Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday Review: Lewis' SciFi

Finally, a Wednesday Review about a book!

This one is for nerds, adventurers, and fans of C. S. Lewis.  In short: imaginative people.

The first book in Lewis' Space Trilogy.

Introduction: Everybody's heard of The Chronicles or Narnia, or at least The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Most Christians further associate C. S. Lewis with such works as The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity.  But what about the Space Triology?

If you walk into a bookstore and head for the children's section, you'll inevitably find The Chronicles of Narnia.  Go to the Christian section, you'll find Lewis' books on theology.  But you probably won't find the Space Triology.  It's Science Fiction, and I had to go to the SciFi/Fantasy section of the bookstore to find them.  If you're not a nerd and/or serious about your C. S. Lewis, you may never see these books.

And what a shame.

In the first book, Out of the Silent Planet, philologist Elwin Ransom is kidnapped and taken aboard a spacecraft bound for an unknown planet.  Fearing the intentions of his kidnappers, once on the planet Ransom makes a hasty escape and has the adventure of his life. ... Until, presumably, book 2.

That's pretty much all you need to know.

My Review:  I really enjoyed this book.  It's short, it's readable, and it's very imaginative.  Think Robinson Crusoe meets Lord of the Rings meets Narnia.  In space.*

Personally, I thought it was a bit slow in the beginning, though strange enough to keep you reading.  It starts getting really interesting at the end of chapter 7**, and if you read through chapter 9, you'll be hooked.

Lewis incorporates some linguistic information from the planet Malacandra, but only what is helpful to the reader in making the world of the story more real, and in seeing certain connections.  There's a fair spattering of philosophy in various parts of the book, particularly in the middle; it starts to get bogged down at one point in terms of plot, but the substance is interesting and should not, in my opinion, be skimmed over.

Once Ransom arrives in Meldilorn to see Oyarsa, things really get interesting.

The scenes in Meldilorn comprise one of my two favorite parts of the book.  Ransom's audience with Oyarsa is fascinating.  I was reminded a few times of stylistic elements from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but those elements are more subtle and much more refined in the Silent Planet.  One recognizes the presence of allegory, but one isn't annoyed by it; it's twisted just enough, and quite re-contextualized, and is both more direct and more skittish of being found out than anything in Narnia.  Very well done.

My other favorite part of the book is the final chapter, in combination with certain bits from the Post Script.  Had to smile while reading those.  Even laughed out loud, once.  It's a nice spin on an old technique, and a great way to make you want to read the next book - to be one of "the very few" readers who know.

If you suspend a little cosmic disbelief (remember the book was written well before Sputnik), you should be able to enjoy it very much.

Placement in trilogy: First book
Publication date: 1938
Length: 158 pages in pictured Scribner edition
Genre: Science Fiction (a "space-and-time story")

My rating: 4.5 stars.

*And much shorter.
**The chapters are not very long.


  1. I read this book a long time ago and adored it. I put a lot of work into finding Perelandra in college (because it is at no libraries anywhere) and much preferred it, in fact. I've started That Hideous Strength once, and got several chapters into it, but never actually was gripped and put it down when my life got in the way. Can't wait to see your review of the other two books, thanks for sharing.

  2. Hmm. Well now I *really* want to read the next two books. I'm afraid I'll have to wait until I get home - leaving Steven & Meredith's today, and it's Steven's copy of the book that I read. :) I will review them as soon as I've read them, though!