The Great God Pan, The Shining Pyramid and The White People Paperback
Part of the Library of Wales series
An experiment into the sources of the human brain through the mind of a young woman has gone horribly wrong.
She has seen the great god Pan and will die giving birth to a daughter. Twenty years later feted society hostess Helen Vaughan becomes the source of much fevered speculation.
Many men are infatuated with her beauty, but great beauty has a price, sometimes you have to pay with the only thing you have left. The Great God Pan was a sensation when first published in 1894.
Its author, Arthur Machen, was a struggling unknown writer living in London.
He had translated Casanova's memoirs and was living on a small inheritance.
He immediately became one of the most talked-about writers of the last years of the nineteenth century, while the publication marked the start of his ongoing influence on modern fantasy and horror. Machen's dark imaginings of the reality behind ancient beliefs feature again in the acclaimed, mesmerising short story 'The White People' and the curious tale 'The Shining Pyramid', also in this volume.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 200 pages
- Publisher: Parthian Books
- Publication Date: 15/03/2010
- Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
- ISBN: 9781906998165
Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.
Review by clfisha
There are three stories fantastical horror stories, melding the everyday Victorian World with the supernatural and I am go to review them separately. The 1st (and longest) story about a medical experiment gone awry, is his most famous and inspired many a horror writer from Lovecraft to king. Published in 1894 it holds up remarkably well, although sadly not that scary (a sexual women, dear god!). However Machen is great at building atmosphere and only hints at the real horror: the God Pan can loom as large in your imagination as you wish. It's quite gripping as we watch the main protagonist drawn deeper into a dangerous mystery but it's a pity that the ending feels so hurried. 3.5* The 2nd is nice little mystery involving mysterious signs, a disappearing girl and frightening ritual. It's an enjoyable quick read but not high on atmosphere and(?) a bit of a clumsy mystery. 3 * The 3rd is a mixed bag, starts off with dull dialogue (read lecture) about the nature of real evil and suddenly switches to a 1st person account from a young girl and her experience with the little people. Sadly Machen cannot write in the voice of a young girl, it's bad enough to make you wince but oddly this is the bit of the book that I enjoyed the most. Machens description of a dark, eerie landscape captures the imagination vividly and gives a tantalising hint of the unknown which only deepens the sense of mystery and keeps you turning over the story in your mind long after you close the book. I can't rate this one ;-) perhaps 2-4!=3
Review by ed.pendragon
When I was young I swore by H P Lovecraft while my friend championed Machen. At the time I thought <i>The Hill of Dreams</i> pretty insipid compared to anything with Cthulhu in it. Several decades on I felt that I have to give Machen another chance, as it were, and this edition of <i>The Great God Pan</i> (and the two companion pieces in this volume, <i>The White Pyramid</i> and <i>The Shining People</i>) provided the opportunity.Machen <i>fin-de-siècle</i> novels are still a taste I have yet to acquire. By today's standards the horror (and Machen tends to get his characters to refer to 'horror' in case we can't put a word to their feelings) is pretty tame, more alluded to than described. The title story is about the degradations that are begat on a particular individual and visited on those that come into intimate contact with her. The answers to the mysteries are obvious to the reader, but the narrators and protagonists, not to mention the dilettantes and flaneurs of Late Victorian Britain, seem blind to the implications of what they are investigating, and the tale seems rather overlong as a consequence.The other two slighter tales are, strangely, more convincing. <i>The White People</i> suffers from a clumsy framing device, but the ever-flowing and scattergun chattiness of the child narrator in the central portion strike me as typical of children's descriptions generally, in the way that the dialogue in the opening section (on the nature of evil) is rather artificial and less true to life. <i>The Shining Pyramid</i> has been described as almost an occult Sherlock Holmes story, but I find the detective figure's deductions, for all their apparent logic, come over as pure leaps in the dark as far as realism is concerned, and the climax oddly anti-climactic.Machen's strengths are in creating atmosphere, whether in gloomy London or the eerie depths of the countryside. Claustrophobia is induced by descriptions of dark streets or fog-bound moors and woods, intensified by a general geographical vagueness. Characterisation is less successful; in all three stories I had little sense of individuality, for the men in particular, and had to keep looking back in the text to see who was who in any given passage. While I was unmoved by these tales, I would still like to revisit some of his other stories like <i>The Great Return</i> to see if time has played more fairly with them in my memory. But I'm almost certain my youthful obsession with Lovecraft is a thing of the past, so I shan't waste time on <i>him</i>.A brief word of praise here for this edition's cover artist Chris Iliff, due to his capturing precisely the look I imagined Machen ascribing to the title story's <i>femme fatale</i>. No wonder men went mad staring into those eyes! The Foreword by Ramsey Campbell is, like Machen's prose, strong on atmosphere but comes over chiefly as eulogising, while Tomos Owen's notes (which add in some of the historical, cultural and literary contexts) are workmanlike if not very inspired.
Review by shanaqui
I didn't find The Great God Pan (or the other stories in this volume) as scary as I expected to, given the introduction, but there's definitely a sense of chill, a sense of the uncanny. I think they're just so very restrained compared to the guts and gore you come across now -- I don't find these tales as horrifying as Val McDermid's The Mermaids Singing, for example, and I don't think that's intended to be horror. There's something very sedate about Machen's writing, and something picturesque, too.<br/><br/>His is more a horror of not-knowing-quite-what, of things out there in the dark that aren't understood, of rationality meeting the unexplained. I think I prefer it to more modern horror, even if it doesn't give me quite the chill it should.