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Drood: A Novel

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

It keeps you turning the pages!

"Drood" is a novel that falls at the intersection of several genres - mystery, horror, biopic (for which I'm not sure there is a literary term), and even a little fantasy. Simmons has drawn heavily on the biographies of Wilkie Collins, the novel's narrator, and Charles...
"Drood" is a novel that falls at the intersection of several genres - mystery, horror, biopic (for which I'm not sure there is a literary term), and even a little fantasy. Simmons has drawn heavily on the biographies of Wilkie Collins, the novel's narrator, and Charles Dickens and for that reason the atmosphere of the novel is almost palpably real. Although the novel is inspired by the titular character from Dickens's unfinished final novel the driving force of the novel comes from Wilkie himself and Simmons fuels the narrative with Wilkie's awe and resentment of Dickens. Wilkie's narrative voice carries an echo of modern psychological drama but a person who has already read his novels will appreciate how remarkably well Simmons captures Wilkie's writing style within the book; readers of Simmons's previous novel "The Terror" will find that Wilkie and Dickens wrote a play based on the same ill-fated nautical expedition and Simmons takes advantage of that historical detail. Simmons also draws on Wilkie's capacity for vivid description; from Wilkie's opium dreams to the novelists' forays into the violent Undertown of London, Simmons renders it all in lurid deatail, keeping the reader going, and turning the pages as if "Ghost Wilkie" were there to do the deed personally. Although the weather during my reading was peaceful "Drood" would be a perfect book for reading during a thunderstorm. This is not a novel for the squeamish, particularly if you like domestic animals, and the description of Wilkie's opiate use is extensive.

posted by Melissa_W on March 22, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

Not my cup of tea!

I really wanted to like this novel. The idea sounds ingenious. It appears to be well researched. Where does it all unravel?

First the length, 775 pages. While a little disconcerting I wanted to immerse myself in the Victorian England of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Col...
I really wanted to like this novel. The idea sounds ingenious. It appears to be well researched. Where does it all unravel?

First the length, 775 pages. While a little disconcerting I wanted to immerse myself in the Victorian England of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. I realized the attention to detail of the times and the authors lives would make the story fairly long. Historical fictions usually are. However, it seems overly padded with detail that has no bearing on the story at all. And Dan Simmons regurgitates some of the same information over and over as if the reader needed constant reminders. And not once or twice, but constantly! I recognize the extensive research that went into the book but I felt that the story was bogged down by unnecessary details about Dickens' and Collins' life.

I read through the first half of the book, and kept waiting for the spark to kick the story into gear. It never came. Events that seemed to spur action (and my interest) were quickly lost in the overwhelming detail.

By the time i was 75% done, I became determined to finish this huge tome and find out what all the fuss was about. It had been suggested and recommended by Steven King in his Entertainment Weekly year end best of column. While not an absolute guarantee of literary value, I usually find that I DO enjoy the books Mr. King suggests. However this never got beyond an overblown, poorly told biography of Dickens' final five years. Ultimately, not my cup of tea...

posted by iluvvideo on February 1, 2010

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  • Posted March 22, 2009

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    It keeps you turning the pages!

    "Drood" is a novel that falls at the intersection of several genres - mystery, horror, biopic (for which I'm not sure there is a literary term), and even a little fantasy. Simmons has drawn heavily on the biographies of Wilkie Collins, the novel's narrator, and Charles Dickens and for that reason the atmosphere of the novel is almost palpably real. Although the novel is inspired by the titular character from Dickens's unfinished final novel the driving force of the novel comes from Wilkie himself and Simmons fuels the narrative with Wilkie's awe and resentment of Dickens. Wilkie's narrative voice carries an echo of modern psychological drama but a person who has already read his novels will appreciate how remarkably well Simmons captures Wilkie's writing style within the book; readers of Simmons's previous novel "The Terror" will find that Wilkie and Dickens wrote a play based on the same ill-fated nautical expedition and Simmons takes advantage of that historical detail. Simmons also draws on Wilkie's capacity for vivid description; from Wilkie's opium dreams to the novelists' forays into the violent Undertown of London, Simmons renders it all in lurid deatail, keeping the reader going, and turning the pages as if "Ghost Wilkie" were there to do the deed personally. Although the weather during my reading was peaceful "Drood" would be a perfect book for reading during a thunderstorm. This is not a novel for the squeamish, particularly if you like domestic animals, and the description of Wilkie's opiate use is extensive.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not my cup of tea!

    I really wanted to like this novel. The idea sounds ingenious. It appears to be well researched. Where does it all unravel?

    First the length, 775 pages. While a little disconcerting I wanted to immerse myself in the Victorian England of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. I realized the attention to detail of the times and the authors lives would make the story fairly long. Historical fictions usually are. However, it seems overly padded with detail that has no bearing on the story at all. And Dan Simmons regurgitates some of the same information over and over as if the reader needed constant reminders. And not once or twice, but constantly! I recognize the extensive research that went into the book but I felt that the story was bogged down by unnecessary details about Dickens' and Collins' life.

    I read through the first half of the book, and kept waiting for the spark to kick the story into gear. It never came. Events that seemed to spur action (and my interest) were quickly lost in the overwhelming detail.

    By the time i was 75% done, I became determined to finish this huge tome and find out what all the fuss was about. It had been suggested and recommended by Steven King in his Entertainment Weekly year end best of column. While not an absolute guarantee of literary value, I usually find that I DO enjoy the books Mr. King suggests. However this never got beyond an overblown, poorly told biography of Dickens' final five years. Ultimately, not my cup of tea...

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is an excellent historical thriller

    As novelist Wilkie Collins narrates on 9 June 1865, fifty three years old Charles Dickens accompanied by his secret mistress takes the train from Folkestone to London. In their car were three people, Charles, Ellen Tiernan and her mother. However, near the Stapelhurst railroad viaduct, a human error leads to the destruction where a bridge was under repair. Dickens and the Tiernan female pair survive.<BR/><BR/>Dickens tries to help others though it looks hopeless. Amidst the carnage, he meets another apparent survivor, morbid Edwin Drood, who survived the ordeal due to his traveling inside a coffin. Drood vanishes while Dickens follows his trail to the nastiest decadent side of London. As Collins continues his account, he wonder if Drood ever existed and whether Dickens made him to cover nefarious dealings.<BR/><BR/>This is an excellent historical thriller that looks closely at the last few years of Dickens¿ life using the unfinished final novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood and other historical facts as a basis for this wonderful account. The story line grips the audience from Collins¿ opening monologue and never slows down with readers scrutinizing clues throughout as to whether Dickens¿ lost his mind, concealed his activities with the invention of Drood as the narrator believes, or if Drood lived. Dan Simmons is at his best with this insightful psychological Victorian thriller.<BR/><BR/>Harriet Klausner

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2009

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    Very Disappointed

    This book could have been cut in half and would have probably been ok but there were long stretches of pointless passages that really took away from the overall book. I thought the book was supposed to be about Dickens not the life story and works of Wilkie Collins. If I wanted to read a Wilkie Collins novel or biography I would have....it did not need to be included in this book. As it turned out I know more than I would ever care to know about laudanum addition and think this book was a waste of my time to read as it wasn't even entertaining. It had it's moments but they were few and far between.

    7 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2009

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    Why I Wasn't 100% Wildly Flipped Out Hyper Ecstatic over Drood

    I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book, having just finished The Terror and savoring the hints and plot devices of this new book from Dan Simmons. And, truly, it's a very enjoyable read, with it's hints at Dickensian prose, it's wildly building, fantastic plot, and just plain good writing. But there was one problem. The ending was supposed to be a total surprise and, ultimately a curse worthy of The Twilight Zone. I would not reveal specifics, but here was my problem.....

    I read the book and just like most, never for a minute did I realize what had happened early on. And I didn't REQUIRE knowing.......to conclude, pretty much half way through, what was going on here and how it was happening. In fact, the whole question seems to hinge, in the readers own mind, whether the plot device was nothing more than the question being asked throughout the novel, the whole point of the action, really, in another way. If one can come to the right conclusion without ever realizing what the plot device IS, then is the author actually whispering to us that, just as the one character insisted, it bore no role? But perhaps I say too much already. I know this. Even though I gave the book an average rating, I am going back to reread it and consider the words of a particular character now that I know what I do.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2009

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    Disappointed

    I was so looking forward to Drood, as The Terror is one of my favorite books. Sadly, I can't say that I enjoyed it nearly as much. While the 700+ pages in The Terror seemed to fly by, I found myself struggling to get through to the end of Drood. I love Mr. Simmons' descriptive writing style. He really makes you feel as if you're there with the characters. However, in the case of Drood all I kept thinking was this should have been a book of at least 400 pages less. There was just too much straying from the underlying story to keep me interested. Which is a shame, because it seemed like such a promising story. Honestly, by the end of the book I really didn't care who Drood was, if he was or wasn't real, etc. I just wanted to finish the book so I could move on to something better. I feel terrible even writing this review becase I am such a fan of Dan Simmons' work, but I would recommend that you save your money and either check the book out of the library, borrow someone else's copy or -- if you feel you must purchase it -- wait for the paperback. This book pales greatly in comparison with The Terror.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 28, 2009

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    Superb!

    Drood is a fictional account of the last five years of Charles Dickens' life. Little is known about Dickens at that time, so Simmons was able to take excellent creative license.


    The story is narrated by author Wilkie Collins ( The Woman in White, The Moonstone) and the story is as much about his life as it is Dickens'. Wilkie and Dickens were long time friends, collaborators and competitors.


    The book starts out with a train accident at Staplehurst involving Dickens and in retelling the story to Wilkie, we first hear of the horrific looking man named Drood. Dickens becomes obssessed with finding Drood and drags Wilkie along to late night excursions into Undertown; a city of catacombs and home to those too wretched to live among the poor in above ground London. There are also opium dens and a myriad of crypts.


    On the night Wilkie and Dickens go to Undertown, they find a river of sewage that they can not cross. It is here that a boat pulls up to take Dickens, and only Dickens to meet with Drood. Wilkie does not hear of the story until later and has only Dickens word of what transpired. A former inspector, Fields then tries to blackmail Wilkie into sharing all the Dickens will tell him about Drood, as Fields states that Drood has been responsible for hundreds of murders in the last several years. Collins feels like a pawn between the inspector and Dickens and does not know what to believe.


    my review:

    I thought this book was excellent and addictive and I barely noticed that it was almost 800 pages long. Wilkie is fascinating; he is an opium addict and his jealousy of Dickens grows pathalogical. As he is so unreliable as narrator, the reader is uncertain if parts are true or figments of Wilkie's opium dreams or envious nature. Though I think one can appreciate the book on another level if well-read with Dickens and Collins' novels, I had not yet read anything by Collins and did not feel that I missed anything. However, it does take us through Collins' writing of The Moonstone and spoiled the mystery for me. I still want to read it though.


    This was an amazing mix of historical fiction, mystery, and psychological terror. I also really appreciate all of the research that must have gone into this novel and to still make a page turner is quite feat. I also felt that Simmons captured the atmosphere and writing of the period. I can not recommend this enough, it is a must read.


    my rating 5/5
    http://bookmagic418.blogspot.com/

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 14, 2009

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    The best book I've read in 2009

    I've seen a lot of mixed reviews about this book. Some people say that the description on the dust jacket is misleading to the author rambles. Well I just wanted to add my 2 cents.

    This was my first novel of Dan Simmons that I've read and I loved every minute of it. The book has a 19th century Gothic feel that I haven't seen done since "The Poe Shadow". Yes the story of Drood is buried among the life story of the protagonist Wilkie Collins but to me it draws you into his decaying mind due to his abuse of laudanum.

    This story has some great imagery. What's not to like about Green skinned women with tusks for teeth, doppelgangers, secret Chinese opium dens...etc. It's a journey into the underbelly of Victorian society.

    I liked it from the start but it really picks up after the first 30 pages. I say give it a chance if you like the idea of a haunting journey into the mind of an addict.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2012

    HISTORY, HORROR, SUSPENSE, MYSTERY !!!! This book has it all, I

    HISTORY, HORROR, SUSPENSE, MYSTERY !!!!
    This book has it all, I found myself lost in the Dickens era, furiously turning pages, huddled in the recliner in the middle of the night with my little book light illuminating the pages. I couldn't wait to see how the story ended and once I read the last pages I found myself wanting the story to go on. This was the first Dan Simmons novel I have read but I assure you it will not be my last.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2012

    highly recommended

    Other than his Trojan War on Mars series, the best Simmons I have read.
    See also Matthew Peal.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 2, 2009

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    Surprisingly Good

    Drood was my first introduction to the writing of Dan Simmons. I was attracted to this work because of my recent fascination with the works of Charles Dickens. I was impressed by the amount of background knowledge possessed by the author regarding the personalities of the characters, and the mastery of details regarding the period involved. And there is certainly no question as to Mr. Simmons creative talents. However, at one point, mid-way into this novel, I was angered by what I perceived to be a complete abandonment of the previous plot and style; and yet I was mistaken. In fact, I had been fooled exactly as intended by the author's own devices. Realizing my mistake, I continued on to the end, and was completely satisfied at how the novel progressed. My only reservation is that the novel's momentum lagged at times. Induced by this book to read his earlier novel: Terror - I am finding that that novel, although just begun, is better still.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Drood is a great read for those who like strong character development, historical writing or intense horror and intrique.

    The writing style is incredible. Writing as the author Wilke Collins, Simmons writes in the vernacular of upper-class, mid-19th century England, which is not the easiest style to copy and make interesting. The mystery of who is Edwin Drood has always been of interest to me and I find that learning more about the author Charles Dickens, helps to explain much about his writing. Although Dickens can be dense to read, by writing in the style of Collins, Simmons is able to get around Dickens' density and retain the character of the man. The horror and intrigue is intense, even for someone who reads a lot of it. There is more a sense of horror based in the reality of 19th Century England, rather than the mystical unreality of many modern horror writers. The writing style is so good, it elevates the story, much in the same way the author Elizabeth Kostova did in her book The Historian. At times though, because the horror is based in reality, it is almost too much for me. It might be good for a book club that likes Dickens, or Collins, especially to parse the style of writing and the development of the plot. I did find Collins' diversions into his personal life to be a bit distracting, but I can see how it develops his character more, and I feel that is an important part of the story. How could someone so self-involved and frumpy follow Dickens into the mouth of Hell? Only intense curiosity and commitment to their friendship could have kept him going. The book is also a great study in character development.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    Tremendous book!

    A wonderful historical novel about the last five years of Charles Dickens's live that lovers of Dickens, historical novels, murder mysteries, occult, romance, thrillers, and fine literature won't want to miss! Historical facts are blended with incredibly creative fiction concerning characters both in Dickens's life and his last and unfinished book "The Mystery of Edwin Drood."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 19, 2009

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    Blew Me Away!

    This wonderful novel by Dan Simmons blew me away. I was expecting Drood to be good, and it was! Simmon's is a master at alterative historical fiction; Proof: The Terror and Drood. Strongly recommended for historical fiction fans or any one looking for a good, consuming read. Don't let the length scare you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 18, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Don't Listen to The Negative Reviews

    Despite all the negative reviews I have read, i decided to pick up this monstrustous 771 page novel. I am very happy that I did because right from the first chapter, this story really sucks you in. It is a tale of pure madness and Dan Simmons writes it beautify. You are there with the narrator during the most thrilling scenes I have ever read in a book. If you think think is just a mystery novel surrounding the mysterious charactor drood, it is not what the whole story is about but is much of the bulk of it is.

    The only thing I did not like about the novel is its size. I was able to finish this one in 4 days (it was very hard to put down) but I felt that many little details could have been left out of the story but it helped make the story that much more real. I highly recommend this novel even if it does not interest you, I promise it will grip you and you will keep reading to find out more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 9, 2009

    Flawless Simmons execution, wonderful prose yet Drood left me wanting...more of Drood.

    I think any fan of Dan Simmons will eat up Drood as avidly as did I. Let me start off by saying I did enjoy the read...greatly. So much so that I now find myself compelled to learn more about Dickens and to unravel the myth that Simmons wove from the reality that exists of the man - but that's my burden to bear.

    Crisp writing, great story telling and compelling characters made Drood for me a success. The only criticism I have (if one can call it such) is that I found myself at the end of the tale grasping for resolution. I didn't have enough answers when I closed the back cover at the end of the story. Did I enjoy the ride? Yes. Did I enjoy being brought by a master writer like Simmons into the head of a man's demented downward spiral? Absolutely, Yes. Was Drood, the character in the book of the same name, as out of focus as his silhouette on the cover? To me, Yes. Would I have liked there to be more Drood in Drood? Yes.

    I qualify the above amateur review with a reminder that I am a fan of Dan Simmons' writing. Drood will hold a place on my bookshelf and I will most certainly find time to read it again in the years ahead.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Delightful!!!

    Dan Simmons repeats the excellence of The Terror. Well researched and worthy of Dickens himself. This book is masterful and maintains the same graceful style that transported me in The Terror. The characters are full-bodied. Wilkie is the epitome of self-deluded vanity. The pacing of the story is great, a gradual progression and digression as the tension builds. Well, I loved it. I hope he continues to write in this vein in the future. I will happily wait.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2013

    Well researched too long

    This could have been a great book because it is a great story idea. Instead its an ok to good book. The historical aspects of dickins, london and drood are, at first, so compelling.....then it all seems to fall apart. The narration seems to happen in the following ways....the first few hundred pages live up to the idea of a drood then for 200 plus pages there is barely mention of him. Then another 150 pages the narrative seems to go off the rails into nothingness....then the last 100 is like watching paint dry. How can the last 100 pages of a book be so boring? That's a crime!!! It was a sheer act of will that I finished this tome! I didn't mind the end as some has mentioned but it took way too damn long for the final reveal. If I had to do it over again....I would not read this book. It would have been more fun to have someone storytell it to me. Perhaps audio book would be the way to go.

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  • Posted October 30, 2012

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    Not a thrilling as I had hoped.....

    I agree with a couple other reviewers; I was really looking forward to this book but found that the length, the constant "reminders" of facts already described by the author and the minutia of Dickens' and Wilkie's lives made the book a bit tedious to get through. It was rather interesting for the most part but not as compelling and thrilling as I had hoped.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2012

    Good read

    Dan Simmons is such a great writer that a good book from him is the equivalent of a great book for some other writers. I love Dickens but this book felt like a beautiful and picturesque carriage ride that somehow goes nowhere. It is a good read but the ending leaves you a little cold. So enjoy the journey and expect the less than satisfying conclusion and you will enjoy it more.

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