Monday, July 20, 2009

Charles Dickens is a big bully.




I just finished this 771 page beast of a novel "Drood" by Dan Simmons. The book was so good it gave me nightmares! Really, I dreamt about "Drood" and it was a nice break from the Zombie apocalypses and "I forgot to go to Math class all year and the final is next week" dreams that I usually have. Dan Simmons specializes in historical fiction with a horrific bent. His last novel, "The Terror" is about the doomed Franklin expedition and what he imagines became of the crew (it is not pretty.) As much as I liked that book, I did find bits of it a little ridiculous, even for my tastes. But "The Terror" is more of a Sci-Fi monster tale, which has never been my thing (with the exception of "The Thing" and "Alien".) "Drood" is also a monster tale, but this monster is very different.
This monster haunts our fevered dreams and is born out of our darkest desires. He is a character in Charles Dickens last, unfinished work and a spectre that stalks Dickens friend, collaborator, and rival Wilkie Collins. Collins, the writer of "The Woman and White" and "Moonstone" was, for a time, Dickens' protegee. He was also an Opium addict (taken in the form of Laudanum, which my dear Lizzie Siddal overdosed on during the same time period in which these events take place) prone to hallucinations. These are the facts, and what Simmons does is takes these facts and imagines a dark, sinister force at work in the lives of these two men. He does this so well that you can imagine these events really taking place.
In the end "Drood" is a ghost story, a tale of jealousy and revenge, and finally a descent into madness. At times it is really scary (hence the nightmares) and at the end it is very sad. It also "resurrects" poor Wilkie Collins, a successful writer in his time but largely overshadowed by Dickens. I have never read anything by Collins myself, although I have encountered him a few times in my research (he was active around the same time as the pre-Raphaelites .) I feel, after reading "Drood," that I read "The Moonstone," since most of the tale takes place while Collins is working on it. So I think I will start with "The Woman in White," after I get through this pile of books on my desk.....

2 comments:

Cellar Door said...

I think I'll have to check that out!

Jen said...

It is really awesome. I will send it to you if you want- let me know....