If you’re like most people you’ve probably heard of C.S Lewis. His Narnia series has graced the shelves of book lovers over the generations. But that’s not all the author wrote. Lewis was influential writer in his time, and continues today to enchant and inspire us with his many stories.
Today I’ll be reviewing Lewis’s Space trilogy series, specifically the first book Out of the Silent Planet. I decided to read this one as I discovered its existence recently and was intrigued. If you’re a fan of the Sci-fi and fantasy genre you’ll probably enjoy this one. I don’t usually read much sci-fi so I enjoyed branching out and trying something new!
What’s it about?
Dr Ransom, is enjoying his carefree sabbatical from Cambridge university when the unexpected occurs. Abducted and taken away on a spaceship to the planet Malacandra, to him otherwise known as Mars. His captors plan to sacrifice him to the planets inhabitants, and take the planets resources for themselves. Ransom will have to face the unknown danger and explore deep questions of self, race and religion if he’s ever to find his way home.
What I liked least?
This book took me a while to get into. I found it difficult not to compare this novel with the Narnia series, which did not help matters. While Narnia is a children’s series, The Space Trilogy is written for adults. The world building is different and at times confronting. Comparison is often the problem with well-known authors. We experience one of their works, and expect to feel the same things with a totally different book. As a reader, this is something I am conscious of making an effort to minimise.
I found once I dropped my comparisons to Narnia I enjoyed this book much more. Lewis himself described this book as “Theologised science fiction”. It’s good to know that going in. Otherwise you might be expecting a lighter read than what you’re getting. There are often complex intellectual discussions occurring in the midst of a science fiction story.
What I liked most?
As in several of his other stories, Lewis weaves a delicate discussion of theology and ethics of humanity into a broader narrative. You can choose to enjoy the story on the surface level, or engage with the deeper questions it raises. The choice is up to you. I really enjoy books with this underwritten narrative. They leave you thinking long after you stop reading the last page.
I also enjoyed the characters in this book. Ransom is relatable and expressive. As the story is told from his perspective this is important. We relate to him and the emotions he has throughout the progression of the story. That being said, I found my curiosity burning about the other characters in the stories. The villains and the inhabitants of the planet Malacandra (that’s a mouthful!) are fascinating and enjoyable.
Why should I read it?
Published in 1938 Out of the Silent Planet came into a world where space travel was still a dream. Men would not land on the moon for another 31 years after this book was in circulation. It’s fascinating to read stories that are set in space from this time period. We are as readers today privileged with information that did not exist in the time this book was written. It’s a delight therefore to see what men were dreaming Space would be like. What a rocket could be and do. These days, modern sci-fi fiction can somewhat limited by the scientific knowledge of the readers.
You should give this book a look if you want to feel a snippet of the excitement that space-travel inspired in a generation. We don’t really get it as these days, as the possibility of space travel has been realised, but it’s wonderful to have books like this to capture a bit of that essence.
I found the pacing in this book a bit slow at times. The story and characters were fascinating though, as was the intellectual, moral and spiritual discussions Lewis wove through his writing. I’d recommend this book to any sci-fi fans. If you like to think about the ethical implications of space travel, this book is for you too.
Ever since he awoke on the space-ship Ransom had been thinking about the amazing adventure of going to another planet, and about his chances of returning from it. What he had not thought about was being on it.C.S Lewis Out of the Silent Planet
If you’d like to read more about the history of this book head to here:
Thanks for reading this weeks blog post! I hope you enjoyed it!
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