mention the fact that you never knew if he was being truthful or not.

    I have not read a book that was this awful in a very long time. This was the first Dan Simmons book I've read and it will certainly be the last.

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  20. Anonymous, I agree with you in that Drood is not a book that everyone will enjoy. I wouldn't say that Wilkie Collins was a likable character, far from it. He is, at best, a very unreliable and frustrating narrator. I liked the challenge, though, of trying to figure out what was really going on from the facts that I was given. I also enjoyed the setting of the book and thought Dan Simmons captured Victorian London quite well.

    While I don't agree with you that the novel was awful, I do accept that different people will have different views and I respect your opinion. Thanks for commenting.

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  21. Just curious, does anyone have any idea what the creature in the attic of wilkie's home was? the one that he found while exploring the servant's stairwell.

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