A Voyage to Arcturus
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A Voyage to Arcturus

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3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  1,239 ratings  ·  160 reviews
A stunning achievement in speculative fiction, A Voyage to Arcturus has inspired, enchanted, and unsettled readers for decades. It is simultaneously an epic quest across one of the most unusual and brilliantly depicted alien worlds ever conceived, a profoundly moving journey of discovery into the metaphysical heart of the universe, and a shockingly intimate excursion into...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published April 1st 2002 by Bison Books (first published 1920)
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Szplug
Loses a star solely through my inability to understand what exactly transpired within and, with the passing of the years, my inability to recollect sufficiently to ponder it anew. Like everything truly excellent, it begins with a séance and an assortment of oddball characters ere the reader finds himself with the protagonist, Maskull, newly awoken upon the gravity-juiced planet of Tormance and, thus, in orbit about the plasmatic sphere known as Arcturus. It is at this point that the infamous Mag...more
Erik Graff
Jul 06, 2014 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any willing to be challenged in their core beliefs
Recommended to Erik by: high school friend
Shelves: literature
This is one of the most incredibly eccentric, surprising and challenging philosophical fantasy novels ever written!

The Scottish writer David Lindsay died in 1945. He is usually regarded as a fantasy writer. While he wrote a great deal, most of his works have been hard to find, out-of-print, neglected. Voyage to Arcturus is the exception, having become a bit of a cult classic and reprinted again and again in paperback editions.

The title suggests science fiction. It is not. Arcturus is a device, a...more
Jim
How I first came to learn about David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus was in a strange cookbook I saw in the early 1970s written by a hippie who decided to use as the heading of each page a recommended book title. One of the books was this one, but it took me over forty years to get around to reading it. I remember liking many of the cookbook author's recommendations, and my library is full of them; and yet I cannot remember the name of the cookbook or its author. (Does anyone reading this review...more
Manny

Apparently David Lindsay said once that he would never be famous, but that as long as our civilisation endured, at least one person a year would read him. I think he was probably right. This is not a well-written book, and there is very little character development - but it is full of amazing, larger-than-life ideas, and some of it will stick in your mind for ever. At least it has in mine, and looking at the other reviews I think a fair number of other people felt similarly. When I read Philip P...more
Hadrian
Well, uh, hmmm. This is definitely something.

The writing style and character depictions are both subpar, but the narrative of events and allegory are something wildly original, especially for the 1920s. This book resembles a Gnostic version of the Pilgrim's Progress written by Philip K. Dick in the post-VALIS period.

This book would hardly fit into the genre of 'scifi'. That term, too often used as an insult, could not adequately describe the book at its best. What is this? A future morality play...more
Charlie Fan
Of the stranger books I've come across, this has to be strangest, and while the title and initial chapters suggest that this may be a work of dismissive Science Fiction / Fantasy, it is decidedly not.

Published in 1920, the book hails from a strong lineage of allegorical-journey stories. Think of the travails of Candide or better yet, of Gulliver's Travels. While the aforementioned books were of a political nature, A Voyage to Arcturus speaks about something more primal: how does one define meani...more
Simon
This is going to be one of those books that is really hard to talk about. Not because I'm worried about giving away spoilers, but rather because I'm not sure how much I understand it.

It starts well. A group with a common interest in witnessing the supernatural come together to observe a "summoning", that goes well until interrupted by a rude stranger. One of these observers (Maskull) is then invited by the stranger to visit Arcturus, a planet in a distant binary star system. Unbelieving at first...more
Nick Tramdack
Sort of wearying, but the final payoff is worth the effort. Pseudo-gnostic secrets make for a planetary romance that's hard to outguess in this classic of Scottish SF in the dark tradition of James Hogg.

-107: "The storm gathered. The green snow drove against them, as they stood talking, and it grew intensely cold. None noticed it."
-110: "They hate pleasure, and thus hatred is the greatest pleasure to them." [about Sant - is this Krag's doctrine? I forget...]
-134: cool use of the word "apercu"...more
Axolotl
I don't think I can write properly and it may be entirely because of reading this "dizzlingly" piece of art.

I've not read anything like it before and I tend to doubt there is anything like it out there. However, like Maskull & Nightspore, I will spend my life "out there" pursuing it--whatever "it" is--hopefully I'm longer for this world. Though in this hope I sometimes falter.
"Arcturus" a pitch-perfect "something".
It is a great lumbering, spiritually forgetful romp! I believe I have heard...more
Amanda
Really loved this for the first quarter of the book. Thought it was great- wicked weird- which is always good. Unfortunately, the well-written weirdness could not make up for the lack of action in the plot. The antiquated views, especially concerning women, really started to bug me. Eventually I got to the point where I couldn't be bothered with this story anymore. The only reason I gave it two stars was because it had some great ideas character/setting wise.
Scott
This is one of the stranger books I've ever read. It came highly recommended by Jim Woodring and it did not disappoint. The protagonist, Maskull, travels to an alien planet and in each land he traverses, the landscape and people are different than the last. He encounters things like green snow and people with third arms growing out of their chests. Indeed, Maskull often wakes up with the same type of new sense organs as the natives he meets. The differences in each place even extend to the moral...more
Jean-marcel
I am really enamoured with "weird" or fantastic fiction from the early 20th century. I'd been hearing much about this elusive, mysterious book for quite some time, and noted with considerable pleasure that opinions on the book were completely polarised. It seemed that readers either loved this book or could barely stand to finish it. So I went and read it, and let me say for starters that this book was an experience I'll never forget. In fact, I've begun it a second time, reading aloud, to pick...more
Patrick
Voyage to Arturas begins like high-pulp fantasy, a la Burrough's Princess of Mars or Poe's Narrative of Pym... characters are introduced, with no effort spent on relating who they are, or why they are... they merely appear, and are shortly transported to another world. And Tormance is a luscious world, at first appearing like the world of Avatar, but quickly becoming an acid trip of the highest order, a world in which our hero Maskull encounters strange people and stranger places one after the o...more
Graham Worthington
Little known by other than connoisseurs of the strange and mysterious, this odyssey of the questing human spirit is well worth the patience it takes to cope with the opening chapters, which lumber considerably as the author prepares us for the meat of the story. But once our characters reach Tormance - a planet circling the star Arcturus - the adventure begins in earnest, in a world where the spiritual takes physical form, and our hero Maskull battles a zoo of tempters and diverse philosophies a...more
blake
This book is far from perfect. The writing is clumsy, the character development is implausible and often non-existent (leading to confusion over their motives and occasional disinterest), and the character and place names are ridiculous to the point of distraction. That said, the story is so utterly inventive and unique (especially considering that it was written post-WWI), and the ending so powerful that it will remain with me for a long time. Lindsay crafted what on first glance appears to be...more
Andreas
Jun 03, 2009 Andreas rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: who likes fantasy with a philosophical touch
Recommended to Andreas by: John C. Wright
Shelves: fantasy
This book explores in a very interesting way the meaning of life, love, existence, emotions and the differences between men and women. All this takes place on the fast-changing planet Tormence where people can grow additional organs that help to understand their surrounding.

I like the way how the author plays with different philosophies, how he combines words and how he invents new colors and even a new sex. In the middle of the book I felt a little disoriented and it took me some time to grasp...more
Ron
Hmm...I wrote a long, very negative review. And now it's disappeared.

Short version: The book stinks; the story stinks.

C. S. Lewis credits Lindsay with inspiring his "planet" books, but acknowledged that he liked little about Arcturus other than the idea of combining supernatural with SF story elements.

The book was apparently a print on demand--very poor quality. Many, jarring typos. Random periods through. dash-length hyphens.
Jeff Miller
I have often seen SF author and Catholic convert John C. Wright reference the book "A Voyage to Arcturus" by Scottish writer David Lindsay on his blog. He is a fan of the book, but not the Gnostic philosophical undertones that underlie this novel. So I gave it a shot and found it quite interesting in its combination of SF, Fantasy on a philosophical landscape. Most of the novel takes place on a planet with two suns and as the main character explores the planet he encounters different people and...more
Oscar
Oct 17, 2009 Oscar rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Oscar by: Richard M.
'A Voyage to Arcturus' is a peculiar book, not really science fiction nor any thing else in the traditional sense of the word. The protagonist of the book - if we may call Maskull that - travels to a planet orbiting the star Arcturus, where he is transformed to the varying likenesses of its local inhabitants, growing new organs subtly different from ours and losing some again over the course of the novel.

It is quickly clear that the novel is first and foremost about ideas, and the application of...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in August 2001.

A Voyage to Arcturus is one of the great eccentric novels which helped influence the development of science fiction without becoming part of its mainstream. (Other examples include The Worm Ouroboros and, more like Lindsay's writing, The House on the Borderland.)

The title alone would lead one to expect a story about space travel, like those written by Jules Verne, say, but the novel is not about the journey to Acturan planet Tormance at all. In...more
Noah
I'm not really sure what to make of this book. My response through reading it was that it was a book of sinister beauty and one that attempted to walk a fine line between utter destruction and eternal life. Nor do I think I would ever phrase a response in such a way again, but Lindsey's writing leads one to such thoughts and modes of response. But now that I have finished I find that my response is utter distaste and complete dismay. I won't suggest that I fully understand the philosophy, but if...more
Tommy Carlson
So, one day, I had run out of science fiction to read. So I headed over to Project Gutenberg and browsed around for some old skool sci-fi. Basically, I grabbed copies of anything I thought had an interesting title.

One that caught my eye was A Voyage to Arcturus, from 1920. It sounded like it might be some sort of hard sci-fi about, well, a voyage to Arcturus. If not hard sci-fi, maybe at least firm sci-fi?

Could I have been more wrong? Nope! This book is a f***ing crazy trip, man! It's wild-ass s...more
Andrew Walter
This is a weird one. Very hard to place or describe, and not analogous to anything I’ve read before. I don’t know if it would have seemed more or less out-there in 1920.

In a sentence; after some preliminaries, an Earthman named Maskull wanders through the bizarre landscapes of a planet called Tormance, encountering unfamiliar belief systems and their non-human (?) adherents, and budding or losing new limbs and sense organs to reflect this, or to assist with these new ways of thinking.

I know almo...more
Tomek Piorkowski
A Voyage to Arcturus, by David Lindsay, is a very trippy sci-fi fantasy horror novel with a strong dark philosophical undercurrent. If that sentence scares then it's best to stay away from this book, but if you don't mind the surreal and philosophical explorations in your fantasy stories, then this cult classic is very much worth a look.

The story revolves around an earthling, Maskull, who is teleported to the world Tormance in the star system Arcturus. Tormance is divided into several nations, b...more
Juushika
Swept from Victorian England to a distant planet, everyman Maskull begins an epic journey of discovery through that alien environment towards its metamorphic gods. A third of the way into his journey, Maskull encounters a violently sexual woman, murders her husband, demands her obedience, and then has her sing a song while they travel. Its "words were pure nonsense—or else their significance was too deep for him" (113). The same can well be said of this entire book. A Voyage to Arcturus is a fev...more
Liz
Jul 15, 2008 Liz rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Liz by: C.S. Lewis
I have always been interested in the rather old school sci-fi, like Lewis's Space Trilogy and such. Back when there was very little character development and the protagonist existed as a vehicle for imagining a world vastly different than our own. Lindsay's book is very much in that vein; an exploration of what it means to be human using aliens. He has the bright idea of creating humanoids with extra sensory organs that mutate throughout the story and are used to explicitly display that which we...more
Shmuel Ben-Gad
This is one of the msot striking novels i have ever read.An earthling, Maskull, travels to the planet Tormance which orbits the star Arcturus. Maskull meets all sorts of beings and grows all sorts of organs. It is bascially a philosopical quest and Mskull meets beings who espouse and live by different world views and his new organs have him perceive the world in different ways.. It is done very imaginatively and effectively. I do not agree with the final metaphysical view of the novel but it is...more
Randy
It's probably because I was required to read one too many allegorical novels in grad school, but I did not enjoy this book. The problem with allegorical books is that the characters are (unsurprisingly) representatives of something, and not really fleshed-out human (or alien) beings. As a result, little that they do really makes a lick o' sense, because they're not making human choices, but symbolic ideological ones. This is frustrating and boring at the same time. I dunno - maybe I wasn't in th...more
Seth Holler
Pretty fun, but probably not worth reading except in relation to C.S. Lewis, who admired its narrative aspect. He refers to the book frequently in his essays. Its thematic and dramatic influence on Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra is clear. It also contains 'a terrestrial and an infernal Venus' (Screwtape) in Joiwind and Oceaxe.

Lewis admitted Lindsay has atrocious style. It's amazingly bad. But he valued it for something else, which he called its "story," but which he had trouble defining...more
Lori (Hellian)
I remember reading this in my early 20s and just loving it. Then again, I read Ayn Rand around that time, and loved her too! So I don't know how I'd rate this now. Still, I'm going to give this 4 stars - I don't remember much of the book itself, but I do remember it made a great impression on me at the time, so much so that when I seriously got into astronomy and star-gazing about 10 years ago, one of the first stars I looked for was Arcturus
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

David Lindsay (1876-1945) was a Scottish author now most famous for the philosophical science fiction novel A Voyage to Arcturus.
Lindsay was born into a middle-class Scottish Calvinist family who had moved to London, tho growing up he spent much time in Jedburgh, where hi...more
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