Title: Out of the Silent Planet
(Space Trilogy – Book 1)
Author: C. S. Lewis
Genre: Science Fiction?
Rating: 5 out of 5
I actually read this book for the first time in 4th grade (I was a weird kid), and several times after that, but this reading of it was by far the most deliberate in terms of trying to understand the philosophy behind it. Because that’s what the Space Trilogy is: philosophy wrapped in Sci-fi and Fantasy. If you go into this expecting believable science fiction you will be disappointed and frustrated. The overarching theme of the series seems to be what it means to be truly human as we were designed to be (the purely-philosophical companion book is The Abolition of Man which I have yet to read).
The protagonist of this book is Dr. Elwin Ransom, who is loosely based on J. R. R. Tolkien (he’s a philologist obsessed with mythology). He is kidnapped and taken to Malacandra (Mars) where he interacts with a world that is touched by sin and death from earth’s Fall but whose inhabitants are innocent and unfallen. The contrast between the innocent inhabitants of Malacandra and the brutal pragmatism of Ransom’s fellow-earthmen, and even Ransom’s own fear and dishonesty, demonstrate how “bent” humanity has become.
This book also begins to explore the idea of pleasure and satisfaction. The penchant of mankind to obsess over repeating a pleasure rather than enjoying it to the full will become a major theme in the next book .
By the end of the book Lewis has set up the universe that will be further explored in the other two books.
*MILD SPOILER* – Highlight to read
Each planet is governed by an Oyarsa, an eldil (angelic being/god) who serves as personal regent of Maleldil (God). Earth’s Oyarsa became “bent” and confined to our world along with his followers (a.k.a. the fall of Satan)
*END MILD SPOILER*
Overall, I really enjoy this book. It has a good blend of plot and philosophy, unlike the next one which is much more “talky” (though still excellent).
A note about the cover: in my posts I always try to use the cover of the copy that I happened to read rather than picking the best looking one. In this case that means that I got possibly the worst cover available – it bears very little resemblance to anything described in the book…oh well.