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3.8 out of 5 stars11
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on 31 March 2010
This book presents Machen's first horror tale and first novel.

"The Great God Pan" is one of Machen's best horror tales and was the first work to bring him to the (unfavourable) attention of critics and public in 1894. It shocked victorian readers for its decadent themes and sexual connotations, although a modern reader cannot help feeling that the author is indeed too reticent in describing the events. The subject of the tale is about the existence of a wild and essentially evil entity, personified by the Greek God Pan, and the horrible consequences caused when the doors that normally keep it on a sphere separate from human existence are burst open. The tale is permeated by an intense undertone of horror.

"The Hill of Dreams" is a semi-biographical novel, written in 1896-7 and published in 1907. It represented a change of style and content to everything Machen had written until that moment and a successful attempt in establishing his own personal style. It relates the struggles of a lonely visionary boy, Lucian Taylor, against the social conventions of the Welsh countryside where he's from and, afterwards, against the odds of making a professional career as a man of letters in London. The story was conceived by Machen as a Robinson Crusoe's adventure of the soul, and is a profound transfiguration of reality through the lens of Lucian's mind (and ultimately the author's own). The ending is surprising and allusive, leading to the re-interpretation of all the previous chapters in a different light. Overall, the novel is to be praised for its remarkable originality and personal character, although the reading is somewhat heavy and tortous at times and the original core of the novel has been rather unbalanced by the overgrowth of subsidiary themes. A handful of scenes and ideas are very effective and evocative, showing the author at his best, and the finale is superb in its reticent character.
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on 25 September 2008
I had hardly read any Machen before-just one or two short stories, and so these two novels were a revelation. He really did write very well, almost faultlessly in fact. The Great God Pan is a tense and atmospheric chiller in which some unspeakable horror-the offspring of an ancient deity- is afoot in modern (19th century) London. I found this hard to put down and read it at nearly one sitting.It is a disturbing and thought-provoking tale even by modern standards, and I can quite see why the book drew some adverse criticism when first published.
The Hill of Dreams I found less enthralling. It is again superbly written, but I lost interest in the central character, a failed writer, seemingly without real talent, whose woes and struggles form the bulk of the story. Also I have doubts that late Victorian society was really so harsh and philistine as Machen paints it. His view of life as expressed in these stories is so gloomy as to make Hardy appear positively optimistic.
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on 9 November 2014
"The Great God Pan" - echoes of "Frankenstein" and "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" written through a filter of 1890's decadence and aestheticism. It's an early story by Machen and a little disjointed. Too much reliance in reporting actions "off-stage" yet it has its eeffective moments and you can certainly see the influence on HP Lovecraft all the way through to "Rosemary's Baby".

"The Hill Of Dreams" is the far greater story, albeit too long and in need of judicious editing. What struck me was was its affinity with Knut Hamsun's "Hunger" and the works of Hermann Hesse - a novel of alienation and being the Outsider. Lucian Taylor's fate - a dreamer of high ideals finally brought low by poverty, an inability to manage in the everyday world, isolation leading to mental breakdown and death. Machen's descriptions of the "hell" of dismal and decaying streets of late Victorian London are superb - quite expressionistic - and brought to mind the contemporary paintings of Walter Sickert. The final pages are very moving.
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on 9 November 2014
"The Great God Pan" - echoes of "Frankenstein" and "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" written through a filter of 1890's decadence and aestheticism. It's an early story by Machen and a little disjointed. Too much reliance in reporting actions "off-stage" yet it has its eeffective moments and you can certainly see the influence on HP Lovecraft all the way through to "Rosemary's Baby".

"The Hill Of Dreams" is the far greater story, albeit too long and in need of judicious editing. What struck me was was its affinity with Knut Hamsun's "Hunger" and the works of Hermann Hesse - a novel of alienation and being the Outsider. Lucian Taylor's fate - a dreamer of high ideals finally brought low by poverty, an inability to manage in the everyday world, isolation leading to mental breakdown and death. Machen's descriptions of the "hell" of dismal and decaying streets of late Victorian London are superb - quite expressionistic - and brought to mind the contemporary paintings of Walter Sickert. The final pages are very moving.
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on 28 March 2016
Despite reviews and various other critiques of his work, Machen is not weird. In fact both these stories are pretty boring. And this particular publication is full of strange editing errors. If you must read these, choose a different version.
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on 13 October 2010
I thought of Machen as a writer of a type of late Victorian supernatural stories and read this as it was referenced in Rob Young's Electric Eden.The Hill Of Dreams is much more than that, very dark, written in a prose style that is probably too ornate for modern taste. In some ways, it seemed to me to occupy ground somewhere between Walter Pater and Huysmans with a type of occult undertone. Some of its descriptions of place and time are atmospheric if morbid, but it is the psychology,sexuality and guilt that I suppose makes it compelling: it is surprisingly frank,particularly as it is intended, I think, to be semi autobiographical. Not enjoyable. as such but disorienting and unsettling: the product of an independent mind, particularly in those more censorious times.
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on 26 August 2015
The Great God Pan is simply unputdownable. Great story and well written. Hill of Dreams improves when you find out this is Machens bio :-)
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on 15 December 2014
A bit slow going and dated, but intriguing story nevertheless. It was bought on someone else's recommendation.
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on 28 June 2015
Bought this for my wife to read following a review of sorts on the radio. She found it not nearly as frightening as the reviewer suggested and was disappointed. On the basis of her comments, I have not felt compelled to read it myself.
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on 5 September 2015
Good short stories
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