“The King In Yellow,” by Robert W. Chambers, is a collection of short stories about various characters driven insane after reading a play by the same name. Some stories aren’t as disturbing as one would hope, but that’s forgiven since this book was published in 1895. Folks sensibilities were different then.
Since this book was written so long ago, some parts are difficult to understand in the first reading as Chambers used words and phrases no longer in use. Readers will have to take some time to look up words and phrases here and there. Despite the outdated diction, readers can muster through the chapters by looking at the context around it.
Diction aside, the book starts strong with stories of madness, obsession, hallucinations and the supernatural. And that is fantastic. The madness inducing play only referenced in dialog or passages at the beginning of select chapters. Readers never get to see how depraved the play is. I’m assuming that was intended to be avoid, letting readers fill in the blank with scenarios of their own making.
Yet, as good as the beginning chapters were, “The King In Yellow” loses steam in the last quarter of the book. The last four or five chapters revolved around the love affairs of French artists and prostitutes. These chapters don’t fit the “King In Yellow” lore and finishing the book is the only reason to power through them.
You get the same enjoyment reading straight through as you would picking and reading a chapter sporadically. “The King In Yellow” isn’t a page burner, but t it isn’t a waste of time either.
Since this work was published so long ago, it’s in the public domain. Unless you’re a format snob, there’s no reason to buy a physical copy when there’s a free Kindle version waiting at Amazon.