When Charles Dickens died, he left an unfinished work titled The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Since then, many have given a try at finishing that story. Dan Simmons took a different route, he tried to reinvent the novel and characters from scratch, and so produced Drood.
This story is told from the perspective of Wilkie Collins, a contemporary writer of Dickens, who was also Dickens’ friend and frequent collaborator. The narrator’s voice is beautifully constructed; the reader immediately forgets all about Dan Simmons, and instead starts to believe that one is really reading an autobiography of Wilkie.
It is on this strength that this book truly soars. Much of the book is delightfully meandering, reading more like a Wilkie autobiography, Dickens biography, bibliography and literary criticism of the two writers, with a crime drama thrown in. An incredible amount of research went into this book and so it comes off with an impressive tone of authority.
On page 425 a major change of action and pace is suggested, a much-anticipated, expected, and hoped for pace when Wilkie’s last line of the chapter is “That moment was the end of my life as I had known it.” Unfortunately, it does not bring the hoped for renewed energy and the book begins to lag.
So much so, that this book feels more like a labor of love for the author, and not a real attempt at putting to rest the mystery around Dickens’ Mr. Drood. I can’t imagine this book had any commercial success. It made me think of an art project: art for the sake of art; not because it is needed or because anyone wants it, but just because it can be done.
Certain elements of this book had me riveted. I loved the history and the characters. I grew tired of the main plot about Drood, though. And since that was seemingly the main point of the book I can’t very well give it a good recommendation. At best, this is a 3.5 stars out of 5.