Graham Worthington's Reviews > A Voyage to Arcturus

A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay
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Mar 04, 11


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 as he strives reach the Blue Sun, and free his soul from the dreariness of everyday life.

The early chapters remind me of a device sometimes used by H.G. Wells and Joseph Conrad, of assembling a group of interesting or intelligent people in a Victorian soiree, and, having made them comfortable with a cheering drink, confounding even their sophistication with an amazing yarn. Try The Time Machine, Victory, or Lord Jim; but in those the technique is used throughout, and is not at odds with story. Here though, it clashes, and Lindsay risks loosing his reader before truly commencing his story. Why did he do this? To place the normality of early Edwardian England at odds with eerie Tormance perhaps, and so emphasise the illusion of everyday life? If so, it's a risky strategy, which must have put off many a reader.

Lindsay's purpose appears to be not merely to entertain, which he does well, but to illustrate a Gnostic world view, where the world and its attractions are seen as the realm of evil, with truth lying beyond, entirely separate and distant. In term of using characters to represent spiritual or moral forces, it compares well with Pilgrims Progress. Read it as an entertainment or as a savagely uncompromising moral fable; in either case it works well.
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Stina Great comment, and I agree with your statement that "...Lindsay risks losing his reader before truly commencing his story." It took months of on-again off-again reading to really get interested in the story, but once it got to Tormance I couldn't put it down. Glad I stuck with it.


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