Always listen to your friends....

I blame it (or at least a little bit of it) on a Facebook friend of mine who's a keen reader. She kept me agog for days moaning about her current read. It started out pretty well - a tale of high adventure in the Himalayas; written by a contemporary writer but with a bit of 1920s gung-ho atmosphere. It sounded rather like John Buchan with rather more than a hint of Lost Horizon. And then a yeti made an appearance....Yetis I can put up with, you expect the odd yeti to appear in Himalayan fiction, but when a party of Nazis also made an appearance, whether in pursuit of the yeti, or after some esoteric knowledge a la Raiders of the Lost Ark variety, I'm not sure. At this point my long suffering friend could take no more, and hurled the book away from her.

However in the meantime I had been to my local library, and purely by chance had also found the Nazi / Yeti volume. Thinking of my friend's warning, I was sensible enough not to pick it up; but I did fall for another book by the same author, Dan Simmons, Drood. Drood appeared to be a bit of a Dickens pastiche, centring around the infamous title character of Dicken's final, and unfinished novel, The mystery of Edwin Drood.

Let this be a warning to you. You really should listen to your friends. They have your best interests at heart. For Drood is a truly terrible book. Not only is it bad, it's 771 pages of badness. 771 pages that could still be growing in a forest, or shoring up the leg of a table, or providing a campfire in a desert. Any of this would be putting it to better use.

I don't think I would have got through it if I hadn't just failed to get into Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. Yet another bumper read, a story that crosses time lines moving from Alan Turing and war-time code-breaking to computer nerds trying to create unbreakable codes in the 20th/21st centuries. It was fascinating, the wartime stuff was great, but in the end it was too computer geeky for me, and I had to give up. If there's one thing I hate marginally more than book droughts, it's repeatedly giving up on books, so I felt doomed to read Drood to its conclusion.

It's a completely mad book. Wilkie Collins is thinking of killing Dickens, Dickens may be thinking of killing Wilkie Collins, there are characters straight out of The Mummy, half the cast of Fu Manchu, a couple of train accidents, some bumbling bobbies, sinister grave diggers, and a posse of Englishmen who may be cannibals when they're not working for Scotland Yard. This may be (according to what you think of the narrator) true, his imagination, or an opium inspired dream. It is complete and utter tosh. As a fan of Wilkie Collins, I felt very cross on his behalf, if you're going to be posthumously libelled, it would be good to be libelled in a positive fashion. Instead the poor guy turns out to be mad, bad, and (for servant girls who may end up being walled up in the servants' stairway by him) incredibly dangerous to know.

It's a rip-roaringly dreadful book. You have been warned....


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