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A Voyage to Arcturus

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,677 Ratings  ·  204 Reviews
A Voyage to Arcturus is a novel by Scottish writer David Lindsay, 1st published in 1920. It combines fantasy, philosophy & sf in an exploration of the nature of good & evil & their relationship with existence. It's been described by critic & philosopher Colin Wilson as the "greatest novel of the 20th century", & was a central influence on C.S. Lewis' Sp ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1920)
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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
Erik Graff
Jul 06, 2014 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Apr 23, 2012 Szplug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 02, 2013 Hadrian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 29, 2012 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Charlie Fan
May 25, 2009 Charlie Fan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 18, 2015 Melissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inklings
So, I picked this book up because it is on my Inklings reading list – in other words on the list of books I’ve kept that, according to their own accounts, cultivated the imagination of the Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers, et all. This book especially has been noted as a primary inspiration for Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet. Now that this is out of the way…

Arcturus was published in 1920 less than a decade after Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of
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
Update after 3/2/14 re-read:

I just finished this for the second time and God. DAMN. My mind has been blown. The last 5-6 pages are one jaw-dropping revelation after another, each one more magnified than the previous until the very last page when, despite maybe the best closing dialogue ever, my jaw couldn't drop any lower because it was already on the goddamned floor.

I was recently called to this, and that's really the best way to describe the feeling the book gives you: it "calls" you back even
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
Nick Tramdack
May 28, 2011 Nick Tramdack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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"
Jesse Kraai
"I can't believe you're going to force yourself to finish that book."
- "Life is a struggle."
"You're going to rip it up and give Manny Rayner paper cuts until he dies."

So I stopped. I really did try. Not only did Manny mention it in his review of my book, Lisa: A Chess Novel but I'm giving science fiction the old college try. Hoyle's The Black Cloud is next.

Arcturus is everything I feared sci-fi would be.
Apr 17, 2012 Jean-marcel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 12, 2011 Juushika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: status-owned
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 nonsenseor 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 feve ...more
Jan 29, 2012 Amanda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Julie Davis
Listening to the LibriVox audio by Mark Nelson. I have known for some time that this book was a big influence on C.S. Lewis's space trilogy and, now that I've read all of those, am finally getting around to this one.

I can see the resemblances already but am intrigued by the story. And, of course, it's fun reading a book that someone else I "know" enjoyed so much.


I am not actually finished but having read about a third of this book I feel I've gotten what I wanted from it. The st
Nov 09, 2014 Thom rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
David Lindsay, from the Scottish borders, inspired C.S. Lewis and Phillip Pullman and many others. Where I really enjoyed C.S. Lewis's Planet trilogy, I found this a lot harder to relate to.

Published in 1920!, this book was named a Masterwor of Fantasy. It is similar to Gulliver's Travels, and like that story, I suspect an annotated version would help to pick up the philosophies and politics behind this one. Instead of meeting curious peoples and deciding how to help them, Maskull meets individ
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
Printable Tire
Feb 18, 2012 Printable Tire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 03, 2009 Andreas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 26, 2009 Ron rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lee Broderick
I have some sympathy with the endless debate over whether this is fantasy or sci-fi but ultimately such questions have no bearing on the book's worth. Leaving aside marketing wrangles, what we're left with is a picaresque, set largely on a distant planet, which delves deeply into the philosophy and theology of Gnostic Chrsitianity. In that respect, despite his differing creed, it's fairly easy to suggest that A Voyage to Arcturus , despite its commercial failure, must have been an influence on ...more
Randolph Carter
I hated this novel. It's really not a sf novel. It is some sort of philosophico-religio-fantasy acid trip (I know it's clumsy) with a sf framework to set up the fantasy. Ultimately it espouses some sort of gnostic reality for the universe.

Did Lindsay really personally believe this? If not, what is the point of this clumsy dull, ultimately pointless, novel? Maskull's adventures are laughably unlikely: after a sf setup that transports him and two "friends" to the Arcturus system, he traverses all
Dec 20, 2010 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
The first time I read this book might have been thirty years ago. I've been picking up a lot of books from my shelves lately, realizing that I read them ages ago and don't recall all that much from the experience. I do remember finding the style of this to be somewhat stilted at times, but I think I assumed then that it was more contemporary and American than a book written by a Scottish author in the 1920s. I enjoyed the book thoroughly on the second read and would recommend it to the adventuro ...more
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
Oct 17, 2009 Oscar rated it liked it  ·  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
Simon Mcleish
Dec 10, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 29, 2012 Desclian rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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
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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 about David Lindsay...

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