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186 of 188 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 'must-read' for anyone serious about C.S. Lewis
I continue to be astonished by the sheer depth and breadth of research, investigation and knowledge exhibited by those who are passionate about the writings of C.S. Lewis; even those who are not professional academics or theologians go to tremendous lengths to understand and relate small details of Lewis's life and the background to his writings. Michael Ward's book goes...
Published on 9 Mar 2008 by T. Cooke

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18 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Unproven Thesis
This is a scholarly work rather than light holiday reading but is, nevertheless, worth persevering with. Michael Ward's thesis is that the Narnia books of CS Lewis contain three layers: the stories themselves, the Christian messages and a third layer which Ward thinks he has discovered: that the books were planned around the astrological characteristics (as understood in...
Published on 17 Aug 2009 by Mr. J. Hastings


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "'The natural speech of the soul'", 4 April 2011
This review is from: Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis (Paperback)
Learned critics have already called Michael Ward "the foremost living Lewis scholar...a brilliant writer", described this book as "a compelling case...painstaking scholarship", and declared that "no other book on Lewis has ever shown such comprehensive knowledge of his works and such depth of insight" (i). These things having been established, this review lifts up several additional salient points.

Ward says that the Chronicles "have found such a large readership because they communicate seven ancient [planetary] archetypes in a manner which is artistically and theologically suggestive" (4). Comparing the Chronicles to the Harry Potter stories of magic on Earth, and Tolkien's "Rings" imaginary Middle-earth, Ward identifies these two primary appealing aspects - art and theology - of Lewis' Chronicles dealing with the relationship of the Earth to the Heavens.

Archetypes, we know from the depth psychology of C. G. Jung and the mythology of Joseph Campbell, are universal symbols in the collective psyche to which everyone intrinsically relates. Just as Jung painted psychic imagery and phenomena in his Red Book, Lewis painted his characters and stories in the Chronicles and has said, "'symbols are the natural speech of the soul'" (230). In art and theology we consider (watch, as you read this book, for Ward's redefinition of this term) the eternal and divine aspects of humanity, and Lewis helps us do so in the Chronicles.

Ward describes his method in this book as "a 'reading between' the Chronicles and the rest of Lewis' writings", and discernment (5). One of the great values of this book is that Ward reads between Lewis and us, and helps us to discern Lewis' enormous contribution to us spiritually, theologically, and artistically, as well as literary. Ward accomplishes the astounding, long awaited, and desperately needed task of bridging chasms between religion, theology, cosmology, astronomy, and astrology, and redirecting us from reductionist to reintegrated view of the world, our existence in it, and reestablishing our relationship to the Heavens.

He has a great sense and expression of astrological character of the seven inner planets, Sun through Saturn. The outer forces, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, are considered by astrologers to be transpersonal, from which we may imply that Lewis is attempting to reach us personally. Lewis has said the Chronicles are "about Christ" (11), so it is fair to think that Lewis was painting for us possibilities of our relationship to the Divine while we are on Earth. Because Christ taught in allegory and story, it is reasonable to think that Lewis taught that way too.

The planets are archetypal, mythological, and cosmological stepping-stones of progressive consciousness between Earth and Heaven, and even physically are stones between us and the universe. Ward, in today's patois,"goes there", and as we read this amazing, not to be missed book, he takes us along.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellously obvious, 20 July 2010
This review is from: Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis (Paperback)
Every now and then you read something that just feels right. This is it for me. As a lifelong fan of those seemingly innocent children's books, Michael Ward's exhaustive and logical analysis is just...well right. At times I felt like grabbing the person on the bus next to me and trying to explain it to them. It's that good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Narnian insights, 2 Aug 2011
By 
RR Waller "ISeneca" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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For those of us who grew up on CS Lewis, lived for a time in Narnia or spent exciting hours opening and closing other people's wardrobes hoping for rapid temperature changes, this is an essential piece of reading. Like "Into the Wardrobe" by David C. Downing, Michael Ward opens still more doors into the imaginative world of Narnia and the depth of knowledge and intellect of CS Lewis.
The mythology of Narnia and the mythology surrounding its genesis and creation in the minds and worlds of that little group of Oxford academics, the Inklings, will always fascinate and take people to the "Eagle and Child" on St Giles in the hope of smelling pipe smoke.
With his depth of research and fountain of Lewis knowledge, Ward has added an extraordinary book to the vast collection of Narnian works. Whether you agree or disagree with his original and unique thesis, he writes with great conviction and skill - occasionally becoming excusably escoteric, smacking of a PhD, which was its origins, but for which he can be forgiven. Combined with others, e.g. Downing's, this is an excellent read and one which helps to shed light on the Narnian books as well as much of Lewis's other scholarly writings, e.g. "Literature in the Sixteenth Century: Excluding Drama", a copy of which I bought very cheaply on Amazon and was delighted to discover it was a first edition. I looked frantically for a signature, imagining him in Blackwell's wreathed in smoke at a book-signing, but to no avail.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Planet Lewis, 1 Jan 2011
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This review is from: Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis (Paperback)
The book's main thesis is the suggestion that the Narnian tales were not only informed by but consciously constructed around the medieval and renaissance astrology that played such a large part in Lewis's imagination. It's a very interesting and suggestive idea in itself. Whether the Lewis academics ultimately find it persuasive or not is a side issue for me; I loved the way Ward's chosen angle of vision foregrounded and illuminated that particular vein of poetry in the tales, which is undoubtedly there and important in them, whether or not it it plays as central a role as he suspects. I also loved the book as an anthology of Lewis's writings and for the way it reawakened in me a sense of how extraordinary his mind and the range of his culture were. I read quite a lot of Lewis's criticism and Christian apologetics, as well as most of his published fiction, a long time ago. Planet Narnia reminded me of what I'd read and why I liked it so much then, and introduced me to much new material, some of which I'm now following up. The Christian apologetics don't mean much to me now, and I suspect that they will often seem dated, but the criticism is wonderful. Even at its driest (as in Studies in Words) it's extremely illuminating, and makes you wonder how the Cambridge school got away with identifying close reading with itself; Lewis's close scrutiny of the changing conceptual weight and associations of words makes Lewis's and Richards's "practical criticism" look like amateur bungling. But Lewis is not usually dry; he's wonderfully eloquent, imaginative, sensitive to the different qualities of vision and sensibility of the authors he writes about, and gifted to a rare degree with the ability to communicate a real feeling of why books matter. Ward writes very well about the Narnia books, and clearly does so out of profound love and sympathy, but what makes his study of them so interesting and so imaginatively enlarging is the depth of his reading in Lewis's other works and the intelligence of his response to them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The cosmic-planetary unifying analysis of "Narnia" surveys all of C.S. Lewis's writing and life, 14 May 2013
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I first read "The Screwtape Letters" as a teenager, in the mid-1960s, and then "Out of the Silent Planet", and then some of the "Narnia" stories. Later, as a young adult I read, with great satisfaction, Lewis's remarkable (sometimes coy) autobiography "Surprised By Joy".
Since then I have read and reread all of Lewis's fiction, and much of his criticism and theological works.
I have read several biographies, and critical studies, especially Paul Ford's "companion" to "Narnia".
I have also written and published (in "Children's Literature in Education" a defence of C.S. Lewis and "Narnia" against the extreme misreading and psychocritical analysis of David Holbrook.
I have also written (online) a further defence of C.S. Lewis against the misguided attacks of Philip Pullman.
With that background explained, let me at that I find Michael Ward's discussion to be wide, deep and powerful, and extremely rewarding.
It inspires me to buy and read Lewis's own academic discussion of the Medieval world-view, "The Discarded Image", and to re-read Lewis's fiction once more!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book, 7 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis (Paperback)
This book is not easy but will be fascinating for Narnia fans. I would suggest re-reading the 7 books of the Narniad before embarking on it. It is a very thorough and academic work and not an easy read but worthwhile taking the time to read it carefully. The book arrived very quickly, long before the estimated time.
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18 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Unproven Thesis, 17 Aug 2009
This is a scholarly work rather than light holiday reading but is, nevertheless, worth persevering with. Michael Ward's thesis is that the Narnia books of CS Lewis contain three layers: the stories themselves, the Christian messages and a third layer which Ward thinks he has discovered: that the books were planned around the astrological characteristics (as understood in the Middle Ages) of the seven planets (the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). Ward assembles an impressive array of quotations linking each book to a planet. So "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is linked to Jupiter, "The Horse and His Boy" is linked to Mercury and so on.

This book has three major weaknesses. The first is that CS Lewis himself never mentioned or wrote of such a scheme, so Ward has to make a case that Lewis was deceitful and secretive. The case that he makes is unconvincing.

The second weakness is that Ward has no discussion of any empirical evidence of how authors of fiction actually go about writing their books; so we do not even know if it is possible for a writer to plan a series of books with three layers of meaning.

The third weakness is that Ward ignores what Lewis himself said and wrote about reconstructing the history of how a book was written:

"I have watched with some care similar imaginary histories both of my own books and of books by friends whose real history I knew...My impression is that in the whole of my experience not one of these guesses has on any one point been right...What I think I can say with certainty is that they are usually wrong...And yet they would often sound...extremely convincing...we find that when [the facts are] available, the results are either always, or else nearly always, wrong..." ("Fern Seed and Elephants")

Ward's thesis is thus refuted by Lewis' own words.

To give the last word to Lewis himself,

"The 'assured results of modern scholarship', as to the way in which an old book was written, are 'assured', we may conclude, only because the men who knew the facts are dead and can't blow the gaff." (op. cit.)

*

Since I posted my review of this book, I have read Michael Ward's "The Narnia Code" and also several relevant books, particularly "C S Lewis - A Biography" by Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper. What I have read convinces me that Ward's thesis is simply wrong. The gestation of the books as described in chapter 11 of this biography offers little support for Ward's ideas. Ward includes the biography in his Bibliography in "The Narnia Code" but he has not discussed chapter 11, presumably because it would be negative evidence.

Green was a student of CS Lewis who later became a friend and a member of "The Inklings". He read the manuscripts of the Narnia books and made constructive comments on them. Lewis made at least some changes in the light of Green's comments. Yet Green says nothing about a scheme to have seven books relating to the seven planets.

Green and Hooper do include an extract from a letter CS Lewis wrote in 1961 about the Christian aspects of the Chronicles (p 324)

"The Magician's Nephew tells the Creation and how evil entered Narnia.
The Lion etc. the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Prince Caspian restoration of the true religion after a corruption.
The Horse and his Boy the calling and conversion of a heathen.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep).
The Silver Chair the continued war against the powers of darkness.
The Last Battle the coming of Antichrist (the Ape). The end of the world and the Last Judgement."

Ward is asking us to accept that Lewis wrote the seven books according to two quite independent schemes: the Christian scheme above and the Planets scheme! I don't think so.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A serious scholarly review, 12 July 2009
By 
P. H. Lloyd (Bedfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a serious scholarly treatise on C.S. Lewis and his interest in the planets both in myth and in science. As such it is fairly heavy going and not for the light reader who loves Narnia. It is well documented in footnotes and seems to me to be an excellent treatise.
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dangerous waters for any CS Lewis reader..., 21 Jan 2010
By 
Mr. Jason D. Ward (uk) - See all my reviews
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I would have thought that literary criticism of CS Lewis very dangerous waters given his own comprehensive demolishing of even the best criticism in "Fern Seed and Elephants." And we are now further away from him than even his critics in his day.

Did CS Lewis ever say that Narnia is based on seven planets? If he didn't, then caution is to be advised from here onwards...
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 7 July 2009
By 
John H. Gates - See all my reviews
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Bought this for a present for an avid reader of C S Lewis who is currently enthralled with the book.
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