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Some of the finest horror stories ever written. Arthur Machen had a profound impact upon H.P. Lovecraft and the group of stories that would later become known as the Cthulhu Mythos. This first volume of Chaosium's Arthur Machen collection begins with the chilling "The Three Impostors" in its complete form, including the rarely seen sections "The Decorative Imagination" and Some of the finest horror stories ever written. Arthur Machen had a profound impact upon H.P. Lovecraft and the group of stories that would later become known as the Cthulhu Mythos. This first volume of Chaosium's Arthur Machen collection begins with the chilling "The Three Impostors" in its complete form, including the rarely seen sections "The Decorative Imagination" and "The Novel of the Iron Maid." Rounding out the first volume are "The Great God Pan," "The Inmost Light," and "The Shining Pyramid," all are excellent tales.


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Some of the finest horror stories ever written. Arthur Machen had a profound impact upon H.P. Lovecraft and the group of stories that would later become known as the Cthulhu Mythos. This first volume of Chaosium's Arthur Machen collection begins with the chilling "The Three Impostors" in its complete form, including the rarely seen sections "The Decorative Imagination" and Some of the finest horror stories ever written. Arthur Machen had a profound impact upon H.P. Lovecraft and the group of stories that would later become known as the Cthulhu Mythos. This first volume of Chaosium's Arthur Machen collection begins with the chilling "The Three Impostors" in its complete form, including the rarely seen sections "The Decorative Imagination" and "The Novel of the Iron Maid." Rounding out the first volume are "The Great God Pan," "The Inmost Light," and "The Shining Pyramid," all are excellent tales.

30 review for The Three Impostors and Other Stories

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    The Three Imposters is a strange little book, a narrative about a secret society's efforts to retrieve a Roman coin ("The Gold Tiberius"), but this "novel" appears to be little more than a convenient device for telling a series of marvelous, horrific tales. Two of these tales--"The Novel of the Black Seal" and "The Novel of the White Powder"--are first-class works of imaginative fiction, and the entire book itself is entrancing, reminiscent of Stevenson's New Arabian Nights in its descriptions o The Three Imposters is a strange little book, a narrative about a secret society's efforts to retrieve a Roman coin ("The Gold Tiberius"), but this "novel" appears to be little more than a convenient device for telling a series of marvelous, horrific tales. Two of these tales--"The Novel of the Black Seal" and "The Novel of the White Powder"--are first-class works of imaginative fiction, and the entire book itself is entrancing, reminiscent of Stevenson's New Arabian Nights in its descriptions of London--conveyed in musical, Swinburneian prose--make of this nineteenth century metropolis something as exotic and fantastic as the Baghdad of Haroun al-Rashid. In addition, this collection contains not only two short stories but also the novella "The Great God Pan," one of the acknowledged classics of the weird tale. Its Chinese box structure--the horror revealed in fragments, in various voices, with lacunae which must be supplied by the reader--makes the narrative all the more compelling and terrifying in its obliqueness. (Lovecraft used this structure as his model for "The Call of Cthulhu.") "The Great God Pan" has an interesting plot as well, in that it is an inversion of the Ripper murders which occurred only a few years before. Instead of lower-class women murdered in the slums by an unknown male slasher, we have wealthy young men committing suicide in the most fashionable sections of London--and this time a mysterious woman seems to be involved.

  2. 4 out of 5

    William2

    I bought The Three Imposters and Other Stories because Jorge Luis Borges put it in his 75-title list: "Prologues to a Personal Library" (Selected Non-Fictions, Penguin, 2000). So far, I have finished only the title novella. It was published in 1895 in UK, so the diction has its moments of old world British punctilio, but these are certainly no worse than anything found in other prominent Victorian writers. For the most part the narrative is beautifully compressed and the action brisk. I generall I bought The Three Imposters and Other Stories because Jorge Luis Borges put it in his 75-title list: "Prologues to a Personal Library" (Selected Non-Fictions, Penguin, 2000). So far, I have finished only the title novella. It was published in 1895 in UK, so the diction has its moments of old world British punctilio, but these are certainly no worse than anything found in other prominent Victorian writers. For the most part the narrative is beautifully compressed and the action brisk. I generally do not read mysteries or stories of the occult unless they are by Edgar Allan Poe and one or two others, and reading this collection I was reminded why. For all its delights there is a weakness in the middle of the book that I found rankling. It appears in the chapter titled "Novel of the Black Seal." Despite the otherwise vivid writing there is a tendency here to display horror not through the depiction of the horrible, but by a rising hysteria and frenzy among the main characters. The reader is left wondering why everyone is so frightened. It's this one section then, the longest in the book, in which the narrative fails. A second annoying habit in this section is a relentless withholding of information. Now this is something that all writers of fiction do to keep us guessing what will happen next. But Machen is so chintzy with even the smallest particle of rationale that it's a little maddening. Whenever the text calls for him to come clean, he squirms out of doing so through some cheap device or other. This is trickery, and bad writing. But mixed with these are fine moments, especially Machen's clarity of voice and vivid detail, that satisfy deeply. So recommended with reservations.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Ok, I've gone back and forth and thought about this review. I have not read the second volume (will soon), but this is how it seems to me. This book contains two important works: "The Great God Pan" and The Three Impostors. "The Great God Pan" is something of misstep that mashes together two different short stories. The first, and smallest, is the best: a scientist opens up the doors of perception and the horrible truths of the Outside comes pouring in. The second, the bulk, deals with sexual ho Ok, I've gone back and forth and thought about this review. I have not read the second volume (will soon), but this is how it seems to me. This book contains two important works: "The Great God Pan" and The Three Impostors. "The Great God Pan" is something of misstep that mashes together two different short stories. The first, and smallest, is the best: a scientist opens up the doors of perception and the horrible truths of the Outside comes pouring in. The second, the bulk, deals with sexual horrors and is basically how bad a particular woman is (because of, you know, sexual horrors). Toss in a small twist to bring them back to together and you have a satisfying, but potentially so much more, product. The Three Impostors? You could write an entire book of discussion about what is meant and what could have been implied. A series of stories inside of stories are told, some with stories inside of them, many with a horror bend, and all linking back, however falsely and tentatively, with the search for a young man with spectacles and a gold coin. Of the various interlocked tales (four of which are pitched as "novels", fantastical stories told by one character to another), the two most important are "Novel of the Black Seal" and "Novel of the White Powder". "Seal" deals with hidden truths and the unknown things hidden in the history of man, and is very important to what is usually recognized as Lovecraftian horror. "Powder" is much more classic horror, a white powder that helps a overzealous student of law regain some zest and vivre. Except it goes awry. Right up there with "Colour out of Space" (Lovecraft) and "Voice in the Night" (Hodgson) as a classic of the consumed-from-within horror. The four novels and five or six "real" tales of The Three Impostors are subtitled "The Transmutations", and most of the stories involve some element of things changing. However, the connection between the storylines and change can be tenuous in places. I think I get it, but I wouldn't be absolutely sure. As for the remaining, more minor tales, you have "The Inmost Light" and "The Shining Pyramid". "The Inmost Light" is interesting, but at its core is a coincidence that makes the entire oeuvre of Dickens sound plausible. If the whole thing was written in reverse sequence (except the end would still be the end), it would be better. "The Shining Pyramid" has some neat mysticism, but is done better in "The Novel of the Black Seal". Which brings me to the bit that involves the second volume of Joshi's Machen compilations. From what I have heard, "The White People" is the key piece of that. It seems like "Inmost" or "Pyramid" could have been culled and "The White People" put in its place to make a definitive Machen weird tale single volume with a second volume aimed at more completist ventures. Still, the bookends--"Pan" and Impostors--are very worthy tales and I'm sad it took me this long to read them.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    I have long eagerly awaited reading something by Arthur Machen. Supposedly one of the grandfather's of Weird fiction, an important influence on H.P. Lovecraft, I was hoping for another author of the same caliber (and perhaps somewhat similar to) Algernon Blackwood. He turned out not to be quite quite as good and somewhat different in approach. This is volume one of a three volume set and contains the novella "The Great God Pan", two short stories "The Inmost Light" and "The Shining Pyramid" and t I have long eagerly awaited reading something by Arthur Machen. Supposedly one of the grandfather's of Weird fiction, an important influence on H.P. Lovecraft, I was hoping for another author of the same caliber (and perhaps somewhat similar to) Algernon Blackwood. He turned out not to be quite quite as good and somewhat different in approach. This is volume one of a three volume set and contains the novella "The Great God Pan", two short stories "The Inmost Light" and "The Shining Pyramid" and the novel "The Three Imposters". Edited and introduced by S.T. Joshi. Common themes include the corruption of innocence, scientific endeavour in areas of the supernatural and the mysteries and beauty of late 19th century London. "The Great God Pan" is one of the stories Machen is famous for but I was somewhat underwhemled. Apparently deeply shocking and contraversial in it's time, there were angry reviews and morally outraged critics in the media, today it feels overly restrained and coy. In other words it hasn't dated too well, lacking the effectiveness they might once of had. The other two short stories are in the same vein; good but haven't dated too well. Somewhat different though is the novel "The Three Imposters" (subtitled "The Transumation"). I don't know if I have ever read a story with such a complex narrative structure. Divided up into a series of episodes, it contains many complete stories within stories that are related by one of the three antagonists to either of the two protagonists in as part of their elaborate and convoluted attempts to try to track down another character who is on the run. The narrative reached, at times, four levels deep. The two protagonists are wealthy individuals who were born into money and who have nothing more to do with their time than wandering the streets of London, reflecting upon and discussing esoteric matters, furiously smoking their pipes as they keep running into the three antagonists, in various guises, who proceed to relate dubious stories of the supernatural. The prose is quite purple, noticibly more so than Blackwood (altough these tales were written at least ten years earlier) and (as I said) feel more dated. I do intend to go on and read the other two volumes in this series to see what else this author has to offer.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Charles Dee Mitchell

    When Arthur Machen’s The Three Imposters was headed to press, John Murray, his London publisher, got cold feet. The year was 1895;the scandal of the Oscar Wilde trial was still fresh in the public’s mind; and, Murray worried that Machen’s depiction of pagan cults devoted to sex and murder might run afoul of the censors. He requested cuts. Machen reportedly changed one word. The book was published without incident. Reading it today it is hard to imagine what the fuss would have been about. But Mac When Arthur Machen’s The Three Imposters was headed to press, John Murray, his London publisher, got cold feet. The year was 1895;the scandal of the Oscar Wilde trial was still fresh in the public’s mind; and, Murray worried that Machen’s depiction of pagan cults devoted to sex and murder might run afoul of the censors. He requested cuts. Machen reportedly changed one word. The book was published without incident. Reading it today it is hard to imagine what the fuss would have been about. But Machen was known as a decadent writer. (I have unread on my kindle a 1918 appreciation of the author titled, Arthur Machen: Author of Ecstasy and Sin.) His most famous short story, “The Great God Pan”, is as kinky as it off-putting in its presumption of male and class privilege. And the three imposters in this series of linked short stories are, once you can untangle the convoluted narratives, involved in some pretty horrible stuff. But it is the sort of horrible stuff that now dominates horror programming on cable TV. Machen’s depictions of grotesque horror are images that if caught them on a Saturday afternoon Chiller Channel viewing session I might note in passing looked pretty cool. They make for entertainment that is “of its day” rather than “dated.” Machen’s love of London and its streets, alleyways, bachelor flats, and even its suburbs add much to his tales. And there is some genuine comedy in his choice of characters, diletantish young men of sufficient if limited means who remain clueless of the world they have stumbled into until the final gory revelation. “My dear sir,” said Dyson, “I will give you the task of the literary man in a phrase. He has got to do simply this – to invent a wonderful story, and to tell it in a wonderful manner.” Mr. Dyson is speaking for the author at this moment, but he is also setting himself up for some terrible shocks. (I read a Dover edition that contained no other stories than the linked narratives of the title.)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jim Smith

    If this book were expanded to include 'The White People' it would feature all of Machen's truly essential short horror fiction from his somewhat frustrating, but thoroughly fascinating career. The Great God Pan/The Inmost Light (published together) and The Three Impostors were the two books that cemented Machen's posterity as a 'horror writer', despite him not writing all that much in the genre otherwise, while The Shining Pyramid is just really damn frightening. If this book were expanded to include 'The White People' it would feature all of Machen's truly essential short horror fiction from his somewhat frustrating, but thoroughly fascinating career. The Great God Pan/The Inmost Light (published together) and The Three Impostors were the two books that cemented Machen's posterity as a 'horror writer', despite him not writing all that much in the genre otherwise, while The Shining Pyramid is just really damn frightening.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I read selected bits of this collection - "The Great God Pan" and "The Novel of the White Powder" - last year as support material for a Lovecraft Book Club, but I didn't really settle down to get to know Machen until recently, when the imminence of the 2015 NecronomiCon reminded me that I'd promised not to show up to the convention again without having done all the reading. (And yes, I'm aware of how much geek was crammed into that sentence.) Due to their influence on Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, A I read selected bits of this collection - "The Great God Pan" and "The Novel of the White Powder" - last year as support material for a Lovecraft Book Club, but I didn't really settle down to get to know Machen until recently, when the imminence of the 2015 NecronomiCon reminded me that I'd promised not to show up to the convention again without having done all the reading. (And yes, I'm aware of how much geek was crammed into that sentence.) Due to their influence on Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Clark Ashton Smith, and Lord Dunsany all made my homework list, and reading them in close conjunction has actually added something to my weird fiction experience, as it facilitates a comparison of just what each man (oh, so many men) considered "horror." Machen's a bit like Blackwood in that he finds his terrors mostly in the natural world, however his forces aren't impersonal but rather more personally pagan ones that work to destabilize civilization by bringing out man's inner Pan - the instigating moment of the horror in the opening tale in the volume, "The Great God Pan," for instance, is a scientific experiment which leads to a young woman's almost ecstatic experience of the world around her. It's an interesting take, though perhaps not a surprising one for a Victorian. Most of this volume is taken up by the tripartite "The Three Imposters," which reads a good deal differently as a whole than it does if you pick out individual pieces as I'd done previously. I'm not entirely certain the framing structure really works - other than to bring Machen's recurring characters Dyson and Phillips in for cameos - but the tales themselves are creepily enjoyable, though the unreliability of the narrators will leave you wondering how much of what you've just read you can really trust. So far I've read two volumes of this three volume series from Chaosium, and I'm fairly comfortable advising all but the completists to just stick to the first one and then move on to something else. Machen's fun in small doses and definitely worth reading for his influence on later writers like Lovecraft and King, but I'm not sure you need to follow him through all his iterations... unless, like me, you're doing your geek homework.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Derek

    Taken as a whole, I can see why Lovecraft considered Machen to be an inspiration and influence. Machen touched on notions of the world being a far stranger and more terrible place than we imagine, and that the veneer of safety and civilization might be stripped away by happenstance or by foolish act of man. The short works in this collection are pretty much in this vein. "The Three Impostors", on the other hand, poses a riddle. While the component novels (as they are termed) follow the convention Taken as a whole, I can see why Lovecraft considered Machen to be an inspiration and influence. Machen touched on notions of the world being a far stranger and more terrible place than we imagine, and that the veneer of safety and civilization might be stripped away by happenstance or by foolish act of man. The short works in this collection are pretty much in this vein. "The Three Impostors", on the other hand, poses a riddle. While the component novels (as they are termed) follow the conventions of the short stories and are themselves powerful works of weird fiction, their combination, the framing device connecting them, and the final denouement pulls the rug from under the reader, and in this makes the whole work reminiscent of Robert W. Chambers's weird fiction or perhaps something from Philip K. Dick. The story as a whole does not appear to make logical sense, at least from the perspective of an ordinary person. The involvement of Phillips and Dyson and their interaction with the three impostors of the title makes an extremely weird effect. The reader is in the position of knowing little more than Phillips and Dyson, who glimpse an underworld whose machinations are far more subtle and less understandable than they expect. A reader going into this story with expectations of it being something akin to the conventional Lovecraft tale will face disappointment.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Davis

    Excellent book. It was short stories but they all fit together. Two of my favorites were The Novel of the Black Seal and The Novel of the White Powder.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chris Browning

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Basically this is the Dyson chronicles, minus the Red Hand and with the Great God Pan instead. There’s not much to add to Pan which remains as gripping and strange and worrying as it did the first time I read it about fifteen years ago. The Inmost Light feels like Machen trying to find a way to tell his stories and it not quite working, with a fair bit of coincidence needed to get the plot along. The Shining Pyramid is however extraordinary, with Machen absolutely understanding how implications Basically this is the Dyson chronicles, minus the Red Hand and with the Great God Pan instead. There’s not much to add to Pan which remains as gripping and strange and worrying as it did the first time I read it about fifteen years ago. The Inmost Light feels like Machen trying to find a way to tell his stories and it not quite working, with a fair bit of coincidence needed to get the plot along. The Shining Pyramid is however extraordinary, with Machen absolutely understanding how implications of whatever is seen in the bowl is far more terrifying than lurid descriptions or Lovecraftian florid prose crossed with HP’s usual customary cop out of “too awful to describe” The Three Impostors is the most interesting book here though: an attempt to link short horror in the vein of Robert Louis Stevenson that works far better than Chambers’ King in Yellow which came out the same year. I love that book but the linking thread is sometimes so tenuous or rushed it feels the weakest element of the book. The weird thing about Impostors is the thread feels like it’s the great hidden and unspoken element of the book. For a book I’ve not read before (I’d only read the other elements before this), I’m slightly alarmed that I think what Machen is getting at is in part the plot of the book I’m currently redrafting, the idea of characters made to perform rituals that they are unaware of taking part in (also, obviously, the plot of Klein’s The Ceremonies in some way, a book very open about its debt to Machen). Because the titular imposters tell these extraordinary and strange stories to Dyson and Philips in an attempt to find the man with the spectacles you have to ask why they need to go to such lengths? My feeling is that these stories and the way they tell them are in some way part of the ritual that eventually ends with Walters’ hideous death. But Machen cleverly leaves this out letting us try and work out this final aspect for ourselves The worst thing about this volume (apart from the cover) is, sadly, ST Joshi. A writer so dedicated to Lovecraft that he fails to show any understanding of the complexity of Machen as a writer in his introduction, accusing Machen of misogyny in an amazing act of denial of Lovecraft’s own writing. He also amazingly seems to miss the point of the Three Imposters entirely. Joshi has done a great deal for supernatural fiction but by god, his blinkered view of HP means he sometimes misses the most obvious things in front of him. For all his skills, Lovecraft never attains any of the dread Machen so subtly and astutely conjures in these extraordinary stories

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Had been wanting to explore some Arthur Machen for a while now. Finally got around to it with The Three Impostors and Other Stories. This is essentially a collection of short stories that are all connected to one degree or another. Together they speak to events that are underpinned with some dark and sinister circumstances. They do build some tension and engender an over-arching sense of creepiness, but the horror quotient really never rises above that. In their day, the themes dealt with in the Had been wanting to explore some Arthur Machen for a while now. Finally got around to it with The Three Impostors and Other Stories. This is essentially a collection of short stories that are all connected to one degree or another. Together they speak to events that are underpinned with some dark and sinister circumstances. They do build some tension and engender an over-arching sense of creepiness, but the horror quotient really never rises above that. In their day, the themes dealt with in these stories would have been quite shocking to most readers. And even by today’s standards, there are some turns here and there that are at least unsettling if not out right disturbing. As such, this collection has the feel of a precursor to the horror genre. I’ve always had an affinity for what I think of as foundational works and this fits nicely into that category. There are themes, plot points, and narrative devices throughout that clearly were influences on later writers like Algernon Blackwood and (especially) H.P. Lovecraft. Machen’s writing style is period-typically overwrought and a bit plodding at times. This can make even these short stories something of a slow trudge. But then you happen on some of those gems that likely inspired things like the Cthulhu mythos and you just can’t help but admire the guy’s imagination…or at least I couldn’t. I enjoyed this read, but for reasons that probably wouldn’t resonate with everybody. I’d recommend it as well, but only to readers comfortable with heavy Victorian writing styles and/or are interested in early Lovecraftian influences.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    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 utt 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.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark R.

    ***1/2 "The Three Imposters and Other Stories" contains the title novel, plus the novella, "The Great God Pan," and two short stories, "The Inmost Light" and "The Shining Pyramid." I would rate the novella and short stories as four out of five, with the novel being a three. The novel holds the same structure as the short stories, more or less, with one character (a man named Dyson in all but one of the stories contained in this book) investigating and being told a strange story by another characte ***1/2 "The Three Imposters and Other Stories" contains the title novel, plus the novella, "The Great God Pan," and two short stories, "The Inmost Light" and "The Shining Pyramid." I would rate the novella and short stories as four out of five, with the novel being a three. The novel holds the same structure as the short stories, more or less, with one character (a man named Dyson in all but one of the stories contained in this book) investigating and being told a strange story by another character. The novel has Dyson and an associate of his being told stories by various characters, and the episodic nature of the novel even allowed for some of these stories to be published on their own in the late 1800's. I was not familiar with Arthur Machen before reading this book, and only knew that his early work (represented here) was an influence on Lovecraft. That's certainly obvious after reading the first story, "The Great God Pan," with its themes of gods and monsters just beyond our world, able to be seen by those who can manage to get through to the "other side." The editor of the book provides some valuable commentary (at least, valuable to someone like me, who doesn't always pick up on everything right away), and points towards some Lovecraft stories which were influenced by Machen's writing (one that occurred to me, which he didn't mention, is Lovecraft's "From Beyond," of which "The Great God Pan" reminded me). I like the style of Machen's writing and will probably pick up anther collection of his in the near future. The episodic and sometimes confusing nature of the novel made it a little less enjoyable to read than the short stories, but overall, this is definitely a good collection.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Machen is, as should be, a little strange. Cerebral horror sure, but not particularly horrific. Quaint. Suspenseful build up to a reveal you probably see coming because you've been exposed to so much horror since this was written. So not scary, and nothing really is unless you believe it's possible. A little creepy perhaps. I like this sort of thing though, popularized now, or rather, exemplified in Lovecraft: ancient rites, old gods, horrible books --it's really more of a book lovers horror. Ce Machen is, as should be, a little strange. Cerebral horror sure, but not particularly horrific. Quaint. Suspenseful build up to a reveal you probably see coming because you've been exposed to so much horror since this was written. So not scary, and nothing really is unless you believe it's possible. A little creepy perhaps. I like this sort of thing though, popularized now, or rather, exemplified in Lovecraft: ancient rites, old gods, horrible books --it's really more of a book lovers horror. Certainly a deranged lunatic with a knife is scarier, but a strange cult and an old book of unspeakable knowledge is so much more satisfying.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    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 plott 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.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jack Heath

    Synopsis: several short stories in the horror vein. Includes: The Great God Pan, The Inmost Light, and The Shining Pyramid. Machen died in 1947.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ian Casey

    The Three Impostors and Other Stories is the first of three volumes from Chaosium, collectively comprising most of Arthur Machen's short stories and novellas in roughly chronological order. As such, this volume includes The Great God Pan, The Inmost Light, The Shining Pyramid and the titular tale. The first and last being two of his most famed works, one could scarcely go wrong here as a starting point. S.T. Joshi's introduction gives a handful of interesting tidbits but no dramatic insights, and The Three Impostors and Other Stories is the first of three volumes from Chaosium, collectively comprising most of Arthur Machen's short stories and novellas in roughly chronological order. As such, this volume includes The Great God Pan, The Inmost Light, The Shining Pyramid and the titular tale. The first and last being two of his most famed works, one could scarcely go wrong here as a starting point. S.T. Joshi's introduction gives a handful of interesting tidbits but no dramatic insights, and there are no footnotes in the text as with say his Penguin Classics edition of The White People. The typesetting is unfortunately densely packed and with little regard to aesthetics, as though they were a little too keen to be economical with pagecount. It would have been nice to give it a little more space for ease of readability, though there are other options such as Delphi Classics' ebook of Machen's complete works for that purpose. Both Chaosium and Joshi approach Machen from the Lovecraft direction of course, though I don't think it particularly helpful to retrospectively view him through that lens. Philosophically he was a world apart as something of mystic, deeply suspicious of science and its ability to ever reveal or to unravel the world's innermost truths. More to the point though, these works hail from the literary tumult of 1890s London which was to produce the earliest rumblings of what we now identify as genre fiction, from the likes of Stevenson, Wilde, Stoker and Wells. What is perhaps less appreciated by some of a strict horror bent is the humour of The Three Impostors, which is at times an affectionate parody and occasionally self-parody of aspiring writers in London in that era, of which Machen came to be associated with the 'decadent' movement. Amidst all the bleak cosmicism, one can scarcely fail to grin at a line such as "He is not coy, but he is a realist; and perhaps you are not aware that no Carthusian monk can emulate the cloistral seclusion in which a realistic novelist loves to shroud himself. It is his way of observing human nature." For such witticisms one can forgive the heavy influence of Stevenson (criticisms of which Machen took much to heart), and also the not entirely coherent 'mosaic novel' approach. Certainly some parts work well as short stories in isolation but their necessity of fitting within the frame story is dubious. Arthur Machen is undoubtedly essential for any devotee of supernatural, weird or late-Victorian gothic literature, and this volume, though it could have been much more nicely presented, is as good a place to start as any.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Vincent Carlucci

    Arthur Machen is a a little-known author of weird stories who strongly influenced H. P. Lovecraft. His stories were mostly ignored at the time they were first written, though he was for a while able to make a living from them. This book is the first volume of a three-volume set that contains his earliest stories. It also includes the novel (or novella) The Three Impostors. The last is part horror story and part mystery as two amateur investigators are unwittingly involved in the search for a mis Arthur Machen is a a little-known author of weird stories who strongly influenced H. P. Lovecraft. His stories were mostly ignored at the time they were first written, though he was for a while able to make a living from them. This book is the first volume of a three-volume set that contains his earliest stories. It also includes the novel (or novella) The Three Impostors. The last is part horror story and part mystery as two amateur investigators are unwittingly involved in the search for a missing cultist. You can see in these stories a definite influence on Lovecraft. For example, in the first story "The Great God Pan" Machen talks of hills being oddly rounded and hints of something vaguely threatening about this. Lovecraft has basically the same description of hills in "The Dunwich Horror".

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Lewonczyk

    This originally came to my attention a few years ago through a list of books favored by Borges. Based on this collection, a decent shorthand for Machen's work would be to describe it as a mix between H.P. Lovecraft and G.K. Chesterton - the unspeakable horror of a world beyond our understanding, as viewed from the vantage of an urbane, literary, often witty yet deeply religious late Victorian London. The first three pieces in this collection are definitely of interest, but the main event is The This originally came to my attention a few years ago through a list of books favored by Borges. Based on this collection, a decent shorthand for Machen's work would be to describe it as a mix between H.P. Lovecraft and G.K. Chesterton - the unspeakable horror of a world beyond our understanding, as viewed from the vantage of an urbane, literary, often witty yet deeply religious late Victorian London. The first three pieces in this collection are definitely of interest, but the main event is The Three Impostors, the novel mentioned by Borges. It's a story made of stories, a mystery with questions that go beyond the logistical, a scam perpetrated against the reader, and a repository of pungent period prose. I can see why Borges like it - it stands on its own as something completely unique.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ryan McGuire

    Excellently written - as modern today as it was in 1895.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Robyn

    The Three Imposters is genius. Characters one can visualize and relate to with all the quirky humanity of real personalities. A fun and engaging read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Konstantine

    great stories, but youre better off looking for a more complete collection

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bill Ramsell

    I realize it's backwards, describing an Arthur Machen story as "Lovecraftian" since Lovecraft came later and was a great admirer of Machen, but as a loose description it fits in places. This is a series of stories with a very light scaffolding of narrative connection. The two main protagonists are rather silly, but the eponymous "Three Impostors" tell wonderful spellbinding tales throughout the book. Definitely a must read for fans of Machen (me) and of gothic horror (also me). Enjoy! I realize it's backwards, describing an Arthur Machen story as "Lovecraftian" since Lovecraft came later and was a great admirer of Machen, but as a loose description it fits in places. This is a series of stories with a very light scaffolding of narrative connection. The two main protagonists are rather silly, but the eponymous "Three Impostors" tell wonderful spellbinding tales throughout the book. Definitely a must read for fans of Machen (me) and of gothic horror (also me). Enjoy!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    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 do 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).

  25. 4 out of 5

    Torgo

    Being a big Lovecraft fan, I've been reading up on some of his literary precursors. I heard about Machen's spooky tales and since the Penguin Classics print failed to include Machen's masterpiece (The Great God Pan) I decided to find a copy of this little collection. The book is set out rather interestingly with a bunch of stories with intersecting characters. Most of the stories include Dyson, a 19th century London gentleman with an inquisitive demeanour not dissimilar to Sherlock Holmes. Interes Being a big Lovecraft fan, I've been reading up on some of his literary precursors. I heard about Machen's spooky tales and since the Penguin Classics print failed to include Machen's masterpiece (The Great God Pan) I decided to find a copy of this little collection. The book is set out rather interestingly with a bunch of stories with intersecting characters. Most of the stories include Dyson, a 19th century London gentleman with an inquisitive demeanour not dissimilar to Sherlock Holmes. Interestingly most of Machen's tales look at familiar beings such as elves, gnomes, pan; these often benign creatures of nature. Machen paints them as powerful and poisonous beings. Machen was a pioneer, his writing shows early steps into non-traditional realms of horror and paved the way for Lovecraft and eventually authors like Stephen King. The stories in this book were definitely interesting, engaging and kind of strange, but perhaps not strange enough. Some of the stories are really terrifying and surreal (such as Pan and Inmost Light, the White Powder). Some of the tales are a little too tame and sensible. Machen's style is quite beautiful and flowery, but it often rambles and it's certainly not as fine as the prose of Clark Ashton Smith. Ultimately the first story (Pan) was fantastic but then the book was a little dry thereafter.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Lovecraft's weird fiction falls distinctly within the realm of horror, but the same is not exactly true of Machen. He is truly a writer of "weird" tales or Gothic supernatural literature. Not terrifying, not cosmic in it's implications, but definitely weird. Extremely mild sensual imagery pops up from time to time, which seems quaint now but probably titillated Machen's Victorian readers. Somewhat stronger and darker suggestions of actual rape by supernatural beings also play a part. As questiona Lovecraft's weird fiction falls distinctly within the realm of horror, but the same is not exactly true of Machen. He is truly a writer of "weird" tales or Gothic supernatural literature. Not terrifying, not cosmic in it's implications, but definitely weird. Extremely mild sensual imagery pops up from time to time, which seems quaint now but probably titillated Machen's Victorian readers. Somewhat stronger and darker suggestions of actual rape by supernatural beings also play a part. As questionable as that may sound, Machen writes it well enough to give the sensation of cosmic weirdness instead of juvenile weirdness. This is definitely not an easy read, but it is a rewarding one especially if you are a Lovecraft fan looking for some deep cuts. It's a really strange mythos deeply influenced by classical mythology, Victorian sensibilities, and pre-roman anthropology.

  27. 5 out of 5

    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 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.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mickopops

    Machen is one of those writers that I desperately want to like, but just can't seem to fully get into. It's not like dislike him; I just find his writing style a little too woolly for my liking. This collection is yet another example of this. The book reminds me of a badly made film of a good book that could have, with a bit of imagination, been turned into a good film - except that we are not talking about a film here, we are talking about a book. Does this make sense? No, probably not. Maybe i Machen is one of those writers that I desperately want to like, but just can't seem to fully get into. It's not like dislike him; I just find his writing style a little too woolly for my liking. This collection is yet another example of this. The book reminds me of a badly made film of a good book that could have, with a bit of imagination, been turned into a good film - except that we are not talking about a film here, we are talking about a book. Does this make sense? No, probably not. Maybe it's just me. Maybe one day I will read one of the other Machen books and suddenly have that moment of clarity where I kind of get what everybody else is saying about this legendary cult author. Till then, I can rate only him as competent....

  29. 5 out of 5

    João Batista

    I thought these stories would be pure horror... but as Machen influenced Lovecraft, we can see where the use of adjectives comes from. This book has its good horror moments, but it is basically a demonstration of the authors of 19th-century London! The revolving characters of Dyson and Phillips is singular; the sense of a constant hidden horror is very frequent in the stories; the approach of archeological objects grants the stories with a twist of old, ominous. These are the main stories: -Great I thought these stories would be pure horror... but as Machen influenced Lovecraft, we can see where the use of adjectives comes from. This book has its good horror moments, but it is basically a demonstration of the authors of 19th-century London! The revolving characters of Dyson and Phillips is singular; the sense of a constant hidden horror is very frequent in the stories; the approach of archeological objects grants the stories with a twist of old, ominous. These are the main stories: -Great God Pan; -The Inmost Light; -The Shining Pyramid; -The Three Impostors; or, The Transmutations (the best story as far as interlacing plots are concerned).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    “The Three Imposters” is a challenging read, and might require a second go through. The opening chapter introduces you to the three imposters in the story, but so generally that you are unsure of which character is talking, and their role in the story. Each of the subsequent stories/chapters is supposed to be blended together, but apparently I missed the tie in on one or two. Finally, the resolution is too brief, and open ended. The book held my interest until the end, and then I was disappointe “The Three Imposters” is a challenging read, and might require a second go through. The opening chapter introduces you to the three imposters in the story, but so generally that you are unsure of which character is talking, and their role in the story. Each of the subsequent stories/chapters is supposed to be blended together, but apparently I missed the tie in on one or two. Finally, the resolution is too brief, and open ended. The book held my interest until the end, and then I was disappointed.

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