Monday, May 20, 2013


A Voyage to Arcturus is a 1920 fantasy novel by David Lindsay. Here, the adventuresome Maskull travels to another planet, where he undertakes a journey of psychological and spiritual exploration.

A Voyage to Arcturus doesn’t have a plot in the manner a typical novel does; it proceeds much more along the lines of something like Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Maskull travels methodically from one character to the next, giving each a chance to present and discuss his or her worldview. This focus on ideas is how the book is intended to be read, and if done otherwise, Maskull becomes a horrific serial killer of people rather than of philosophies.

Yet this is still a novel, and the philosophical focus (which boils down to a peculiar sort of mystic Calvinist Gnosticism) becomes overbearing. Pillars of storytelling (such as character development) are generally neglected, and pacing is excluded in favor of the many lengthy conversations, which are profound only to the characters. The reader may well feel that there’s little real substance to the work.

If A Voyage to Arcturus is worth reading, it’s because of Lindsay’s wonderfully imaginative descriptions (most people familiar with this book already know the influence it had on C. S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy). Linday’s depiction of all things sensory is masterful, and includes such feats as the compelling presentation of new colors. It’s extremely impressive, if not sufficient to carry the book along.

So then, while it is not particularly interesting either as a story or a work of philosophy, A Voyage to Arcturus not without substantial merit. But it’s certainly not for everyone.