Tommy Carlson's Reviews > A Voyage to Arcturus

A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay
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Sep 27, 2012

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Read from September 18 to 26, 2012

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 speculative fiction like you've never seen. Ummm, read.

Now, let me note that I'm not saying the book is good. I don't think it is. It's not well written. The characters are not compelling. The dialogue is more stilted than you can imagine. And the plot is basically that this guy goes to a planet orbiting Arcturus, where he walks around, meeting other people who expound on their various philosophies. I honestly can't tell if the author loves these various takes on the nature of reality or whether he's satirizing them.

Personally, I found the philosophy boring. There's way too much it's naturally so to cover up bald assertions. There's also a bunch of assertions about the natural roles and attributes of the various sexes. Yeah, I know, it's written in 1920. Still, so much of it is just groan-worthy. At one point, gravity is described thusly: "The great body of the earth is continually giving out female particles, and the male parts of rocks and living bodies are equally continually trying to reach them. That's gravitation."

Plus, as I mentioned earlier, it's all presented via the most stilted language one can imagine.

You can get a good overview of the plot at Wikipedia's entry for it but don't go read the entry if you're planning on reading the book.

Wait... what? Why would you read it if I'm telling you how awful it is?

Because, as I also said, it's a f***ing crazy trip, man! The best description of it is one I saw in a GoodReads review: "If a 14 year old who was really into Gnosticism were asked to invent the science fiction genre, this would be the result."

There are all these really weird parts, with bizarre descriptions of the planet, the denizens, the twin suns of Arcturus, and the nature of reality. It's like being on acid while simultaneously listening to baroque prog-rock and conversing with stoned Philosophy undergrads.

So, y'know, it's free to download if you want to spend a few hours going What the F***?
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