List price: £10.95|
Average customer rating:
4.5 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : 0370005368
Manufacturer : The Bodley Head Ltd|
Release data : December, 1945
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A Beautiful 20th Century Parable
Lewis is a writer of consummate prose which flows effortlessly across the pages. One could read this not knowing that Lewis was a friend and contemporary of Tolkien, as well as being a devoted Christian and, as I once did, find it simply enjoyable and beautiful as a work of fiction.
Lewis' work (in which can be included the Narnia Chronicles) gain a far greater depth when considered in the light of Lewis' Christianity. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, for instance, replays the crucifixion when Aslan (to all intents and purposes the Christ figure) allows himself to be sacrificed for the sake of an innocent, and is subsequently resurrected.
Here, Lewis goes farther back into Christian Theology to the time of the fall of Lucifer.
The novel starts in an England of the Nineteen Thirties where the philologist Professor Ransom is on a walking holiday and finds himself without a place to stay for the night.
Turning up at a large country house he finds to his surprise an old schoolmate, Devine, who invites him to stay, after introducing him to his colleague, Weston.
After dinner, Ransom finds himself unnaturally sleepy, only to awaken on board what he finally realises to be a space ship, en route to another world.
Ransom is made to work during the journey, and finally overhears his captors' plans. They intend to hand Ransom over to the natives of the planet, who wish to sacrifice him.
Upon landing, Ransom gets a brief glimpse of the natives, tall gangly creatures with long fingers and heads like inverted cones, the creatures Devine calls `Sorns'.
Ransom takes his chance and escapes into the strange jungles of Malacandra, the planet we know as Mars.
He is taken in by the Hrossa, large Otterlike creatures from whom he learns of the three races of Malacandra: the Sorns, who are logical scientific philosophical creatures, the Hrossa who are practical, but romantic and poetic, and the Pfifltriggi, a race of small creatures who love mining and building mechanisms.
Ransom then discovers the existence of a fourth race, the Eldila, who seem to float unseen around the world and who, like all the other races, serve Oyarsa, the ruler of the planet.
Lewis paints Malacandra as a pastoral paradise where the races live in harmony and no `hnau', as intelligent beings are termed, are `bent' in the sense that Weston and Devine are bent.
Ransom is summoned before the Oyarsa, as are Weston and Devine who have killed one of the Hrossa. Oyarsa tells that Erath is known as Thulcandra, the silent planet, since there was a war among the eldila long ago that left Mars scarred and much of its surface uninhabitable. Maleldil, who created all the worlds, cast down the Oyarsa of Earth and nothing has been heard from him since.
It becomes obvious here that the Oyarsa of the various planets are what we would term archangels. The Oyarsa of Earth would then have been Lucifer, the fallen angel.
Lewis' Mars is a beautiful and surreal place. His depiction of the jungles and foliage is compelling and oddly credible, despite the fact that we are expected to believe that the habitable areas of Mars lie in deep canyons with what is left of the breathable atmosphere. However, we should allow Lewis artistic license since this is a form of religious fantasy rather than true Science Fiction; a parable in which twentieth century Humanity is compared to what we could have been had Adam and Eve not got rebellious with the apple rule.
Adventurous ... imaginative ... warming ... and inspiring. I loved reading this book. It's really refreshing, positive and exciting.
C.S. Lewis is best known for his classic fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia. But he's in his best form in the sprawling Space Trilogy. And the first volume "Out of the Silent Planet" is a solid, dreamy slice of imaginative science fiction with deep philosophical underpinnings.
Philologist (studies languages) Dr. Ransom is on a walking tour of England when he encounters a former despised schoolmate, Devine. Things take a nasty turn after Devine and his accomplice Weston drug Ransom, and load him onto a spaceship. Over the course of a month's interstellar travel, Ransom learns that they are travelling to the planet Malacandra (Mars) -- and worst, he's destined to be a human sacrifice.
Ransom manages to escape after they land, and finds himself alone in an alien world. He soon is taken in by the otterlike hrossa, and learns that there are three sentient species on Malacandra: the peaceful poetry-loving hrossa, the workaholic pfifltriggi, and intelligent seroni. When a hross friend of Ransom's is killed by the murderous humans, he sets out to find the mysterious, powerful Oyarsa, who might be able to help him and stop his kidnappers.
"Out of the Silent Planet" is no space opera. Lewis avoids most of the tendencies of typical sci-fi in favor of a more H.G. Wells approach. Big fleshy plants, sentient otters, decreased gravity and petrified forests really give it the feeling of another planet without using cheap tricks.
The most striking idea of "Planet" is the people who populate it -- three dissimilar species, who work together and have no problems like war, starvation, lies, power-lust or any of the other problems that human beings have. It's a stark contrast to our own world, and it illustrates a lot of Lewis's own Christian beliefs without being preachy or silly.
The tone of "Planet" is generally very somber and thought-provoking, with long stretches of ethical and philosophical dialogue. Parts of it almost seem like a dream, very eerie and surreal, and the dignified personalities of Oyarsa and his underlings are beautifully done. But Lewis rips loose with some comedy from time to time, like Weston trying to bribe the various natives with a cheap necklace and Tarzan-esque threats of "Why you take our puff-bangs [guns] away? We very angry with you!"
Lewis based Ransom partly on his pal, fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien, and Ransom is a nicely done hero; he's not boring or preachy at all, but merely a "stranger in a strange land" who almost goes bonkers once or twice, but manages to triumph. Weston and Devine, on the other hand, are arrogant and dumb in an all-too-recognizable way. And the inhabitants of Malacandra take a little getting used to, but they're pleasant once you do.
"Out of the Silent Planet" still stands up as a vivid and beautifully-written piece of science fiction. You think you know C.S. Lewis after the Narnia Chronicles? Try the Space Trilogy.