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3.6 out of 5 stars49
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 6 March 2013
If you are looking for a horror story that is genuinely creepy, sinister and uncanny then look no further. The Great God Pan is a tale that will stay with you long after you switch out the lights and try to sleep.

Penned by the hand of Arthur Machen this proto-Lovecraftian tale (Lovecraft acknowledged his literary debt to the work of Machen) tells of a malevolent elder god, reaching through the ages to the present day, and of the fate of those who would seek out the great god Pan.

Machen himself was a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and fellow occultist Austin Spare provided illustrations in some editions (though sadly not this one). This biographical side note adds an extra air of believability to the story, and makes it a must for those with a love of the esoteric arts (indeed, I think that this would go perfectly with Somerset Maugham's The Magician).

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, IT'S ABSOLUTELY FREE! So what are you waiting for?
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on 28 June 2013
A brilliant piece of period 'weird fiction' with a genuinely unsettling air, it builds through subtlety, nuance and implied threat -- great atmosphere. Arguably it says more about attitudes to race, class and gender at the time that anything else, but still very powerful.
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on 6 April 2011
I love this book. I found it via Dion Fortune and H.P. Lovecraft. All three writers wrote essentially the same tale (see The Shadow over Innsmouth and The Goat Foot God). This is my preferred one out of the three. However to enjoy Machen I think you have to read some of Dunsany's work. Both of them indulge in odd little tales that don't have a proper beginning or end. They also indulge in purple prose a great deal of the time. If you like the more laboured tales of Lovecraft then you should enjoy this. But as with Lovecraft, dont expect too much and enjoy it for what it is - a quirky little tale about the possibilities of mixing of brain surgery, Greek Gods and the occult.
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on 1 February 2012
This classic novella is the story of an experiment which attempts to cross and unite the division between the ancient gods and mankind. Mary, a seventeen year old orphan is under the protection of a certain Dr Raymond, a specialist in 'transcendental medicine', living in Wales. The doctor experiments upon Mary in order to facilitate her seeing the great god of nature himself - Pan! Mary succeeds in seeing the goat-footed god and descends into madness and dies after giving birth to a little girl.
Years later, an attractive young woman named Helen Vaughan arrives in London society and captivates the men around her, like satellites, who all succumb to the horror that seems to follows her - death! And so it seems Helen's mother, Mary, did indeed succeed in her union with the great god Pan and Helen is the beautiful yet monstrous offspring. Disturbing and fantastic!
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on 4 January 2002
Hmm - I have to say I agree with some of the comments above. I don't think that 'The Great God Pan' represents Machen at his best, and I've always been slightly puzzled by its cult status.
This isn't to do down Machen. At his best, he was a magnificent horror writer. 'The Three Impostors' (which Lovecraft cheerfully pillaged) is a wonderful read, and communicates a genuine sense of Edwardian oddness - one of the great novels of London suburban surrealism.
It's also worth digging out his more autobiographical novels, 'The Hill of Dreams' et al. Here, he comes across like Dostoevski on opium - some truly amazing writing about life in London at the end of the last century, plus immensely compelling and intense depictions of extreme mental states.
For a good bit of horror, though, I'd start with 'The Three Impostors'.
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on 17 January 2015
The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen is something of an old fashioned gothic horror story with flowery language and drawn out melodrama some of the nuances of which would be lost on the modern reader (as indeed they were with me - a second reading is almost certainly required).

The story opens with a couple of gentlemen conducting an unusual experiment which draws back the veil of reality to reveal an otherworld behind all reality. It then meanders with accounts of behaviour of an enigmatic and scandalous woman behaving in ways which would have been frowned on in polite Victorian society, before ending in a monstrous climax where she is revealed to be the spawn of monstrous union resulting from the initial experiment.

I seen Stephen King comment on this classic story and the haunting impression it left with him but felt I had almost missed the horrific incident he mentions. So in summary, a story which has influenced many important writers including HP Lovecraft and Stephen King, but a bit of a ponderous and difficult story whose nuances might be lost on today's readers with today's sensibilities.
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VINE VOICEon 1 July 2014
This novella opens with a classic Mad Scientist explaining his plan to use neurosurgery so that a person can see the unfiltered mysteries of the universe, embodied in the Great God Pan. It proceeds in a series of episodes involving a handful of protagonists and testimonies. The fragmentary telling adds to the mystery, in which only glimpses, hints and shadows of events are revealed: Machen shrewdly provides only enough detail to trigger the reader's own imaginings. The form also places the reader in the same predicament as that of the protagonists, seeing little but fearing much.

It's justly seen as a classic horror tale, its economical, guarded narrative more like the mannered tales of M R James than the full-on experience of a Stephen King. Still, for me the beginning chilled more than the end, as the high-handed scientist blithely experiments on the young woman who dotes on him. From this terrible act, coolly described, all else flows.
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on 3 February 2015
This edition has quite a lot of typos - "char" instead of "chair", "the two man" instead of "the two men" etc. Also, a lot of quotation marks are joined up to letters they shouldn't be. I would recommend looking for a more professionally edited version.
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on 15 October 2000
I guess that, like a lot of other people, I found Machen via Lovecraft, ...
The setting is marvellous (Machen lived around Caerleon and knew it well, and accurately evokes the atmosphere of rural South wales whenever he can). the plot, told from various viewpoints, is made more intriguing by the fact that you never really get a handle on what actually goes on. The shifting viewpoints create a sense of unease, if not of fright- but then, it's not really a scary book. Like a lot of his 'Yellow Book' contemporaries, Machen's work was really intensely moral.
It was just a morality that didn't actually preclude describing the things that were to be avoided...
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on 15 December 2014
I really enjoyed The Great God Pan. Given the fact this created quite a scandal when it was originally published, Machen’s novella is a bit tamer than I expected. I found The Great God Pan quite chilling in places and disturbing. The Great God Pan opens with a bang with a mad man experimenting on an innocent woman by cutting into her brain to open a channel to the ‘other side’. The opening section, The Experiment ends in such a way you need to read on. I didn’t really find The Great God Pan explicit or sexual. Maybe I blinked and missed that part. The Great God Pan is well written, chilling and disturbing and revelation after revelation caused my jaw to hit off the floor. The Great God Pan is a great read but not for the faint hearted.
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