Friday, September 27, 2013

Review: The Yellow House by DJ Tyrer

Back when I started this blog, nearly a year ago, I began by reviewing A Season In Carcosa, an original anthology in tribute to the King In Yellow works by Robert Chambers. I’ve long had a special fondness for these stories of madness and decadence, and over the years I’ve tried to hunt down any works related to this “Yellow Mythos”.

Jordan Krall’s Dynatox Ministries, under the Dunhams Manor Press imprint, recently released The Yellow House by DJ Tyrer. This novella sized chapbook serves as an excellent example of a longer piece that plays with the themes of the Yellow Mythos.

The Yellow House seems to draw inspiration from many corners of the weird fiction realm. It has a Gothic feel, and takes place in a giant, secluded manor, a setting reminiscent of all the best ghost stories. Instead of ghosts though, this story takes a surreal trip into madness and sexuality.

As the title suggests, the setting serves as the story’s centerpiece. The Yellow House, as the manor is called, is vast and labyrinthine. The narrator, Sylvia, arrives at the house where she is met by a strict and unfriendly housekeeper and a wicked caretaker, who appear to be the only adults in the mansion. Sylvia is restricted to the first two floors of the house, with meals set in a room at appointed times. Her only companions are her cousins: twins Camilla and Castilla, who initially receive Sylvia with undisguised disdain.

The house is strange in many ways. The girls are not allowed to roam any of the upper floors (of which there is a ridiculously large amount) or go outside. Sylvia notices a lake sheathed in mist next to the house, a lake that she failed to see on the ride up the drive. As Sylvia begins to tire of doing nothing, she starts making expeditions onto the upper floors, where many, many strange things await. When one of the twins warms up to her, Sylvia starts to explore her sexuality with her new friend, all while making excursions ever further upwards in the house.

The entire piece has a pervasive sense of dislocation. The story opens as Sylvia is coming down the drive towards the house. The outside world is never seen, and it’s as if the house and its environs comprise their own little world. Sylvia has a strange sense of déjà vu at times, as though much is familiar although she can’t fully recall any visits to the house or with her cousins. The house also seems out of time. Early on it is alluded to that Sylvia is staying at the house to be safe from the Great War. This would seem to indicate the story taking place near one of the World Wars, however in her first conversation with the twins Sylvia compares The Yellow House with the house in the film The Haunting, which was released in 1963. The twins say they don’t go to the cinema, and there doesn’t seem to be anything else in the house that would indicate the time period in which the story takes place.

There is a lot of mystery in The Yellow House, and readers who like to have everything tied up neatly by the end may be disappointed. I, however, am NOT one of those readers. I found that Tyrer succeeded in creating one of the most perfect King In Yellow stories I have had the pleasure of reading. The Yellow House is a masterful piece, with a surreal tone and the perfect atmosphere to go with it. It is definitely a story I can see myself reading multiple times.

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