The Three Impostors and Other Stories (The Best Weird Tales of Arthur Machen #1)

The Three Impostors and Other Stories (The Best Weird Tales of Arthur Machen #1)

by Arthur Machen

Rating: 2.5/5

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.

Read from July 29 to August 08, 2014
Review posted on Aug 08, 14

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