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March 2007
 
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Devil's Tor, by David Lindsay (1932)

DAVID Lindsay wrote seven novels, and is mostly remembered for his classic A Voyage to Arcturus (1920), whose basic plot has been reworked by authors as various as C. S. Lewis, who Christianized it for Out of the Silent Planet (1938), and Harold Bloom, who rewrote it as The Flight to Lucifer (1979). Arcturus is an imaginative tour-de-force, whose overall mood is foreshadowed musically in the first chapter by associations with Mozart's "Magic Flute."

Most of Lindsay's novels have a musical mood to them, and with the exception of Arcturus, all of the others are sedate and earthbound. The mood of Devil's Tor is that of Wagner—slow, ponderous, and all-encompassing. It concerns the broken pieces of an ancient supernatural talisman associated with the worship of the Great Mother—according to prophecy, when the two pieces are reunited in modern times, it will bring about an uplifting of the human race. On this simple plot Lindsay builds a metaphysical novel filled with considerations of colossal themes such as the purpose of the creation of life, and the role of fate made visible in the world. The breadth of this novel is staggering, and to a reader who can appreciate its mood, the rewards are similarly boundless. Whereas Arcturus impresses initially by its flights of imagination and quickness of plot, Devil's Tor gives the feeling of the slow movement of a mountain.

E. F. Bleiler described Devil's Tor in his Guide to Supernatural Literature as "not easy reading, but for massive power there is nothing comparable in English fantastic literature." An astute description for one of Lindsay's undervalued masterpieces.

—Douglas A. Anderson

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