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4.0 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : 0007157169
Manufacturer : Voyager|
Release data : 05 December, 2005
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Beautiful but flawed
C. S. Lewis is said to have found "Perelandra" his favourite among his own books, and an improvement over "Out of the Silent Planet". Though a strong Lewis fan, I'm afraid I cannot agree. OOSP attempts one thing, and achieves it perfectly. Perelandra fails by being too ambitious.
"Out of the Silent Planet" is an almost perfect story. The description of Martian creatures and scenery is delightful, without the author having to ram home how terribly significant it all is; and the evil targeted for attack is limited, believable, and allowed to collapse under its own weight. (Ransom's translation of Weston's speech out of the Shavian-evolutionary into Malacandrian i.e. plain English is one of the funniest things I've read.) In Perelandra, on the other hand, the author is always TELLING you how beautiful everything is, instead of letting you find this out for yourself, and the appeal of every new fruit or creature is swept aside by its being used as the occasion for yet a further sermon on the nature of pleasure.
The central flaw is the problem of any writer in depicting evil: how do you make it obvious enough that it IS evil, but also account for its appeal? It is cheating, and ultimately self-defeating, first to depict the beliefs you dislike, and then to make them more obviously evil by adding a few extra unrelated vices. Weston (the devil figure in this book) is so plausible in his attempts to mislead the new Eve that Ransom does not know how to reply other than by physically removing him from the scene. However, Weston also amuses himself in his spare time by pointlessly mutilating frogs. This is of course explained by a further lecture on the banality of evil and its fundamental hatred of intelligence; but it is a grave tactical mistake, by the author as well as by the devil, as surely all Ransom needed to do was to show a frog to the lady. (In the same way, in That Hideous Strength, the Institute's programme as originally outlined by Devine is already bad enough, without adding gratuitous devil-worship.)
The odd thing is that no one knows these things better than Lewis. For the importance of letting the emotional situation speak for itself, see An Experiment in Criticism; for the blackening of villains by adding an inappropriate vice, see his review of Orwell's 1984. (That, incidentally, is where Brave New World scores heavily: the rulers there are not villains but entirely well-meaning, it is their beliefs that are gently shown to be disastrous.)
OK then, why so many as three stars? The language, as always, is wonderful. Lewis really is, in the words of Beachcomber's spoof review (obviously prophetic of Da Vinci-style tripe), "that rare thing, a writer who can combine breathless excitement with profundity of thought". The Lady's combination of innocence and majesty is perfectly done, and the consideration of the ways in which she does, and does not, need to grow up and of how Ransom's feelings for her are, and are not, sexual is suggestive and moving. The vision at the end is reminiscent of Dante. In showing how each thing in turn, by being utterly different, is in its own way the pivot of creation, it suggests an imaginative solution to the problem of creating a world that is both peaceful and interesting.
Not a book to miss.
The solution is violence and subjugation of women
Honestly, I was expecting a lot better from C.S.Lewis. Yes, he has a mastery of language, a way of describing Perelandra that makes you long to be there, but the rest...Behind the language lies a story that turns into preaching every other page, and the points that Lewis wants to make seems to be 1) Women is wrong to have ambition beyond homemaking. 2) When you can't argue your point with words, it is Gods' will that you go after your combattant with physical violence. 3) The wicked are eternally wicked, and so are in no need of mercy (Lewis is fond of predestination, too). I can't agree. In this book, far more than in others, it shows that Lewis is a writer from a, thank God, bygone era.
He does touch upon some more interesting areas, such as has been mentioned above (why was the forbidden tree there in the first place), the nature of evil as being petty rather than grand, and the insight that the fall comes from the desire of security, the craving for possessions. Had he developed those themes, it would perhaps become more interesting. Now, it is a sometimes very longwinded plod through oldfashioned ideas about women, violence and rigtheousness, illuminated in places by Lewis' mastery of descriptive language.
a fantastic tale of what could of happened
Perelandra is Adam and Eve all over again. And once again C S Lewis doesn't let us down. His genious overwhelms me. I devoured this book within a couple of days and I recommend you read it before That Hideous Strength and after Out of The Silent Planet.
Lewis focuses on Venus. Here Ransom appears again and is taken to the planet to stop the fall of the race. Lewis presents the case exceptionally well, with the idea that the test would determine whether the race would fall or whether they would move up to a higher state of being. I won't give away the ending, JUST READ IT! I highly recommend it.