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The Three Impostors (The Best Weird Tales of Arthur Machen #1)

4.06  ·  Rating Details ·  1,403 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
In a novel that is at once richly terrifying and delightfully funny, a bustling suburb appears normal and cheerful — but nothing is really as it seems. For in this world of impostors, conspiracies combine with dark forces, and one astonishing event follows another, veiling a once-ordinary community in a cloud of mystery.
Mass Market Paperback, 194 pages
Published June 1972 by Ballantine (first published 1895)
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Bill  Kerwin

The Three Imposters is a strange little book, a narrative about a secret society's efforts to retrieve a Roman coin ("The Gold Tiberius"), but this "novel" appears to be little more than a convenient device for telling a series of marvelous, horrific tales. Two of these tales--"The Novel of the Black Seal" and "The Novel of the White Powder"--are first-class works of imaginative fiction, and the entire book itself is entrancing, reminiscent of Stevenson's New Arabian Nights in its descriptions o
El galés Arthur Machen (1860-1947) fue todo un referente del género de terror. Su literatura está fuertemente enraizada por lo religioso y lo pagano, y sus escenarios están muy próximos a la Naturaleza. Y es que el folclore está muy presente en sus relatos, cuya imaginación sugiere leyendas y mitos, hadas y gnomos por igual. Algunos de sus cuentos, como ‘El pueblo blanco’, ‘El sello negro’ o ‘El polvo blanco’, están considerados como clásicos indiscutibles. En palabras de H.P. Lovecraft: ”Entre ...more
I bought The Three Imposters and Other Stories because Jorge Luis Borges put it in his 75-title list: "Prologues to A Personal Library." (Selected Non-Fictions, Penguin, 2000). So far, I have finished only the title novella. It was published in 1895 in UK, so the diction has its moments of old world British punctilio, but these are certainly no worse than anything found in other prominent Victorian writers. For the most part the narrative is beautifully compressed and the action brisk. I general ...more
Nov 11, 2010 Doug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, I've gone back and forth and thought about this review. I have not read the second volume (will soon), but this is how it seems to me. This book contains two important works: "The Great God Pan" and The Three Impostors. "The Great God Pan" is something of misstep that mashes together two different short stories. The first, and smallest, is the best: a scientist opens up the doors of perception and the horrible truths of the Outside comes pouring in. The second, the bulk, deals with sexual ho ...more
Oct 27, 2010 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy-horror
Every October, just before Halloween, I scan my shelves for some good fantasy/horror -- usually something from Dover Publications, who seem to have a lock on the field. This year, I read Three Impostors by the Welsh writer Arthur Machen. Although I finished the book just minutes ago, my mind is still reeling with what must be one of the most subtle and insidiously terrifying works of the genre I have ever read.

Picture to yourself a mysterious prologue, in which we are introduced to two men and a
Apr 06, 2010 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, horror
I have long eagerly awaited reading something by Arthur Machen. Supposedly one of the grandfather's of Weird fiction, an important influence on H.P. Lovecraft, I was hoping for another author of the same caliber (and perhaps somewhat similar to) Algernon Blackwood. He turned out not to be quite quite as good and somewhat different in approach.

This is volume one of a three volume set and contains the novella "The Great God Pan", two short stories "The Inmost Light" and "The Shining Pyramid" and t
Jonas Wilmann
Feb 07, 2013 Jonas Wilmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had previously read The often anthologized 'The novel of the white powder' and 'The novel of the black seal' and was looking forward to experiencing this collection of short stories in its entirety.

The book consist of several short horror stories (woven into a frame story) told to Phillips and Byron, the one a determined rationalist and the other somewhat a dreamer. Thematically the stories revolve around the decay of moral and the arts, somehow connected to a secret society possibly worshipp
Sep 08, 2010 Jenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Three Impostors reminds me of a nineteenth century Pulp Fiction with its collection of little narratives with their intriguing titles - The Gold Tiberius, The Novel of the White Powder and so on. It is a tale of coincidence, perhaps supernaturally arranged, that embroils itself around two young friends Dyson, the cynical writer, and Phillips, the fanciful scientist, after they find a coin of legendary value. For fans of the Victorian Gothic, Machen is essential and The Three Impostors is a g ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
Dec 04, 2016 Charles Dee Mitchell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
When Arthur Machen’s The Three Imposters was headed to press, John Murray, his London publisher, got cold feet. The year was 1895;the scandal of the Oscar Wilde trial was still fresh in the public’s mind; and, Murray worried that Machen’s depiction of pagan cults devoted to sex and murder might run afoul of the censors. He requested cuts. Machen reportedly changed one word. The book was published without incident.

Reading it today it is hard to imagine what the fuss would have been about. But Mac
I read selected bits of this collection - "The Great God Pan" and "The Novel of the White Powder" - last year as support material for a Lovecraft Book Club, but I didn't really settle down to get to know Machen until recently, when the imminence of the 2015 NecronomiCon reminded me that I'd promised not to show up to the convention again without having done all the reading. (And yes, I'm aware of how much geek was crammed into that sentence.) Due to their influence on Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, A ...more
Elijah Spector
Well, that was some weird shit. I'll have to reread this some day, because while it was very spooky and I definitely liked it, I think the plots of the "imposters" were a bit too serpentine to make sense the first time around.

Or I'm dumb, which is also possible.
Mark R.

"The Three Imposters and Other Stories" contains the title novel, plus the novella, "The Great God Pan," and two short stories, "The Inmost Light" and "The Shining Pyramid." I would rate the novella and short stories as four out of five, with the novel being a three.

The novel holds the same structure as the short stories, more or less, with one character (a man named Dyson in all but one of the stories contained in this book) investigating and being told a strange story by another characte
Jul 31, 2016 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spooky, victoriana
I’m a lover of Victorian fiction and a newcomer to the horror and weird fiction genre and found this book to be an absolute delight.

These fantastic tales are firmly placed in the urbane and modern life of Victorian London, in particular the regularity of the new suburbia, and the scepticism of the scientific man, which sharpens the contrast to the tales of the uncanny, providing a troubling hint of darker currents beneath daily life and a darker nature constrained within each of us.

There is a st
Lance Greenfield
I did enjoy this story, the way that it was told, and the way that all of the threads were brought together in an horrific climax.

The style of writing reminded me of that of Arthur Conan Doyle, which should not surprise me, as he and Arthur Machen were contemporaries. The language is very descriptive and somewhat flowery. Occasionally, that gets a bit boring, but mostly it is, for me, beautiful prose.

There appear to be three main characters, but they converge on a fourth. There is much mystery a
Jun 14, 2016 Tegghiaio rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sin saber nada absolutamente sobre este libro de Arthur Machen antes de embarcarme en su lectura, al finalizar la primera historia de este libro, titulada La aventura del Tiberio de oro me sentí un tanto decepcionado creyendo que se trataba de una colección de historias cortas en las que lo habitual serían los finales insatisfactorios en cada una de ellas.

No obstante, las siguientes historias me permitieron entender que cada una de ellas estaban entrelazadas y formaban parte de un gran todo en d
Chumbert Squurls
Three strange people are introduced an artist, a slob, and a woman. Each is haunted by a dark past and desperately searching for a deceptively harmless young man in spectacles. This is the common thread in a series of short stories told to two scholars by strangers in turn-of-the-century London. The two pretentious scholars are ensnared in what at first seems to be a series of unlikely coincidences that turns out to be an intricate conspiracy of deception where lies are traded like currency and ...more
Jan 31, 2010 Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Machen is, as should be, a little strange. Cerebral horror sure, but not particularly horrific. Quaint. Suspenseful build up to a reveal you probably see coming because you've been exposed to so much horror since this was written. So not scary, and nothing really is unless you believe it's possible. A little creepy perhaps. I like this sort of thing though, popularized now, or rather, exemplified in Lovecraft: ancient rites, old gods, horrible books --it's really more of a book lovers horror. Ce ...more
Apr 06, 2012 Melinda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paranormal
This was my first experience with Machen, and I find that I really like him. The book comes off in an intelligent fashion and you can tell how Machen was an influence to Lovecraft as they share that same creepy feeling and penchant for things that slither. The three imposters relate fantastic stories while searching for a single man that their master wants. The other name for this book is the Transmutations, which will make sense after hearing the stories. I really enjoyed the language and plott ...more
Oct 13, 2016 Fabulantes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: terror
"Los tres impostores fue considerada como una obra muy especial, tanto por su estructura, como por la temática que adelantaba. Sin romper definitivamente con el aún vigente estilo gótico del terror victoriano, Machen introducía el horror cósmico y esa visión materialista del origen del miedo, aderezado con un marcado ambiente ocultista".
David Davis
Nov 22, 2013 David Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror-weird
Excellent book. It was short stories but they all fit together. Two of my favorites were The Novel of the Black Seal and The Novel of the White Powder.
Jul 29, 2014 Ana rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Having heard Arthur Machen influenced H.P. Lovecraft, I wanted to give him a try, and a short story book seemed to be the best way to do it.

However, this work made me feel like I have the attention span of a pea. I don’t know if it’s the 19th century English or the neverending prose or even the fact that the stories are linked but not in an obvious way, but it struck me as extremely dull most of the time. I found myself constantly going back to reread the last line or even paragraph, feeling utt
Dec 27, 2011 Morgan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is difficult to be fair in rating this. I enjoyed these stories, and I'm really glad that I've read them and it is likely that I will at some point continue to read Machen. But all in all, they were a bit of a chore. The problem is that this is genre fiction and with it you expect it to be sexy and punchy. Because Machen was the influence on the genre to come he isn't necessarily defined by expectation.

The best way to describe these stories is that they are all foreplay and at the end you do
Ryan McCarthy
Jan 25, 2013 Ryan McCarthy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like much of his fine work, The Three Impostors is permeated by Arthur Machen's strident anti-materialism and his firm belief in a spiritual world interpenetrating the visible world. As one character writes, ""The whole universe, my friend, is a tremendous sacrament; a mystic, ineffable force and energy, veiled by an outward form of matter; and man, and the sun and the other stars, and the flower of the grass, and the crystal in the test-tube, are each and every one as spiritual, as material, an ...more
Matteo Pellegrini

La grande villa dell'antica famiglia dei Tannahill si leva solitaria e misteriosa presso la città di Almirante, in California. Bizzarre ed oscure vicende vi hanno luogo da quando il capostipite della famiglia, uno spagnolo, certo capitan Tanequila, aveva fatto naufragio con la sua nave Almirante su quella parte della deserta e selvaggia costa californiana, nel lontano 1643. Molte strane cose cominciano ad accadere al giovane Allison Stephens, amministratore della casa senza tempo. Innanzi tutto,

Dec 27, 2008 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: weird-horror
Taken as a whole, I can see why Lovecraft considered Machen to be an inspiration and influence. Machen touched on notions of the world being a far stranger and more terrible place than we imagine, and that the veneer of safety and civilization might be stripped away by happenstance or by foolish act of man. The short works in this collection are pretty much in this vein.

"The Three Impostors", on the other hand, poses a riddle. While the component novels (as they are termed) follow the convention
Jun 29, 2015 Torgo rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being a big Lovecraft fan, I've been reading up on some of his literary precursors. I heard about Machen's spooky tales and since the Penguin Classics print failed to include Machen's masterpiece (The Great God Pan) I decided to find a copy of this little collection.
The book is set out rather interestingly with a bunch of stories with intersecting characters. Most of the stories include Dyson, a 19th century London gentleman with an inquisitive demeanour not dissimilar to Sherlock Holmes.
Questo Machen mi era sconosciuto, quindi un grazie a LordDunsany per il suo consiglio di gennaio!
I tre impostori è un geniale romanzo gotico costruito sull'intrecciarsi di molteplici racconti, ognuno un piccolo gioiello di tensione e orrore.
Dyson e Phllips, giovani intellettuali le cui principali occupazioni sono oziose passeggiate per le vie di Londra intervallate da amabili dissertazioni filosofiche più o meno sul nulla, incappano in curiosi personaggi sbucati misteriosamente da non si sa dove
Paul Mirek
Apr 05, 2014 Paul Mirek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More a collection of short stories than a novel, Machen's horror-fantasy reads like The Crying of Lot 49 by way of Robert W. Chambers. The narrative thread involves a mysterious young man in spectacles who drifts into and out of various victim's lives, leaving a trail of supernatural terror in his wake--yet the secondhand nature of the tales leaves doubt as to whether any conspiracy exists at all. The best stories are the ones with no discernible moral, where otherworldy actors seemingly interfe ...more
Jul 06, 2010 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: weird-fiction
Lovecraft's weird fiction falls distinctly within the realm of horror, but the same is not exactly true of Machen. He is truly a writer of "weird" tales or Gothic supernatural literature. Not terrifying, not cosmic in it's implications, but definitely weird.

Extremely mild sensual imagery pops up from time to time, which seems quaint now but probably titillated Machen's Victorian readers. Somewhat stronger and darker suggestions of actual rape by supernatural beings also play a part. As questiona
Machen is one of those writers that I desperately want to like, but just can't seem to fully get into. It's not like dislike him; I just find his writing style a little too woolly for my liking. This collection is yet another example of this. The book reminds me of a badly made film of a good book that could have, with a bit of imagination, been turned into a good film - except that we are not talking about a film here, we are talking about a book. Does this make sense? No, probably not. Maybe i ...more
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Arthur Machen was a leading Welsh author of the 1890s. He is best known for his influential supernatural, fantasy, and horror fiction. His long story "The Great God Pan" made him famous and controversial in his lifetime, but The Hill of Dreams is generally considered his masterpiece. He also is well known for his leading role in creating the legend of the Angels of Mons.

At the age of eleven, Mache
More about Arthur Machen...

Other Books in the Series

The Best Weird Tales of Arthur Machen (3 books)
  • The White People and Other Weird Stories
  • The Terror

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