the great god pan
the once upon a time challenge ends today and i’ve only posted one review in all this time! so with today being the final day I thought I’d make a push to get at least one more review out there!
before i do that, let me just list the books i read for the challenge. i did the read 5 or more from any sub-genre challenge – although, for the first time, i think i could actually fit a book into each of the four sub-genres. i read:
- courtney crumrin and the night things, a gothic fantasy comic book by ted naifeh
- barking, a comic fantasy novel by tom holt
- wizard of earthsea by ursula le guin
- the time traveler’s wife, which i see as a modern fairy tale (aside from primarily being a romance, of course)
- the end of mr. y, a sort of urban fantasy sort of psychadelic, novel by scarlett thomas
- the great god pan by arthur machen
i thoroughly enjoyed all of them and hopefully i’ll be able to review more than just two of these! okay onto the great god pan:
this would probably fit into the mythology bracket but also has elements of horror and folk tale in it. written in the 1890s the story starts off with a typically cruel victorian experiment in which a scientist of some sort does some surgery on a woman’s brain in order to enable her to see the god pan – an experiment which leaves her feeble-minded. many years later high-flying and influential londoners start committing suicide and a mysterious woman appears on the social scene. before long it becomes clear that the woman and the suicides are definitely connected.
this was very interesting. it has lots of different elements in it – it is part gothic horror, part fantasy, part mystery, with a lot mythology and mysticism thrown in. its quite similar to a lot of conan doyle’s gothic stories (mixed with a bit of poe), except that its rather more menacing. doyle’s horror is rather cozy, at the end of it all, whereas machen’s, albeit tame by modern standards, is quite disturbing.
i recommend reading it all in one setting, as for the first few chapters machen introduces different protagonists who are initially entirely unconnected, and so it can be a bit tricky to follow everything that’s going on.
the only thing i found a bit difficult was the weakness of the ending. i can’t remember exactly how it ends now, but it wasn’t entirely conclusive and just seemed to end, if you know what i mean. but then, machen is clearly experimenting here and what he wrote was very innovative for the time.
other than that it’s a joy to read. it’s short but you definitely feel like you get your money’s worth as each page is full of mystery and a delicious eerie atmosphere. that’s the word – i’ve been thinking “spooky”, “gothic” but they don’t capture it! eerie is what this story is. the mystery also unfolds quite nicely and all the discoveries are fresh and interesting, and the book kept me entertained all the way through. all in all it was a really enjoyable read!