Sep 15, 12
Read in September, 2012
This 771 page nightmare by Dan Simmons creates a scenario where the reader must wonder with each successive chapter which parts of the story are drug induced nightmares, events caused by an unscrupulous evil incarnation called Drood, or simply intended to be believable turns of events within a fictional novel based on the historical characters, Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins.
The book is well researched and events offer supernatural possibilities for the intimate details of events that appear in historical records without explanation. From the beginning, you know it is going to be gruesome, and yet it has that spin tingling edge that makes you want to keep reading, to find out what the mystery is all about and make it to the end, whether it turns out good or bad. However, three quarters of the way through the book, the pieces of the puzzle are still not coming together. I held out until the end, hoping the author would wrap up the mystery in some clever way which would surprise and fascinate me as a reader. But the author chose to go with an ending that was no ending. It did not leave me waiting for the next epic novel.
The weakest point of the novel is that the main character is not particularly likable in the beginning, although the early parts of the plot lead the reader to believe that we will learn the reasons behind the main character, Wilkie's, jealous and resentful disposition as the facts unfold. In reality, the character is revealed to have feelings for no one. He mistreats both his lovers, abuses his servants, and kills innocent animals. In all aspects he becomes more despicable with each chapter. Drood's control over him is cruel, but never fully explained. We never find out his true purpose or whether, he is simply a morphine and laudanum induced illusion. There is also, Wilkie's alter ego, who has supposedly existed since Wilkie's childhood. It's one too many loose ends.
If the author's intent was to create the inner workings of the mind of a psycho path, then in this he has succeeded. We each have our own definition of what makes good literature. Speaking strictly for myself, I felt cheated. What were the editor's thinking? A novel where none of the characters have real motivation? How does one justify that as a literary art form? It could have been, might have been, but no ending was worse than a bad ending.
Read it if you will for the horror, but don't expect an ending either horrible or happy.
What is that nagging feeling I get from this book? It's that one big problem that should never happen in a novel. There are no trustworthy characters. The author leaves the audience holding the bag.