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The Terror by Arthur Machen, Fiction, Fantasy, Classics, Mystery & Detective

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"Explosion at Munition Works in the Northern District: Many Fatalities." The working man told me about it, and added some dreadful details. Corpses so terribly maimed that coffins had been kept covered; faces mutilated as if by some gnawing animal. . . . I took a tram to the location of the disaster; a raw and hideous shed with a walled yard about it, and a shut gate. The r "Explosion at Munition Works in the Northern District: Many Fatalities." The working man told me about it, and added some dreadful details. Corpses so terribly maimed that coffins had been kept covered; faces mutilated as if by some gnawing animal. . . . I took a tram to the location of the disaster; a raw and hideous shed with a walled yard about it, and a shut gate. The roof was quite undamaged -- this had had been a strange accident. There had been an explosion of sufficient violence to kill work-people in the building, but the building itself showed no wounds or scars.


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"Explosion at Munition Works in the Northern District: Many Fatalities." The working man told me about it, and added some dreadful details. Corpses so terribly maimed that coffins had been kept covered; faces mutilated as if by some gnawing animal. . . . I took a tram to the location of the disaster; a raw and hideous shed with a walled yard about it, and a shut gate. The r "Explosion at Munition Works in the Northern District: Many Fatalities." The working man told me about it, and added some dreadful details. Corpses so terribly maimed that coffins had been kept covered; faces mutilated as if by some gnawing animal. . . . I took a tram to the location of the disaster; a raw and hideous shed with a walled yard about it, and a shut gate. The roof was quite undamaged -- this had had been a strange accident. There had been an explosion of sufficient violence to kill work-people in the building, but the building itself showed no wounds or scars.

30 review for The Terror by Arthur Machen, Fiction, Fantasy, Classics, Mystery & Detective

  1. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    This short novel may not be Machen's best work, but it is his only serious—albeit indirect—attempt to address the effects of the international trauma which I believe precipitated his literary decline: the cumulative horror of the trenches of World War I. “The Coming of the Terror,” a short story first published in 1917 Century Magazine—later reprinted in the second volume of Joshi's collection, The White People--is an abridged form of the same tale, but I consider the original novel—four times th This short novel may not be Machen's best work, but it is his only serious—albeit indirect—attempt to address the effects of the international trauma which I believe precipitated his literary decline: the cumulative horror of the trenches of World War I. “The Coming of the Terror,” a short story first published in 1917 Century Magazine—later reprinted in the second volume of Joshi's collection, The White People--is an abridged form of the same tale, but I consider the original novel—four times the story's length—more effective. Its longer, episodic form allows not only for a greater accumulation of horrors but also for more opportunities to meditate on the significance of this disturbing series of events. Originally serialized in the Evening News in 1916, this novel offers us a journalist narrator a lot like Arthur Machen, which adds a note of verisimilitude to an otherwise fantastic tale. A rash of sudden deaths had been visited upon small factory towns and farming communities in England soon after the start of the war, and our journalist relates for us both the strange facts accompanying these horrors and the attempts of the English government to conceal them from the public--now at last, when the story can be told. After a series of individual witness testimonies, and the reflective conversations of a few intelligent men, both the journalist and his readers begin to understand the nature of this recent horror. You'll have to read the book yourself to find out the immediate cause of these deaths, but I think I can share the ultimate reason Machen suggests without creating spoilers. Machen's reason is very old fashioned, almost Shakespearean: he senses that the carnage of the Great War has dislodged man from his position in earth's hierarchy, our sublunary portion of the universe's Great Chain of Being. Man has violated his once secure position as earth's steward and master, and now there is nobody in charge. Everything is up for grabs. This is a disturbing book, and more so now, in the 21st century, when man's abdication of the role of earth's steward is becoming clearer and clearer everyday.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jim Smith

    Most essential Machen work is from the 1890s, but The Terror is one of his most developed horror tales from his later career. This often waffling novella is meandering and less focused than his dark folk masterpieces The Hill of Dreams, The Great God Pan, Novel of the Black Seal and The White People, but also gleefully manic and quite inspired in parts, developing an atmosphere of magical mystery and dread around the countryside and featuring moments of terror, particularly the harrowing final s Most essential Machen work is from the 1890s, but The Terror is one of his most developed horror tales from his later career. This often waffling novella is meandering and less focused than his dark folk masterpieces The Hill of Dreams, The Great God Pan, Novel of the Black Seal and The White People, but also gleefully manic and quite inspired in parts, developing an atmosphere of magical mystery and dread around the countryside and featuring moments of terror, particularly the harrowing final siege diary, which is worthy of Machen at his best as a horror writer.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Pickle.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Mysterious supernaturally tinged catastrophe and impending disaster signified by upending the presumed human / beast order of things. Horses of the apocalypse included. A descent into madness brought upon ourselves, in sync with WW1 paranoia and instability (prod.1917). Machen’s interest in what he terms ‘ecstacy’, ‘...the sense of the unknown...’ in evidence here, and psychogeography, the .....’interconnection between landscape and the mind’ (Wiki.)... the glowing lights that ‘melt away’ on app Mysterious supernaturally tinged catastrophe and impending disaster signified by upending the presumed human / beast order of things. Horses of the apocalypse included. A descent into madness brought upon ourselves, in sync with WW1 paranoia and instability (prod.1917). Machen’s interest in what he terms ‘ecstacy’, ‘...the sense of the unknown...’ in evidence here, and psychogeography, the .....’interconnection between landscape and the mind’ (Wiki.)... the glowing lights that ‘melt away’ on approach, the seeming reactivity of the land to human disturbance, if I’ve understood correctly. In the vein of/vaguely connected; The Mist, The Birds, The Happening.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Suspenseful novella about strange deaths in England during World War 1. Are these deaths somehow connected, and could the Germans have something to do with it? The ending was a bit laughable, when you find out the explanation. It completely ruined the story for me.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Krystelle Zuanic

    A great little tale of supernatural fear that never quite has a full reveal, this is my first stumble into Machen in over a decade- and his work holds up! I think there’s a wonderful mystery and sense of claustrophobia in the small English village, and the deaths are gratuitously described enough to ensure that the reader gives a shudder. There’s also a discourse about man’s duty to the earth and the fear of the known enemy rather than the unknown. It’s easier to assign blame to something that w A great little tale of supernatural fear that never quite has a full reveal, this is my first stumble into Machen in over a decade- and his work holds up! I think there’s a wonderful mystery and sense of claustrophobia in the small English village, and the deaths are gratuitously described enough to ensure that the reader gives a shudder. There’s also a discourse about man’s duty to the earth and the fear of the known enemy rather than the unknown. It’s easier to assign blame to something that we already tangibly know and fear rather than consider other possibilities. This is particularly pertinent here and holds a lot of applicability to our present world as well.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    More mystical than horrifying, this suspenseful tale, set during the human madness and paranoia of World War I, is artfully told and gripped me to the end.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Perry Whitford

    Terror spreads during WWI, not in the trenches but back in dear old Blighty. An aeroplane accident, rumours of deaths in a munitions factory where the victims looked 'as if they had been bitten to pieces', and a series of grisly murders on the Welsh coast soon start to spread elsewhere in the British Isles. Horses stampede, bees attack in swarms, sheep dogs behave like wolves News spreads by rumour due to government censorship of the press, inquests into the deaths are smothered. Could the terror Terror spreads during WWI, not in the trenches but back in dear old Blighty. An aeroplane accident, rumours of deaths in a munitions factory where the victims looked 'as if they had been bitten to pieces', and a series of grisly murders on the Welsh coast soon start to spread elsewhere in the British Isles. Horses stampede, bees attack in swarms, sheep dogs behave like wolves News spreads by rumour due to government censorship of the press, inquests into the deaths are smothered. Could the terror be an underground German invasion masterminded by a Swedish philosopher similar to Nietzsche? Or could it be a madness induced by the I'll effects of a Z ray, as some know-it-all suggests? Electric clouds, luminous trees, fogs, spectral music, wailing - I couldn't see how Machen was going to come up with a coherent explanation for all these different mysteries. He did though, and. It was laughable. Some victims of the terror are afflicted with a wandering mind. The same could be said of the author.

  8. 4 out of 5

    M.J. Johnson

    What a brilliant story. I read this novella at bedtime over seven days and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. It is well-paced, containing more dialogue and is consequently less descriptive than a great deal of Machen's earlier work. Written in 1915 during WWI, it has an edge of the twentieth century about it and less of a more florid nineteenth century style that will appeal more to modern tastes, I think. I would describe it as more of a horror/thriller than the fantastic world of fauns an What a brilliant story. I read this novella at bedtime over seven days and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. It is well-paced, containing more dialogue and is consequently less descriptive than a great deal of Machen's earlier work. Written in 1915 during WWI, it has an edge of the twentieth century about it and less of a more florid nineteenth century style that will appeal more to modern tastes, I think. I would describe it as more of a horror/thriller than the fantastic world of fauns and (bad) faeries that populate so many of his tales which I've read previously. I think this story has probably had great influence on many other writers of horror fiction. I wonder if Daphne Du Maurier, either consciously or unconsciously, used it as something of a template for her classic story The Birds. Simply excellent.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Greg Burton

    A bit of a page-turner - I was very eager to find out what was going on. Once I found out, though, it was a disappointment.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Arthur Machen at his most rational. While he spins an intriguing mystery with The Terror, it ultimately falls flat of my expectations of a Machen story. Unexplainable deaths descend across the British Isles, especially concentrated on the rural countryside. Could it be the work of rogue serial killers, or perhaps the doing of a secret subterranean German invasion? Machen's use of war-time paranoia is admirable, but over the course of this short novel these possibilities are systematically deemed Arthur Machen at his most rational. While he spins an intriguing mystery with The Terror, it ultimately falls flat of my expectations of a Machen story. Unexplainable deaths descend across the British Isles, especially concentrated on the rural countryside. Could it be the work of rogue serial killers, or perhaps the doing of a secret subterranean German invasion? Machen's use of war-time paranoia is admirable, but over the course of this short novel these possibilities are systematically deemed implausible. The story reaches its climax in the journal entry found at the isolated Treff Loyne farm where we finally get some (albeit very vague) eyewitness description of the titular terror. This scene is admittedly very tense and quite disturbing. It is here where, especially if you've read Machen's more supernatural fiction, that you are lead to speculate mystic supernatural forces at work. Perhaps it could be the work of the Little People or something more horrific? What I had speculated was far more fascinating than the actual reveal, this is the reason that many authors leave their horror tales up to interpretation. It is ultimately revealed to be an uprising of the animal kingdom against mankind for their transgressions that is responsible for the murders, and the mysterious clouds of fire just moths. Really, that is it. Now I must give Machen some credit, this concept must have been far more novel during the time of his writing. And he does well to place subtle clues pointing to animals turned mad throughout the story, but perhaps I didn't think any of it because I was expecting something far more supernatural and less mundane. A decent mystery though disappointingly lacking in the fantastic and supernatural, not what I read Machen for.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David

    This fantastic story was filled with suspense and intrigue at every turn... a real page turner! I read the Project Gutenberg ebook version, and I probably read it in under 3 hours. It is incredibly readable and I am more than slightly chuffed that my hometown of Newport was name checked early in the Novella :) The plot centres around the mysterious deaths of people around the country during the middle of WW1, all with different MO's yet something mysterious seems to connect them all. The majority This fantastic story was filled with suspense and intrigue at every turn... a real page turner! I read the Project Gutenberg ebook version, and I probably read it in under 3 hours. It is incredibly readable and I am more than slightly chuffed that my hometown of Newport was name checked early in the Novella :) The plot centres around the mysterious deaths of people around the country during the middle of WW1, all with different MO's yet something mysterious seems to connect them all. The majority of the book centres around how these strange activities centre on a small seaside town in West Wales given the codename 'Meirion' and how the residents, townsfolk and visitors attempt to untangle the mystery as it impacts them in their part of the world. To give away any more details of the story will spoil it, so I'll stop. H.P. Lovecraft was a fan of Machens work, with even the English town of 'Dunwich' appearing in The Terror, a name copied by Lovecraft for the name of the fictitious town featured in his excellent work 'The Dulwich Horror'. There is also a nod to Machen in Lovecrafts work in 'The Rats in the Wall' relating to Machen's 'The Great God Pan', but you will have to work that one out for yourself. This genuinely frightening work is a marvelous piece of literature, and seen as it is now in the public domain it is freely available for you to enjoy from the likes of Project Gutenberg. I highly recommend giving this easy to read scarefest a go.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sistermagpie

    This was a fun story about mysterious goings-on in the English countryside during WWI. The Terror is explained (to an extent) in the end, but the atmosphere really comes from strange things going on here and there that don't quite seem to fit together: a glowing tree, a strange, mournful scream in the night, people jumping off cliffs, people falling down dead, explosions, shipwrecks. It's so nebulous that people stop talking about it and just live with uneasiness. Though of course when they do t This was a fun story about mysterious goings-on in the English countryside during WWI. The Terror is explained (to an extent) in the end, but the atmosphere really comes from strange things going on here and there that don't quite seem to fit together: a glowing tree, a strange, mournful scream in the night, people jumping off cliffs, people falling down dead, explosions, shipwrecks. It's so nebulous that people stop talking about it and just live with uneasiness. Though of course when they do talk about it they assume it's some dastardly German plot. It's tightly written and has some really effective set pieces too.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike Jozic

    I really wanted to give this one 4 stars but the ending just sort of...ended. A nice slow build, a compelling mystery of what The Terror could be, and then the most anti of climaxes. Hunted down Machen's work based on Guillermo del Toro's love of his work. Did the same with Algernon Blackwood and getting a very similar vibe between the two authors. I will probably try more of Machen's work just to get a proper sampling but so far so meh. I really wanted to give this one 4 stars but the ending just sort of...ended. A nice slow build, a compelling mystery of what The Terror could be, and then the most anti of climaxes. Hunted down Machen's work based on Guillermo del Toro's love of his work. Did the same with Algernon Blackwood and getting a very similar vibe between the two authors. I will probably try more of Machen's work just to get a proper sampling but so far so meh.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Isabella Panzica

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Compelling, suspenseful, and constantly keeping you guessing. I was always on the edge of my seat and it was hard to put down. While reading it we were getting clues that made me think that the supernatural was involved and was excited to see what the mystery killer was. *SPOILER ALERT (I am literally saying the end of the book)* Unfortunately, the ending was a bit of a disappointment, since the killer was dun.....dun.....dun......... nature. Since the animals and bugs were attacking because the Compelling, suspenseful, and constantly keeping you guessing. I was always on the edge of my seat and it was hard to put down. While reading it we were getting clues that made me think that the supernatural was involved and was excited to see what the mystery killer was. *SPOILER ALERT (I am literally saying the end of the book)* Unfortunately, the ending was a bit of a disappointment, since the killer was dun.....dun.....dun......... nature. Since the animals and bugs were attacking because they could feel the terror the villagers had about the world war 2. Though don't worry the whole thing resolved itself since the war ended, so the people were no longer scared and the animals/bugs no longer felt compelled to kill. Does this also sound anti-climatic and kinda dumb to you too? Since I feel like I was robbed of a great ending that the book was reading up too. This feeling is amplified by the fact that Arthur Machan was an expert in supernatural lore and wrote other stores about the occult/ supernatural, so a better ending was something he could have done. If for some reason you are reading my spoiler-ridden review before reading the book I recommend reading right up the reveal and then make up your own ending. That way you will not have to read such a disappointing ending but still get to read the amazing parts before the ending.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    I really loved this. I was hooked from the first page and had no idea how it was going to end. In fact, the plot twist and culmination was fantastic. I found a first edition in a charity shop. A quick read and really enjoyed.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris Purser

    Machen really was a good writer. I enjoyed this story and think it is one of the best of his that I have read so far.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alberto Boschini

    Boring. Was very hard to read, at least to me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robert Lloyd

    Interesting story, not your usual horror fare for sure.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Finley

    not my fav but there's something here, the atmosphere is great and there's a chapter towards the end that's really scary. I think the final chapter could have been shorter. not my fav but there's something here, the atmosphere is great and there's a chapter towards the end that's really scary. I think the final chapter could have been shorter.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Wonderful tension/atmosphere building with an ending that I found unsatisfying. I get the argument that this was Machen processing the world war, but that did not make it more enjoyable as a reader.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shawn

    Arthur Machen's "The Terror" is a novella published in 1917. Probably best known for his (in)famous "The Great God Pan", Machen has only recently been getting the attention he deserves (outside of the particularized genre fans) for his visionary writing that transcended the horror and fantasy genre into spiritual realms. His writing is not to all tastes but those with the ability to place works in their times will find him a surprisingly intriguing writer. "The Terror" offer modern readers a stor Arthur Machen's "The Terror" is a novella published in 1917. Probably best known for his (in)famous "The Great God Pan", Machen has only recently been getting the attention he deserves (outside of the particularized genre fans) for his visionary writing that transcended the horror and fantasy genre into spiritual realms. His writing is not to all tastes but those with the ability to place works in their times will find him a surprisingly intriguing writer. "The Terror" offer modern readers a story in a framework familiar from television shows like "The X-Files". During the midst of The Great War, odd occurrences and singular deaths have been plaguing a small town in Wales and its environs. There are hints that these strange incidents, mostly involving mass or singular killings in isolated locales but also encompassing destruction of factories and machinery, are actually occurring countrywide but a government-imposed news blackout has made this impossible to verify. The story follows two characters, a local doctor and a friend, as they begin to piece evidence together, at first not even realizing that some events are related. How could a small child be found smothered to death in a field with no mark on her person? Why did horses stampede through a military encampment in the middle of the night? Who beat a family to death outside their lonely country cottage? Why did a boat flounder and sink in calm water and another run aground, its crew dead and reduced to skeletons? What is the secret of a vast, dark cloud-like mass filled with twinkling lights that looms across the countryside at twilight? Machen spins a fine tale, although one must admit to a bit of repetition and circularity (one of the dozens, if not thousands, of Machen fans on the web are probably better placed to answer this, but I wonder if the work was originally intended to, or actually did, appear in a serialized form, as some of the chapter starts feature a mild form of story recap). Also, the story is told as a reporting of these events as already passed, framed with a (notably modern) feeling that the Government imposed censorship of the news reports did more harm than good. What this "collection of events" approach means is that there is no attempt at what modern readers would call "characterization" of the leads (they are really just "stolid Englishmen") and also no real ending to the story. More or less, it just stops. No clear-cut answer is given as to the events (another thing modern readers seem to demand), although two possibilities are posited, both of which require the reader to embrace a vaguely spiritual worldview (keeping with Machen's personal spiritual/quasi-paganist beliefs, if they can be termed that). It's not possible to say much more because the solving of the agency of the attacks, if not their origin, is the point of the exercise. But for those willing to enagage in a nearly century old work that touches on some modern themes (the major one not mentioned here, as it gives the tale away), some of which have been seen on film since the publication of this work, "The Terror" is a fine way to pass some time.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jorge Candeias

    - main story (The Terror) is a classic - the second one (The Shining Pyramid) is worse, but still good - totally representative of a certain style of storytelling that begun to be popular at the time and remained so for the next half a century or more - consequently, aged very well - good Portuguese edition, except that the preface should have been a postface; mystery stories such as these shouldn't be spoiled like that - main story (The Terror) is a classic - the second one (The Shining Pyramid) is worse, but still good - totally representative of a certain style of storytelling that begun to be popular at the time and remained so for the next half a century or more - consequently, aged very well - good Portuguese edition, except that the preface should have been a postface; mystery stories such as these shouldn't be spoiled like that

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jay Rothermel

    This is my third read of The Terror. It is the first time all the disparate pieces of narrative evidence arrayed by Machen have hit me full-force. Brilliant depiction of uncertainty, anxiety, panic, and of course "terror" in wartime. It achieves levels of emotional poignancy unsurpassed in Machen's longer works. This is my third read of The Terror. It is the first time all the disparate pieces of narrative evidence arrayed by Machen have hit me full-force. Brilliant depiction of uncertainty, anxiety, panic, and of course "terror" in wartime. It achieves levels of emotional poignancy unsurpassed in Machen's longer works.

  24. 4 out of 5

    arg/machine

    Classic mystery/horror novel by Arthur Machen. In the public domain, with a free electronic copy here. Classic mystery/horror novel by Arthur Machen. In the public domain, with a free electronic copy here.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zachary

    Machen is terrific - wish I had stumbled onto him years ago. Better late than never! Definitely the missing link between Poe and Lovecraft, A lot of writers stole from this artist, and you can see why. The Terror is just a top horror tale, just the right length, and just the right touch of "weird." Machen is terrific - wish I had stumbled onto him years ago. Better late than never! Definitely the missing link between Poe and Lovecraft, A lot of writers stole from this artist, and you can see why. The Terror is just a top horror tale, just the right length, and just the right touch of "weird."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Falcon Dove

    The story held me captivated all through the book. The conclusion of the story was outstanding: When man starts behaving like animals, we decline the throne as the superior beings on earth. When that happens, we're no longer feared. Instead we're the ones to be hunted down. The story held me captivated all through the book. The conclusion of the story was outstanding: When man starts behaving like animals, we decline the throne as the superior beings on earth. When that happens, we're no longer feared. Instead we're the ones to be hunted down.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marts (Thinker)

    Accounts of strange sightings and unexplained deaths occurring in and around a small town in Wales...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Manuela Tinoco

    3,5 stars

  29. 5 out of 5

    j.e.rodriguez

    "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." "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."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Pretty good classic horror.

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