Top positive review
11 people found this helpful
Visions and horrors
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.