Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Drood & Coraline

Drood by Dan Simmons is a staggering novel that completely immersed me in Victorian England and the lives of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. Part thriller, part mystery, and part horror novel, Drood is, quite simply, one of the best novels I have ever read and now stands in my personal top 10. Here's a preview of my review:

The feel of the novel is rich and exquisitely evokes Victorian London. Since I can’t really travel back in time to check on Simmon’s veracity in his ability to evoke the time and place, I can only go with my gut and it tells me Simmons hit the mark in this respect. In that sense, the novel’s haunted feel is only strengthened by the time and place – an era of gaslights, trains and a world at the cusp of vast technological change. The London of Drood, especially the London nights, is very much hidden in shadows with smoke ‘round the corner and hints of danger and otherworldy Underworlds.

Both Collins and Dickens take mythic journeys in this novel, most notably to the Underworld of London. A vast cavern of tunnels underneath the great city where day laborers live in abject poverty and opium dens are visited by men of society, including Collins. It is a dangerous place, a place where vagrants live, where “lost boys” roam the catacombs, and where the dark figure of Drood and his two steersmen usher Dickens on a gondola to the deepest recesses of Underworld. The mythic parallels to Charon, and more explicitly, the Egyptian god of the dead, Anubis are evocative and resonant in their power. Here again, Collins’s role as Unreliable Narrator comes into play, if not during these scenes as much as they do later upon reflection of the events.

We caught Coraline on Friday and for the most part, I loved it. As many have already said, the animation in this was staggeringly beautiful. Selick kept the heart of the story and the minor changes he made were logical storytelling changes in terms of transferring Gaiman's novel from page to screen. The only thing keeping me from completely loving the movie was the pacing – the middle/end of it seemed to drag on a bit. Mrs. Blog o’ Stuff thought it bit dark for younger kids, and for kids under say 10 I’d agree but I think 12-year olds can handle both the content and form of the story. Then again, I was reading Stephen King when I was twelve, so who knows.

Lastly, it looks like Prophets (Apotheosis Book One) by S. Andrew Swann was voted as “the book I should read next” from the poll for the books I received W/E 02/07/2009. While it may not be the absolute next book I read, it will be bumped to very near top of the pile. I was going to run another poll this week, but I didn’t want the poll to take up my entire sidebar with all the books in last week’s haul.

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