The Terror

Autor: Arthur Machen

Wydawnictwo: Classic Mystery

"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.
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