As the overseer of a fan site devoted to Arthur C. Clarke, at Mysteryvisits, I'm pleased these letters were made available in a published volume, along with commentary of any kind. The editor, Ryder W. Miller, is to be commended for his efforts. It appears that he rescued a failed project and managed to turn it around so it could be completed. For that, we Clarke fans are grateful.
The book has the full support of Sir Arthur, who provides both an introduction and an emailed afterword. Of course, nothing much related to Clarke gets published without his full support, it seems.
The book's physical appearance is an improvement over the recent publication of letters exchanged between Clarke and Lord Dunsany. The new book is a handsome-looking hardback with a nicely printed jacket. And the commentary by Ryder is welcome and occasionally insightful, with reservations mentioned below. The most intriguing of Miller's contentions is that Lewis altered the tone of his "space trilogy" because of Clarke, admitting that he knew little about the science of space travel or its proponents, and rendering the third novel ("That Hideous Strength") entirely earthbound.
Those are the compliments. The drawbacks are fairly apparent, too. For one thing, the premise is slim, in that the correspondence consisted of just 15 letters, many of those from Lewis being brief and obscure. The bones of contention between the two writers were big in concept but limited in exploration. Ultimately, the letters hardly amount to a "war" -- in fact, the letters are uniformly polite, restrained and full of mutual admiration.
There are other drawbacks. The transliterations of Lewis' letters are pretty sad. Lewis often wrote illegibly, and Miller seems to prefer to leave the "translations" illegible, too, rather than take a stab at what words Lewis may have been attempting. As a result, the impression is that Lewis often wrote in gibberish, which one has every reason to know is far from the truth.
And the typos!! Miller's own introduction contains several -- including 'debree' for 'debris' -- and some strained syntax. It appears that, as editor, Miller needed an editor as well.
To flesh out the book, selections of fiction by Clarke and Lewis from the general period of the correspondence (excepting "A Meeting with Medusa," which isn't) are included to form the second part of the book. This might be handy for those who don't own much of the writings of either, but one wonders how many such people would purchase this particular book. Miller suggests this was done to give the reader an idea of the creative thinking of the two men at the time of their correspondence -- and yet some analysis might have been intriguing. Instead, there is none. It's a nice idea left unfulfilled.
Because Lewis gets short shrift from the book in general, and doesn't draw any supportive data from the extensive Lewis academic literature that exists, I imagine the book will end up being of more interest to Clarke fans than to Lewis' admirers. And many of us Clarke "nuts" already were aware of these contacts, including the various Clarke quips about them that occur in his other writings. Thus Clarke's intriguing contact with Lewis probably will remain little-known among Lewis' many admirers. Ah, well! I hope I'm wrong.