Out of the Silent Planet (The Space Trilogy) by C.S. Lewis. 158 pages. Scribner Books.
I’ll have to admit that I read the Space Trilogy before, but it was in high school, way back in the early 70s, and I didn’t remember much of it. I decided to read it again when I realized that as a Christian science fiction writer, I had many things I could learn from him.
I learned that I did. Tesla’s Ghost, which officially launched last week, was probably my fourth or fifth science fiction book, and is the first book in a proposed sci-fi series, which is a first for me. Because I was dealing with Nikola Tesla, electricity and physics, I found myself both intimidated by the science and feeling that I had to impress the reader with my mastery of the technology. As I start working on the second book in the series, I continue to be reminded by readers that it’s not about the science, it’s about the story. And C.S. Lewis brings this across in Out of the Silent Planet.
The main character in the book is Dr. Ransom, a philologist, or linguist. He is taking a walking tour of England when he is kidnapped by two men and is promptly put in a spaceship bound for another planet. It isn’t later that he determines that the planet is Mars, called Malacandra by the people who live there. The two men who kidnap Ransom believe that they are taking him there for a human sacrifice in exchange for gold.
What got me about the story was that Lewis didn’t get bogged down with the science of traveling through space. Written in 1938, the book simply puts Ransom on the space ship with the two kidnappers and assumes that the readers will go along with the story. The story is obviously allegory, and there are no concerns about the humans being able to breathe on Mars, or how quickly is able to learn the language of the creatures there. That’s not what the story is about. And yet the story doesn’t seem juvenile at all despite this.
I’m not sure if this book were written today how it would be received. But I did learn from reading it, and do consider it a masterpiece, both in Christian science fiction and in science fiction in general.
I give it five out of five stars.