The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Two Englishmen, Maskull and Nightspore, who attend a London séance are surprised to see an apparition. The apparition is strangled by a newcomer, Krag, who has come into the room where the séance is being held. Krag, who calls himself an emissary of Muspel, the hidden eternal light, offers to take both Maskull and Nightspore to Arcturus with him in search of a demigod called Surture.

Maskull and Nightspore follow Krag to an old Scottish observatory. All three travel to Tormance, a planet orbiting Arcturus, in a spaceship similar to a crystal torpedo that is powered by a bottle of backrays, a type of light that radiates toward its source instead of away from its source, as ordinary light does. The ship travels faster than the speed of light, and this tremendous speed causes Maskull to fall unconscious.

When he awakes alone on the planet’s surface, odd adventures begin. Maskull discovers that he has a fleshy protuberance on his forehead, knobs on each side of his neck, and a tentacle budding from his chest. These new organs provide Maskull with additional senses to perceive the unusual world he is in. There are two suns in the sky that transmit not only traditional earthly colors but also exotic colors such as “ulfire” and “jale.” These invented colors cause feelings of pain and excitement in Maskull. In addition, he can now distinguish mental waves emanating from creatures on the planet. He is joined shortly by Joiwind, a woman who...

(The entire section is 451 words.)