DROOD by Dan Simmons

DROOD

KIRKUS REVIEW

A suspenseful and spooky descent into the last days of Charles Dickens, who expired before he could complete his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Although he doesn’t quite have the hang of Victorian prose and writes instead with modern matter-of-factness, Simmons (Muse of Fire, 2008, etc.) hits on a nice conceit at the outset, giving Dickens’s fellow novelist Wilkie Collins the job of narrating this long, shaggy dog of a tale. Collins, known today mostly for his mystery novel The Moonstone, if known at all, plays a kind of Salieri to Dickens’s Mozart, his jealousy evident: “Charles Dickens was the literary genius and I was not.” The figure of Drood first turns up at the scene of a hellish train wreck from which Dickens, 53 years old and gouty, has emerged. Drood does not cut a pretty figure, “pale eyes in their sunken sockets,” muttering unintelligibly amid the gore, but he is certainly memorable. A few score pages of preliminaries later, and Dickens is absorbed in ferreting out Droodian mysteries, rattled to discover that his necromantic quarry, “healer, master of Magnetic science, Christ figure, and secret mystic” late of Egypt, has in theory been dead for many years and that assorted cannibals, ghosts and spirit rappers figure into the grisly equation. Things get weirder still as narrator Collins nurses the various psychic wounds wrought by the recognition that Dickens, though slovenly (“pulling characters out of the air…without a thought as to how they might serve the central purpose”), will write circles around him for as long as Dickens is alive. There are, of course, remedies for that particular problem, as readers needing a quick lesson in the chemistry of the quicklime pit will discover.

A lively entertainment, reminiscent of Nicholas Meyer’s Seven-Percent Solution—and a worthy rejoinder to Dickens’s swan song.

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-316-00702-3
Page count: 784pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2008




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