Chris Lynch's Reviews > The Mark of the Beast and Other Fantastical Tales

The Mark of the Beast and Other Fantastical Tales by Rudyard Kipling
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Dec 23, 11


Phew! Finally finished this bible-thick volume of Kipling's 'weird fiction', and am now enlightened as to what a prolific and talented author he was, and can recognise the tendrils of his influence in the work of other authors that followed him.

Strangely, Rudyard Kipling wasn't a name that I associated with this kind of writing - prior to reading this, the works he had written that were known to me I could count on one hand. The Jungle Book. Riki-tiki-tavi. Kim. Just So Stories. I'd heard of 'The Phantom Rickshaw' but didn't know it was by RK.

After WWI, and with the waning of British Imperialism, Kipling came to be decried in what are known as 'liberal circles' as somewhat of a racist and imperialist due to the jingoistic tone of many of his works, his support for the Boer War and his friendship with Cecil Rhodes, and I think this negative view of Kipling persists in the minds of many. But his work needs to be viewed in the context of the times in which it was written, and taken for what it is, which is the work of a skilled and clever author.

Besides which (at least in these stories), Kipling's imperialism is actually tinged with a very healthy degree of cynicism for the workings of Empire, and his racism does not express itself in hateful language. In fact you will find a good deal more racism in the works of other fantastical writers who succeeded him, such as R.E.Howard or H.P.Lovecraft (both of whom I respect and admire as authors).

The thing I enjoyed the most about reading these stories is the picture they paint of life in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th century. Kipling writes about people from all walks of life. Though well-connected, Kipling was no stranger to hardship and suffering, and his life was filled with a breadth of personal experience of the human condition. This is what separates Kipling from many other authors of weird fiction - he writes convincingly, with believable characters, and his stories are more than a mere facile vehicle for whatever bit of phantasmagoria he wants to dangle in front of the reader.

Top marks.
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