Thursday, 14 May 2009

A Voyage To Arcturus - David Lindsay

Advantages: It is not badly written

Disadvantages: The 'meaning' doesn't shine through

Before Tolkien and Pratchett and a whole host of other Fantasy writers there was David Lindsay. 


Well that is not surprising really. Not many, except perhaps the most die-hard fantasy fans, it seems, have heard of him. 

Lindsay's Voyage to Arcturus was published in 1920. It sold about 600 copies, but has since the 1960s been rediscovered and is considered a bit of a cult item. 

Although I have taken the book to be a Fantasy book, it seems others consider it Science Fiction, perhaps because it involves space travel? Perhaps because it involves a distant 'planet' and 'alien beings'. 

As you might have gathered from my other book reviews I hate to give away anything about the plot. I hate to give any spoilers. What I will always try to do is give you a flavour, a taste if you will of what to expect. 

I went into this cold, never having heard of the book, but the fact that I acquired it I thought why waste an opportunity to read a book with an interesting cover. 

As soon as I started it I was hooked, well sort of. It begins with the build up to a séance in a well-to-do household in Hampstead. It is in these early stages of the book you think you are going to get into something comfortable and familiar. As usual I struggled to keep up with all the characters who are introduced in a small space of time. You needn't bother. The séance takes a twist and after a relatively short journey, the book's protagonist, Maskull, is transported to the planet Tormance. 

This really is where the meat of the book happens. As it turns out, the book seems to be some sort of philosophical exploration, delving into notions of Good and Evil, God and the Devil and other binary oppositions that man has struggled with in the then, modern age, and still does in these postmodern times. 

On a basic 'fantasy/SF' level all the elements are here - a distant planet with two suns, a host of differing species of humanoid beings, telepathy, strange flying dragon-like beasts, strange landscapes. 

I genuinely don't know if I enjoyed this book. On the one hand, I found it difficult to put down, but I do find myself asking, is this because I wanted something 'interesting' to happen. On the other hand I haven't really read a book too much like this before. When all is said and done, I did work my way through it. 

Approach this book, philosophically, not as a good read!

Summary: A vaguely enigmatic read.

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