The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen is a horror novella that was first denounced by the critics and the readers, but later on it gained appreciation and is now considered to be one of the classics of the genre.
The main character of the story, Clarke participates in a strange experiment conducted by Dr. Raymond, a friend of Clarke's who aims at opening up a young woman's mind in order to explore the universe of her thoughts and to establish contact with the spiritual world and ultimately with Pan, the Greek god of Nature, of mountains of shepherds and flocks and also famous for his sexual powers. The woman wakes up after the surgery, but she soon proves to have suffered debilitating injuries to her brain.
The story jumps a few years and continues with Clarke learning about a strange woman who causes mysterious things to happen and a young man who becomes feeble-minded after he sees a statue of a Roman satyr in the woods. There is another gap of a few years in the story and it continues with mysterious disappearances, the story of man corrupted in body and soul, orgies, suicides, transformations from human to beast and many other terrifying and miraculous events, but every piece of the puzzle falls into place by the end and everything is explained.
Though Machen's story was dismissed for its sexual contents and called abominable and the product of a deranged mind by critics when it was first published, it influenced numerous great writers of horror fiction. Michel Arlen, Stephen King, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and Paul-Jean Toulet all mention the novella as one that provided major inspiration for them. The story is indeed wild, with elements that are beyond doubt far-fetched at times, but Machen is a true master of the genre and The Great God Pan is a truly great story, certainly worth the readers' time.
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