Out of the Silent Planet, by C. S. Lewis

January 20, 2011 at 16:04 (Book Reviews, Fantasy, Fiction, Highly Rated Books, Science Fiction) (, , , , )

8/10

Out of the Silent Planet begins very slowly, and even at the end it might best be described as “like Lewis, but not quite like Lewis” – much grittier and more grim than his Chronicles, and much less cozy than his theological books – which are delightfully friendly and warm. His excursion into science fiction has a hard and bitter edge, and the first several chapters (and some of the later ones) read more like supernatural-mystery-thrillers, or even like horror.

Ransom is hardly typical hero material, but Devine and Weston more than make up for this, being very typical villains who help to bring a slightly lofty story onto a more relatable level. They are characters we all know: the villainous scheming doctor (avec cape), his sneering sidekick (avec dental problem) and a monstrous scheme (avec space travel). Throwing in a venerable professor of literature might be an odd choice, but it appears to have been the right choice.

This book begins with almost no impression that any sort of allegory might be coming–and it actually keeps that promise. We do not have allegory, but rather a slick and clever rewriting of the entire Christian cosmology; an exercise in hyoptheses rather than a gentle explanation of a theological structure. The moral message and the elaborate and ambitious architecture of gods (and God) rather than alien civilisations or any other hackneyed 1950s science fiction trope drew the book out of tedium, and also drew it out of competition with a thousand other titles just like it. Anyone can write science fiction, but perhaps not theology fiction. There is only so much that can be said (and has been said) about men living on Mars, but to have them woven into a theme of how our own planet and race was created, amidst speculation of extradimensional and supernatural servants of this nebulous creator – that is a subject that can become interesting. When viewed through Ransom’s eyes (and especially Weston’s), and for the reader to see them puzzling over what these supernatural creatures could naturally be explained as – well, it’s frankly delicious.

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1 Comment

  1. Book Meme Day 14: My Favorite Books by my Favorite Writers | The Warden's Walk said,

    […] J. Holsworth Stevenson on The Silmarillion J. Holsworth Stevenson on Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in the Space Trilogy of which Perelandra is […]

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