Again Collins takes some time out from his narrative, this time to give us a little literary criticism -- as only Collins could do:
This was incredible. It made my joints ache and my eyes burn with pain.
Having got that out of his system (for the moment), our narrator goes on to give us some interesting thoughts about the novel, especially on the difference between setting and tone. But he doesn't have much time to talk literature. He's being drawn deeper into the Drood mystery . . . deeper into Dickens's fascinating influence . . . and deeper into the laudanum bottle, a far stronger and more fascinating influence than Dickens. The matter-of-factness with which Collins slips in and out of his increasingly frequent, increasingly violent opium-induced delusions is unnerving.
Also, he's getting snarkier ("Propped on four slender and elegant legs, the table rose to about the height of the Inimitable's inimitable navel").
Though Collins is an observant and sometimes witty narrator -- when he's not completely off his head -- and the plot moves along at a good pace, in all honesty, the book feels a bit draggy at this point. The best part in this section -- the most true-to-life and exciting description -- is Collins's description of one of Dickens's public readings. Not the lurid opium dream that Collins ends up enmeshed in, but the part where Dickens is actually reading. Intriguingly, just as Matthew Pearl did, Dan Simmons so far has done his best work when describing Dickens at work. Of course I may be a prejudiced reader, but it's my honest impression that in both books, this is where the action almost springs off the page. There's something about that particular subject that brings out the best in a novelist, it seems.