Robert W. Chambers ‘The King in Yellow’ Review
Written by: Lucas Graham
The King in Yellow is a collection of ten short stories by the novelist Robert W. Chambers. Written during the 19th century, this book is part of the collective that spurred horror fiction forward. Chambers was tied in with other authors, such as H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, and Ambrose Bierce. These writers were heavily influenced by cosmic fear and inter-dimensional creatures. Despite being acquainted with such writers, Chambers relied on romance writing for his income.
The King in Yellow is actually a fictional play that appears within the short stories. Most are unsure of who wrote it, and many openly condemn the reading of it. Once a person has read through all the acts, they are consumed by madness of which there is no cure. Chambers’ characters encounter the play in their own ways throughout the book, and experience different insanities.
I’m in love with this concept. Chambers uses unsettling characters, and eerie tones in his work, which is combined with the older language and style of 19th century writers. A perfect recipe for dark, curious tales. I won’t say this book gave me nightmares, but several of the stories had me on edge. Others had me reading them over and over again, scratching my head.
Chambers employs a variety of fear-types. Paranoia, mental illness, and the social stigma that it carries is a constant theme throughout the book. Each story has its own spooky twist, whether it’s a black snake or a mealworm posing as a man. The King in Yellow himself appears to the characters in many different ways, as does the Yellow Sign. Have you seen the Yellow Sign?
Out of the stuff I’ve read lately, this is one of the better books. I liked Chambers’ romantic flare tied in with the creepy content. This isn’t a book with a whole lot of answers, but it’s a fun, honest page-turner. It’s not hard to comprehend and it isn’t overly purple like some old prose is. I liked being able to take a peek into the macabre mind of a romance writer.
A peculiar book to say the least, I feel it’s told in an almost perfect fashion. I’m a reader that doesn’t like to be suffocated beneath a mountain of information and backstory. Chambers does a great job of giving his audience just enough color to paint a clear picture. He isn’t over-descriptive or longwinded. Each story is like a snippet of something much bigger.
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