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The Three Impostors And Other Stories (2007)

The Three Impostors and Other Stories (2007)
4.05 of 5 Votes: 3
1568821328 (ISBN13: 9781568821320)
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The Three Impostors And Other Stories...
The Three Impostors And Other Stories (2007)

About book: Having heard Arthur Machen influenced H.P. Lovecraft, I wanted to give him a try, and a short story book seemed to be the best way to do it.However, this work made me feel like I have the attention span of a pea. I don’t know if it’s the 19th century English or the neverending prose or even the fact that the stories are linked but not in an obvious way, but it struck me as extremely dull most of the time. I found myself constantly going back to reread the last line or even paragraph, feeling utterly lost.Apart from The Great God Pan, there’s Three Impostors, which are supposed to be a collection of short stories. The tales contain a lot of swooning (both by men and women), the usual hush-hush and prejudice about these paranormal issues that you would expect, especially in a society of that time and place, which seemed to be under the impression that everything had been discovered. Also, damsels in distress and kind gentlemen who come to their aid, and the suspense grows and grows and grows… And that’s it. There is no closure. There’s a hint that something quite bad happened but most of the time you can never fully tell what or why. I mean, I am a fan of leaving something to the imagination, something that leaves the reader wondering what really happened there – it adds to the horror and suspense -, but that is taken to an extreme here. You never really get an explanation to what happened. So after the lovely but nonetheless tedious (in my opinion), endless descriptions, my reaction was usually ‘that’s it?’. And then another short story started. It was undoubtly intended that way, because from what I gather the stories are like bits and pieces of a puzzle and it is put together in the end (which makes it even weirder to me that they are called short stories, when it seems to me that they are part of one book, spoken in difference voices), but it felt to me that, as I had already experienced in The Great God Pan, each short story had such potential and then was left unfinished or the ending was rushed and most of all that in the end a lot was still left unsaid. As I read it, I found there didn’t seem to be any obvious connection between one story to the next and I found the same characters being described in different manners, so it almost feels as reading different versions of a main idea, although most of it did make sense in the end. But the fact is “Three Imposters” left me feeling confused, unsure and, well, not pleased. The ending was simply not worth the effort the rest of the book put me through.Alas, the fact that I could never 100% get into it surely didn’t help and English not being my native language most definitely played a part. But the fact that it all seemed to stretch for so long, to me, numbed the horror bits and left me unsatisfied. This is a fairly small book and it took me longer to read than ones thrice its volume. Only out of stubbornness did I not put it aside. Overall, even though the book had its moments, it was simply not an enjoyable experience for me. And what may cause some to feel completed enthralled by the work, I simply found boring and exhausting. Maybe it will be different for you. I, for one, don’t plan on buying volume 2.

Every October, just before Halloween, I scan my shelves for some good fantasy/horror -- usually something from Dover Publications, who seem to have a lock on the field. This year, I read Three Impostors by the Welsh writer Arthur Machen. Although I finished the book just minutes ago, my mind is still reeling with what must be one of the most subtle and insidiously terrifying works of the genre I have ever read.Picture to yourself a mysterious prologue, in which we are introduced to two men and a woman who are leaving a mysterious house in the suburbs of London. They discuss some act which was performed and move on. From another direction come the two main protagonists, Dyson and Phillipps, who take over from this point.What follows are a number of chapters titled as if they were independent short stories; yet they are all interlinked. Two of the chapters contain substories, which Machen for some reason calls "novels," which have been frequently anthologized, namely, "The Novel of the Black Seal" and "The Novel of the White Powder." If these tales remind one of H. P. Lovecraft, it is no accident. In his essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature," Lovecraft comments that they represent "perhaps the highwater mark of Machen's skill as a terror-weaver." It is only at the end that we find out what has happened in the series of interlinked tales; and the reader, if he is diligent, winds up paging a second time through the book to see whether it all plays out. It does. Rarely have I encountered such a short novel with so many interwoven skeins. I have remarked in other reviews about the moral landscape of G. K. Chesterton's tales, in which the sinister qualities of the landscape reflect in some way the moral flaws in the characters (usually of the villains). In Machen's work, on the other hand, the scenes where the action takes place vary widely and sometimes strangely inappropriately, considering what takes place. Machen's point seems to be that great mysteries underlie our lives:I stand in a world that seems as strange and awful to me as the endless waves of ocean seen for the first time, shining, from a peak in Darien. Now I know that the walls of sense that seem so impenetrable, that seem to loom up above the heavens and to be founded below the depths, and to shut us in for evermore, are no such everlasting impassable barriers as we fancied, but thinnest and most airy veils that melt away before the seeker, and dissolve as the early mist of the morning about the brooks.At one moment, the sun may be shining; at another, one is lost in evil, with the faerie folk and witches and ogres bending our idea of what is real and proper into a cocked hat.
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It is difficult to be fair in rating this. I enjoyed these stories, and I'm really glad that I've read them and it is likely that I will at some point continue to read Machen. But all in all, they were a bit of a chore. The problem is that this is genre fiction and with it you expect it to be sexy and punchy. Because Machen was the influence on the genre to come he isn't necessarily defined by expectation. The best way to describe these stories is that they are all foreplay and at the end you don't get a full on romp but rather a glimpse as something titillating. Even in romance novels, while you are waiting for the big finish there are moments in the interim that raise the stake and tension. Machen's style is that he paints a scenario and tries to impress how tied to the real world it is by over-describing everything, then as soon as something is out of place, he changes the perspective, either by tracking a different character, shifting to a different time, reading a letter, diverging on a B-line story that will describe an element that will tie in later, etc. It is all masterfully done and looking back on the experience I really enjoy these pieces. As you are moving through them they can be a bit frustrating where you want him to get to the point. He does a great job of engaging you to where you want to know what is happening, but the breadcrumbs often come too far apart. The structure is like a short story, but because of all of his divergences he ends up writing novellas out of them. Because I am a slow reader I found the pace to be the biggest issue for me. On top of this, because it is so nicely written, and important features often vague I couldn't just switch to scanning the pages, so I am left with characters describing in detail a nine mile walk home through the streets of London in the wee hours, while I'm waiting for what will eventually be a driving force to the story. At best, I'd say he buries the leads on his stories, at worse, I'd say he's a gasbag (though a charming one at that).
This was my first experience with Machen, and I find that I really like him. The book comes off in an intelligent fashion and you can tell how Machen was an influence to Lovecraft as they share that same creepy feeling and penchant for things that slither. The three imposters relate fantastic stories while searching for a single man that their master wants. The other name for this book is the Transmutations, which will make sense after hearing the stories. I really enjoyed the language and plotting. The imposters are diverse and imaginative. Even though the ending is rather abrupt, I would recommend.this to fans of horror and Lovecraft.
Eric Orchard
This book is full of amazing moments and imagery. Some images have even been directly reused by authors like H.P. Lovecraft. The difficulty I had with this book was the language. The dialogue is stiff and unnatural to the point of being distracting. The descriptions ramble on and on. Apparently he's copying R L Stevenson's style here but it feels even more overwrought. My favorite story, which feels more like a detective story then a full on horror story is the Bright Pyramid. It's about two men investigating weird symbols on one of their properties and it leads them to malevolent fairies. Really cool treatment of the fairies. A pretty good book and very interesting if you're interested in the history of weird fiction.
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