Over the last few weeks I have been reading the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis. This trilogy – which includes Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength – was unknown to me until my wife gave me the series one Christmas. This sci-fi/fantasy series was one of Lewis’ first published works when they came out during World War II. Unlike his more famous later fiction works ([The Chronicles of Narnia][Narnia link]), these are written for adults. Through these books, Lewis handles series theological and philosophical issues.
The narrative follows the story of Dr. Ransom, a British linguist who finds himself in the middle of the action for all three books. In Out of the Silent Planet, Ransom is kidnapped and taken to Malacandra (the planet we call Mars). While on Malacandra, Ransom meets the native lifeforms, learns their language, and gains their trust. Yet that trust is broken when unnatural death enters the world via Ransom’s kidnappers. Ransom then has to stop the human kidnappers and restore the planet.
In Perelandra, Ransom is transported to the planet Perelandra (which we call Venus). On this watery planet he discovers floating islands, great sea creatures, and a woman. This woman, who is the Eve-like matriarch of the planet, faces temptation from an Adversary. Ransom must try to save the woman – and the entire planet of Perelandra – from sin and it’s devastating effects.
In That Hideous Strength the story revolves around newlyweds Jane and Mark. Mark is a professor at a college who receives a job offer from a secretive government laboratory. Meanwhile Jane starts having vivid dreams that seem to be coming true. This couple find themselves on opposite sides in a growing battle between good and evil – a battle that grows to cosmic proportions.
I found it entertaining to read Lewis’ view of what space travel would be like. It almost had a Jules Verne-like feel to it. What is hard to believe is that Lewis was writing only 30 years before Armstrong walked on the moon. I also appreciated how Lewis crafted such a backstory, history, language, and imagery for each story – especially with Out of the Silent Planet.
I did find it frustrating that each book in the series feels different. Each book is written from a different perspective (from First Person to Third Person flashbacks). Things that seem important in one book are not even mentioned in the next one. The only thing that loosely unifies the books are Dr. Ransom.
I think my favorite book in the trilogy was Perelandra. Lewis vividly paints a beautiful virgin world. And the theology and philosophy found in the debate between the characters is deep and rewarding. Out of the Silent Planet is worth reading to see Lewis craft an entire language, culture, history, and planet out of thin air – very similar to what Tolkien did in Lord of the Rings. That Hideous Strength is a good book, though the first 80 pages require patience from the reader. As Lewis writes in the preface, it is important to set up a usual story so that the unusual can happen. I would recommend The Space Trilogy to any fan of C.S. Lewis, or for anyone looking for fiction that will make you think.
- Title: Space Trilogy
- Author: C. S. Lewis
- Format: Paperback
- My Rating: 5/5