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King in Yellow [Hardcover]

Robert W. Chambers

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
82 of 88 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A macabre classic 14 Jun 1998
By - Published on
Robert W. Chambers' "The King in Yellow" is a book within a book. Or, more properly, it's a collection of macabre short stories with a common theme; a fictional two-act play that brings decadence, hallucinations, and madness to any reader.
The stories within this collection, published in 1895, are set in a fictional militaristic 1920s in both the USA and Europe. The tales stand free of each other, and are told from a number of different perspectives, by socialites, soldiers, and artists. Each tells how the lives of the narrator and colleagues have been affected by reading "The King in Yellow", a controversial play that has been denounced by the church and suppressed by governments. After coming into contact with it, their lives are tragically affected. Some find themselves hounded by shadowy agents, while others become confused and delusional. Others are driven to act out the play's sad and decadent events, while some simply go insane.
The substance of the play itself is only alluded to, or hinted at in brief extracts. It is clearly a tragedy, but the motivations and actions of its central characters, including the mysterious King in Yellow himself, are not clear. Like many authors of macabre tales, Chambers was content for our imaginations to do the work, and this book is more powerful for it.
(And by the way, if the central theme of a forbidden book that induces insanity is familiar to you, you've probably read some of the Mythos tales of H.P.Lovecraft. In fact, I doubt that too many people come to read "The King in Yellow" by any other route; Chambers' book is clearly stated as a strong influence on Lovecraft's work.)
To be honest, I was shocked to find myself reading a book that was over a HUNDRED years old, an activity I had assumed was reserved for crusty academics and lovers of classical literature. But, more pointedly, I was surprised to find that "The King in Yellow" is a highly readable volume, full of entertaining, colourful and disturbi! ng tales with a very modern feel to them.
The only downside I found was that the final few stories lose the central theme. I found myself wondering if these thinner, romantic tales, were more representative of Chambers' other work, and were, in effect, "fillers". But perhaps I missed the point? It is only this that stops me from awarding five stars to this impressive book.
Overall, if you've had a bellyful of today's crop of relentless gore and explicit sexuality, take a literary Alka Seltzer by checking out the "King in Yellow".
It's a classic, and I'm not talking Jane Austen.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The King in Yellow is a classic of horror 30 Aug 1997
By - Published on
The King in Yellow is a group of thinly connected short stories all dealing with the effect of a two act play titled "The King in Yellow". The play will show up in the lives and libraries of the victums as if it has a dark soul and will of its own.

All that find this work are blasted in a horrific cosmic game of tag that is some of the darkest fiction in weird literature.

Published in 1895 by a young art student who wrote most of it while living in Paris, the King in Yellow and the early work of Robert W. Chambers were an influence on the work H. P. Lovecraft. Some feel that The King in Yellow is the source of the Necronomicon.

For more information on the work of Robert W. Chambers see: [...]

Larry Loc
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not another 'King In Yellow' review!!!! 16 April 2014
By bOoKwOrM - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Well, I won't give too much of a plot away, except to say that Robert Chambers's book follows an anthology-type format and involves a mysterious play which has a horrible effect on any who dare to read it. Many people probably were tempted to read the book after the "True Detective" tv show.

Everyone should know that this book is in the public domain, meaning that anyone can put out a printing. Meaning the quality will vary wildly from one edition to another. The version I recommend that readers get is the hardcover, yellow cloth-bound version from Buccaneer Press. The binding is very solid(sewn!) and the wonderful yellow cover is very....yellow? :)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mysterious and disturbing book in the best edition you can find 1 April 2014
By Thomas H. Tolleson - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is amazing, disturbing and very enjoyable to read (for a New Yorker) as it describes the city in the late 19th century. Yes, I discovered it through the "True Detective" television series, and I have to say it's been a great way to continue the creepy vibe after the show. However, it really stands on it's own merits as a work of horror.
I'll have to go back and read Ambrose Bierce now to get a better understanding of Carcosa.
As for this edition of the book - it's lovely and perfect. The fabric cover and high-quality paper fit with a book of such historical origin and continued relevance. I also love the blank yellow cover which is suitably creepy. It sort of makes me think of insanity, sickness and a crypt all at the same time.
You can get this book for free on your kindle, but this edition just makes the experience that much more enjoyable.
2.0 out of 5 stars What a letdown 20 July 2014
By Daniel J. Henk - Published on
The early works of Robert Chambers, and this book specifically, are often cited as a pivotal influence on early horror writers such as H.P. Lovecraft. I'm a huge Lovecraft fan, and that made me eager to check this out. When I finally acquired the book and dug in, it proved to be a bit of a letdown.
A collection of ten short stories, the first story was the best of the bunch. Although it was short and ended too soon, "The Repairer of Reputations" had some fascinating elements and led me to believe it was a great start to an interesting collection. The four horror stories that followed, although decent, didn't quite reach the same cleverness or level of intensity. Then some nonsensical poetry followed. But that wasn't even close to the denouement, as the last five stories were romantic drivel. Not only terrible, they featured useless artsy fops, made very little sense, and were almost unreadable. And the endings, they didn't even really end, so much as just stop. Some boring nonsense occurred, was still occurring, and then just ended, almost in mid sentence. Such a disappointment.
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