Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Review : The Great God Pan - Arthur Machen 9*

I have not heard of Welsh author Arthur Machen before, but I am very glad I found this novella at the library for what a wonderful little story this is.  The Great God Pan was the first of Machen's works to be published in 1890.  The blurb on the back had this little anecdote which piqued my imagination "Machen's story was widely denounced for its sexual and horrific content and subsequently sold well."

TGGP is a classic horror story, although if you're going to read it for the sex and horror content, everything is alluded to rather than taking place on page.  At the beginning of the book Dr. Raymond performs an experiment on a young girl that will allow her to see beyond the veil of the mundane world and catch a glimpse of Pan himself, the experiment succeeds, but with unforeseen circumstances and the consequences of the experiment cause terror and death for many innocent people.

Machen's influence on H P Lovecraft (and therefore a whole slew of later horror writers) is obvious, the piercing of the veil which allows the horrors beyond to infect the human mind is one of the great themes of his Cthulu mythos.  The woodland setting and the sense of unease it brings also feel similar to Robert Holdstock's Mythago Wood.  Stephen King has said that his is "maybe the best horror story in the English Language," and for such a short book it is a really great read, full of atmosphere and creeping dread.
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  1. I will read this one day - it sounds great! Have you read any Algernon Blackwood? - he's very similar in many respects, I think... and one of my all-time favourite writers!

  2. I haven't, but I'll make a note and see if they have any in the library.