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by Arthur Machen

  • ISBN: 1906998167
  • Category: Fiction
  • Author: Arthur Machen
  • Subcategory: Genre Fiction
  • Other formats: rtf mobi docx lrf
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Parthian Books (October 1, 2010)
  • Pages: 120 pages
  • FB2 size: 1821 kb
  • EPUB size: 1525 kb
  • Rating: 4.2
  • Votes: 504
Download The Great God Pan (Library of Wales) fb2

A sensation when first published in 1894, this frightening story involves evil scientists and the women that become monsters at their hands. An experiment into the sources of the human brain through the mind of a young woman has gone horribly wrong—she has witnessed the God Pan and will die giving birth to a daughter, Helen Vaughan. Twenty years later Helen becomes the source of much fevered speculation when she is feted as a society hostess of great charm. Many men are infatuated with her beauty, but great beauty has a price. Linking horror with prurient sexuality, this classic of horror sheds light on late Victorian misogyny and the public’s interest in theories of evolutionary degeneration.


Reviews about The Great God Pan (Library of Wales) (7):
Obong
I love moody, atmospheric horror. The kind of that creeps upon you, inducing chills without resorting to the cheap shock common in horror today. TGGP is that kind of spookiness. Though the storytelling is a product of its time (wooden characters, melodrama, lack of graphic content of any sort) the tale is beautifully executed, slowly unfolding a mystery and ratcheting the suspense until the horrific climax. It leaves an awful lot to the imagination, partly due to Victorian-era necessity, but it’s not a copout. Machen knows what you’re thinking and he masterfully works your imagination against you.

The story begins with a research doctor making an experimental surgical adjustment to a girl’s brain that he believes will enable her to see the world as it really is, as opposed to how mankind has been conditioned to perceive it. He calls this “seeing the Great God Pan”. “Pan” being the Greek god of nature. The experiment sets in motion a sequence of events spanning many years. As the story progresses we shift to new characters who are drawn into a mystery from various angles. Only at the end do the pieces come together. Occult imagery abounds, but the genius of the story is that the deviltry is ambiguous enough to be compatible with just about any worldview. It’s simply a terrifying encounter with the unknown.

Machen was an interesting man. The son of a clergyman, he was raised in a Christian home, but developed a deep interest in the occult. His knowledge influenced his fiction, but he apparently stayed true to his faith until his death. As far as I know he is the only Christian weird fiction writer of his day.

If this were written today, it would probably merit 3.5 stars. But given that it was highly original in 1894, and prototypical of weird fiction that would become popular in the coming decades, it gets an easy 5 stars.
DEAD-SHOT
The Great God Pan is an 1890s horror novella that would in time inspire H.P. Lovecraft. In style it falls somewhere between the American horror of Edgar Allan Poe and the British crime fiction of Arthur Conan Doyle. Like Tolkien's later fairy stories this tale harkens back to Pagan Britain, but like Lovecraft the terrible knowledge of ancient gods has a psychological price and drives men mad.

Nearly all of the book is told through dialogues. The effect is to put extra distance between the reader and the action. I find this to be both a strength and a weakness.

In the fashion of Sherlock Holmes the murder mystery aspect of the story is wrapped up neatly. We learn who killed whom by supernatural means. But the horrible supernatural visions that lead men to their deaths are only discussed in the vaguest terms. That too is something that is both a strength and a weakness of this book.

Although far from perfect I found this novella to be a thoroughly engrossing, quick read. I was totally absorbed. The author has a wonderful way with words, and there are as many memorable, quotable passages as you would find in Poe, Lovecraft, or Howard.

The free Kindle edition is formatted well with no noticeable problems.
ARE
I'm an aspiring author and after reading Stephen Kings TERRIFYING, "Revival." I noticed he gave credit where credit is due in pointing out this novella by Machen as an influence. I'm not a rambler on reviews so I'll keep it short like the story itself. It is probably the scariest thing I've read and the scariest part is that it was written in the 19th century. It's a quick read and leaves much to the imagination! If only I could see what the poor Gents' saw that caused their self-inflicted demise... actually I take that back, I'll leave that to the imagination. A masterpiece in horror literature is what's not written only to lurk between the lines and that's why this tale is so disturbing yet subtle in its own right. Read it then read it again is my suggestion.
Nilarius
The Great God Pan is by Arthur Machen, a Welsh author and mystic who wrote in the late 1800s. I first made his acquaintance with the spectacularly creepy short story The White People, so moved to this — considered a horror classic.

It is focused on similar themes of his later books, an occult world existing in the shadows of this world, hidden and mysterious but also some how more real.

The novella from 1890 opens with a young woman willingly participating in questionable medical experiment performed by a surgeon intent on helping humankind experience the mystical realm directly. He has, apparently, found the structure in the brain that prevents easy access to the spiritual realm (what he calls, “seeing the god Pan”), though curiously, he offers no insights as to why nature may have seen fit to prevent the veil from being lifted.

He surgically alters the brain of the young woman to bridge the “unthinkable gulf that yawns profound between two worlds, the world of matter and the world of spirit.” He is successful, after a fashion.

She awakens from anesthesia, seems to have a flash of mystical insight, but the wonder quickly fades, replaced by terror — she is reduced, in his words to a “hopeless idiot” for life.

The novella flashes forward, and flashes forward again, and from that rocky start, things go progressively downhill.

There are strange rituals in the woods, children driven insane by the sight of Roman statues, child abductions, orgies (not children, thankfully), suicides (also not children) and an apparent deicide.

“Though horror and revolting nausea rose up within me, and an odour of corruption choked my breath, I remained firm. I was then privileged or accursed, I dare not say which, to see that which was on the bed, lying there black like ink, transformed before my eyes. The skin, and the flesh, and the muscles and bones, and the firm structure of the human body that I had thought be unchangeable, and permanent as adamant, began to melt and dissolve.”

It’s a cracking good read, and certainly deserves to be included in the library of horror classics of horror, especially because, apparently, the novella influenced HP Lovecraft.

Equally intriguing is the underlying conceit that evolution or civilization or just plain old ignorance compounded by the passage of time somehow lowered a veil between the two realms — matter and spirit. And that, at least according to this Welsh writer, bridging these two worlds has such dark and tragic consequences.

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