Friday, September 04, 2009

Drood: A Review

Charles Dickens died on June 9, 1870 which left his novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished and a mystery itself. What Dan Simmons does in Drood is take real life accounts of what happened during the last five years of Dickens life and place a mystical and surreal character named Drood in the middle of it.

Dickens is nearing the end of writing his novel Our Mutual Friend when on June 9, 1865 he, along with his companion Ellen Ternan and her mother, were involved in the Staplehurst rail crash. It is there Dickens meets the strange character known as Drood--who Dickens becomes somewhat obsessive about. The novel mainly focuses on Wilkie Collins, a contemporary of Dickens and fellow author, and him slowing being driven insane by Dickens and Drood.

Collins is thrust into Drood's lifestyle because Dickens wants to research Drood for possibly a book. Soon, Charles Frederick Field, a former police chief, begins harassing Collins to follow Dickens into Drood's lair deep beneath an old cemetery and to show him how to get to Drood's lair. Collins begins by taking all this with a grain of salt and a slight sense of humor about it until he comes face to face with Drood himself. Collins is then infected with a scarab that begins moving around his brain and both Collins and Field determine that Drood wants Dickens to write a kind of biography about Drood and his teachings.

Dickens continues to live his life his way, uninterrupted by Drood or Inspector Field's persistent harassment. Dickens begins meeting Drood on every anniversary of Staplehurst and touring England and America giving readings of his novels. While Collins seems to be near death throughout the novel, Dickens seems to be getting younger.

Drood finally takes it's toll on Dickens and Collins decides to rid himself of Drood by killing Dickens. Collins plans the whole thing but on the day he decides to do it, Drood's minions stop him and tell him that they will take care of Dickens.

We never see Drood and we are given several explanations as to Drood's exsistance--ramblings of an insane Inspector Field, a story idea for Dickens, the effects of Collins constant laudanum usage, a real yet mysterious figure--but none are ever firmly established as the true Drood. The mystery of Drood is forever buried in Westminster Abbey, known only to Dickens himself, just like his unfinished novel.