Drood by Dan Simmons
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This was one lonnng book, and the plot suffered because of it. Told by the author Wilkie Collins, this is supposed to be about Charles Dickens and the aftermath of the 1865 Staplehurst rail crash. Following the crash, this book posits that Dickens was haunted by a man/demon named Drood, and that Drood is the head of a major crime syndicate and leader of a very old Egyptian cult. Complicating all this is Collins' addiction to laudanum (and later pure opium and morphine): how much of what he's relating is real, how much is drug-induced, and how much is thanks to his being mesmerized by Dickens shortly after the crash (mesmerism/magnetism being a particular craze in England at that time).
What really lowered my opinion of the book was the focus on Collins and his doings - endless pages about his relationships with Martha and Caroline and Carrie, his writing of his books (more on how the Drood creature, mesmerism and opium influenced The Moonstone might have been nice, but the mechanics of writing were over discussed). Had the author cut those bits and concentrated on the Collins/Dickens relationship and Collins' obsession with his drugs and Drood, this would have been a tighter book. And then there was the backstory to Drood. According to Simmons, he was the half-breed son of an Englishman and an Indian woman. This Englishman was the "horribly murdered" John Forsythe, aka Lord Lucan; now, I've been fascinated by the 7th Lord Lucan's disappearance so I immediately went to learn more about this forbear only to learn that he's a figment of the author's imagination. Why he couldn't have made up some other name for Drood's father is beyond me and made me cranky.