Drood is Dan Simmons' creative reinterpretation of the literary rivalry between Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins. The two authors were friends and sometime collaborators from when they met in 1851 until Dickens' death in 1870. The factual friendship between the two is rich fodder for Simmons' invented tale.
Simmons takes this relationship and superimposes a fantastic story of mesmerism and murder involving a spooky underworld character called Drood. Drood may or may not be the abandoned son of an English nobleman, a high priest of ancient Egyptian religious rites, a savage mastermind of murder, or a figment of Collins' opium dreams.
The book goes on too long, the plot drags, characters disappear, and storylines fray – the same things that happen in some of Dickens' and Collins' overly long 19th century novels. But Simmons packs so much imagination into the story and maintains such an authentic tone that the book is compelling, no matter several overwrought or sluggish patches.