Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Brief Review: The King in Yellow by R. W. Chambers

The King In YellowThe King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The King in Yellow, a book of offputting (in a good way) short stories, is a fun read, plain and simple. As many others have said, the first half of the book (four stories) is more along the lines of what most expect going into this collection. Short stories of normal humans beset by an elusive madness, difficult to understand and seemingly impossible to cure. The source of this madness is a book, which holds the play, "The King in Yellow." Anyone foolish enough to read the tome seems to fall into an irreversible trance. Those stories felt very much akin to a turn of the century Twilight Zone and I sped through them happily.

The second half of the book seems to focus a lot more on that emotion I understand humans call 'love'. These stories are by no means bad. In fact, they are beautifully written, perhaps even more so than the previous four. Several times I found myself stopping and thanking whatever book deities there are that I got this on my Kindle, as a simple point and drag captured the language for my future perusal. The main issue with these stories was, well, they were about the mooshy stuff. Which is all well and good, but I got into reading this book for the occult references and unnatural madnesses.

I found myself wondering what it would have been like to write this. Living in an age of burgeoning progress and knowledge and still so little information about illness, mental or otherwise. People die. People break down. People change and go mad and get sick. But this book was written right at the turn. When people still believed in magical things. But they also began hailing science and technology as new gods. People still weren't sure which side would win. Throw in the uncertainty of the world at the time (at least one thing has remained the same), and you have an entrancing book about unexplainable things like madness and plays and love. It is recommended reading, and I'm fairly sure I haven't lost my mind from it, which is a bonus. I need that.

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Amazon Link: The King in Yellow

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