The King in Yellow and Other Horror Stories by Robert W. Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm not going to write a normal review for these stories, even as a re-read. Instead, I'll just mention how they've already put themselves in our lives.
Ideas have a life of their own. Little hints and vague mutterings can grow into huge monstrosities. From Ambrose Bierce, the author of The Unabridged Devil's Dictionary, Carcosa is breathed to life, with idyllic scenes twisted into horrific nightmares, but Robert W. Chambers, enamored with Bierce, runs with Carcosa and the King in Yellow, writing story after story with the thread of cosmic terror, artworks that, upon reading, turns people into madmen.
The stories are interconnected and unique, uncanny, and merely brush the deeper sense of the madness that lies beneath the upper-crust and/or the bohemian/artistic lifestyles. They're all a piece of their time, too, and I get the impression that the horror is quite universal and would express itself in an infinite number of guises.
And indeed, just as Chambers ran with Bierce's idea, Lovecraft himself ran with Chambers.
The idea burrows inside our heads, too. Carcosa and the tattered King in Yellow are still alive and reaching for us from between the cracks in reality.
And after Lovecraft, us.
We are living the logical progression of these widening gyres of madness. Just pick up the paper. Check Twitter. It's all there. The song. From humble, or perhaps ancient beginnings, they're playing to us...
Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies
But stranger still is
Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
I never realized until recently that Lovecraft admired and tried to emulate a few of this author's horror feel, that his stories are the godfather of the Cthulhu mythos. Strangely enough, the prose is fluid and compelling in a way that Lovecraft couldn't match. Of course, it isn't Lovecraftian prose, but the weight of the mythos that draws so many fans, but it was a pure delight to see a spark that lit the fire for generations of horror fans around the world.
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