Autodidact: self-taught


The Terror by Arthur Machen

by V. L. Craven

The Terror

Title and author: ‘The Terror: A Mystery’ by Arthur Machen

Genre: Literature/Horror

What led you to pick up the book? I wanted to read more Machen and this was the first one on my Kindle

Summarize the plot without revealing the ending. During the first world war people begin dying under mysterious circumstance in remote villages in England and Wales. Each death has a different MO but there are so many they have to be connected somehow. This was during the first war using tanks and planes and there were rumours of weaponized gases so the British put nothing past the Germans. Typical of war-time situations, the British imbued the Germans with near magical abilities, so between new technology and nefarious Germans, they could be targeting innocents all over Great Britain for no reason than to destabilise the country from within.

What did you like most? Machen’s gift for language. Particularly his descriptions of nature and the Welsh countryside. Also the explanation of how everyone had been killed was creative.

What did you dislike? The explanation of the cause behind the killings.

Thoughts on the main character: He was sort of a non-character. Well-written, but mostly there as an intelligent stand-in for the reader. There was nothing outstanding about him.

Opinion on the ending: As I said, I wasn’t crazy about the explanation of the cause, but it made sense from Machen’s p.o.v., as he was quite religious and into spiritualism. Animals in the countryside decided that since humans were becoming animalistic and killing one another horribly then they had no reason to obey humans, as they were no better than animals. Man had forsaken his role of leader and protector and had become one of them. The ability of group-think on this level was explained as something we do not yet understand, as we know very little about the world of the spirits. The ending was also a warning, that, as it stopped as quickly as it started, it could begin again if man decides to act violently towards his fellow man on a scale of WWI

Share some quotes:

—- [Regarding the new technologies of planes and tanks] We have just begun to navigate a strange region; we must expect to encounter strange adventures, strange perils. [This is applicable with any technology that has incredible power]

—-People seized on this theory largely because it offered at least the comfort of an explanation, and any explanation, even the poorest, is better than an intolerable and terrible mystery.

—-Germany had by this time perpetrated so many horrors and had so excelled in devilish ingenuities that no abomination seemed too abominable to be probable, or too ingeniously wicked to be beyond the tortuous malice of the Hun. [This was written in 1917. Yikes.]

More quotes  here .

Overall rating: 9/10


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