Saturday, June 20, 2009
Drood by Dan Simmons
Drood opens with the account of a horrific train accident in England in which many people are killed. One of those who escaped with their lives is the famous novelist, Charles Dickens. As he recounts the story of this life-changing event to his good friend and writing collaborator, Wilkie Collins, he tells him something he keeps from everyone else. While he was helping to rescue the other victims, he was accosted by a strange man. This man hissed as he spoke, had no nose or eyelids, filed teeth and most curiously, no one else seemed to have seen him. He seems to know who Dickens is without being told and suggests that Dickens come visit him in his underground lair in London.
Dickens is revolted yet compelled to track down this figure, who seems to be well-known to various members of the London police force. They believe he is an overlord of a cult which is responsible for hundreds of deaths over the years. As Dickens investigates, Drood's story seems to be that he grew up in Egypt, the abandoned son of an English lord who was there in the military. As he grew, he was raised by those adept in the mysterious Egyptian arts of mesmerism and the other skills of priests from the times of the Pharoahs. He came to England to find his father, and became the leader of a mysterious group who live in an underground city and who control the country's opium trade.
The book then follows Dickens and Wilkie's attempts over the years to find and fight this evil figure. It covers the last five years of Dicken's life and is narrarated by Wilkie. Besides the Drood storyline, the reader learns of English life in this time period, the working life of authors, the opium trade and how it took over lives, how the police force worked and how both the rich and the poor lived.
I've loved every book I've read of Dan Simmons's work, and Drood was no exception. This is a long book at over 700 pages, but the reader will be entranced from the first chapter. I enjoyed the inside look at Dickens' life, and how the publishing business worked. Simmons builds the suspense skillfully, and there are horrific scenes that will remain with me for a long time. This book is recommended for suspense and thriller readers.