39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
C.S. Lewis is best known for his classic fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia. But he's in his best form in the sprawling Space Trilogy. And the first volume "Out of the Silent Planet" is a solid, dreamy slice of imaginative science fiction with deep philosophical underpinnings.
Philologist (studies languages) Dr. Ransom is on a walking tour of England when he encounters a former despised schoolmate, Devine. Things take a nasty turn after Devine and his accomplice Weston drug Ransom, and load him onto a spaceship. Over the course of a month's interstellar travel, Ransom learns that they are travelling to the planet Malacandra (Mars) -- and worst, he's destined to be a human sacrifice.
Ransom manages to escape after they land, and finds himself alone in an alien world. He soon is taken in by the otterlike hrossa, and learns that there are three sentient species on Malacandra: the peaceful poetry-loving hrossa, the workaholic pfifltriggi, and intelligent seroni. When a hross friend of Ransom's is killed by the murderous humans, he sets out to find the mysterious, powerful Oyarsa, who might be able to help him and stop his kidnappers.
"Out of the Silent Planet" is no space opera. Lewis avoids most of the tendencies of typical sci-fi in favor of a more H.G. Wells approach. Big fleshy plants, sentient otters, decreased gravity and petrified forests really give it the feeling of another planet without using cheap tricks.
The most striking idea of "Planet" is the people who populate it -- three dissimilar species, who work together and have no problems like war, starvation, lies, power-lust or any of the other problems that human beings have. It's a stark contrast to our own world, and it illustrates a lot of Lewis's own Christian beliefs without being preachy or silly.
The tone of "Planet" is generally very somber and thought-provoking, with long stretches of ethical and philosophical dialogue. Parts of it almost seem like a dream, very eerie and surreal, and the dignified personalities of Oyarsa and his underlings are beautifully done. But Lewis rips loose with some comedy from time to time, like Weston trying to bribe the various natives with a cheap necklace and Tarzan-esque threats of "Why you take our puff-bangs [guns] away? We very angry with you!"
Lewis based Ransom partly on his pal, fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien, and Ransom is a nicely done hero; he's not boring or preachy at all, but merely a "stranger in a strange land" who almost goes bonkers once or twice, but manages to triumph. Weston and Devine, on the other hand, are arrogant and dumb in an all-too-recognizable way. And the inhabitants of Malacandra take a little getting used to, but they're pleasant once you do.
"Out of the Silent Planet" still stands up as a vivid and beautifully-written piece of science fiction. You think you know C.S. Lewis after the Narnia Chronicles? Try the Space Trilogy.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2000
I'm 15, and the instant I picked this book up I couldn't put it down. This isn't one of those corny sci-fi books written for kids with unintelligent creatures that walk around eating everything in sight. It does give a person something to think about. The scenery and creatures living on Malachandra are quite different than any species imaginable. Lewis describes everything with great detail, so you aren't sitting in the dark on what you are supposed to be picturing. Lewis twists science with beliefs in a very remarkable way, and you will definately see things in a differant light when you are through. An interesting aspect is that in the end, he gets across that there truly was a "Ransom," and that he wrote to Lewis on the subject because he believed that he really was to Malachandra. This is an overall inspiring book to read, and you will really enjoy it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2007
Lewis is a writer of consummate prose which flows effortlessly across the pages. One could read this not knowing that Lewis was a friend and contemporary of Tolkien, as well as being a devoted Christian and, as I once did, find it simply enjoyable and beautiful as a work of fiction.
Lewis' work (in which can be included the Narnia Chronicles) gain a far greater depth when considered in the light of Lewis' Christianity. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, for instance, replays the crucifixion when Aslan (to all intents and purposes the Christ figure) allows himself to be sacrificed for the sake of an innocent, and is subsequently resurrected.
Here, Lewis goes farther back into Christian Theology to the time of the fall of Lucifer.
The novel starts in an England of the Nineteen Thirties where the philologist Professor Ransom is on a walking holiday and finds himself without a place to stay for the night.
Turning up at a large country house he finds to his surprise an old schoolmate, Devine, who invites him to stay, after introducing him to his colleague, Weston.
After dinner, Ransom finds himself unnaturally sleepy, only to awaken on board what he finally realises to be a space ship, en route to another world.
Ransom is made to work during the journey, and finally overhears his captors' plans. They intend to hand Ransom over to the natives of the planet, who wish to sacrifice him.
Upon landing, Ransom gets a brief glimpse of the natives, tall gangly creatures with long fingers and heads like inverted cones, the creatures Devine calls `Sorns'.
Ransom takes his chance and escapes into the strange jungles of Malacandra, the planet we know as Mars.
He is taken in by the Hrossa, large Otterlike creatures from whom he learns of the three races of Malacandra: the Sorns, who are logical scientific philosophical creatures, the Hrossa who are practical, but romantic and poetic, and the Pfifltriggi, a race of small creatures who love mining and building mechanisms.
Ransom then discovers the existence of a fourth race, the Eldila, who seem to float unseen around the world and who, like all the other races, serve Oyarsa, the ruler of the planet.
Lewis paints Malacandra as a pastoral paradise where the races live in harmony and no `hnau', as intelligent beings are termed, are `bent' in the sense that Weston and Devine are bent.
Ransom is summoned before the Oyarsa, as are Weston and Devine who have killed one of the Hrossa. Oyarsa tells that Erath is known as Thulcandra, the silent planet, since there was a war among the eldila long ago that left Mars scarred and much of its surface uninhabitable. Maleldil, who created all the worlds, cast down the Oyarsa of Earth and nothing has been heard from him since.
It becomes obvious here that the Oyarsa of the various planets are what we would term archangels. The Oyarsa of Earth would then have been Lucifer, the fallen angel.
Lewis' Mars is a beautiful and surreal place. His depiction of the jungles and foliage is compelling and oddly credible, despite the fact that we are expected to believe that the habitable areas of Mars lie in deep canyons with what is left of the breathable atmosphere. However, we should allow Lewis artistic license since this is a form of religious fantasy rather than true Science Fiction; a parable in which twentieth century Humanity is compared to what we could have been had Adam and Eve not got rebellious with the apple rule.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2000
Once again, I have fallen in love with a book by C.S. Lewis. "Out of the Silent Planet" takes its place alongside "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", "Till We Have Faces", "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader", "Mere Christianity", "The Great Divorce", "The Screwtape Letters", and "The Last Battle" as books Lewis has written that I believe everyone should read.
I am astounded by Lewis' creative imagination. The planet of Malacandra is a profound idea expressed beautifully. I do not wish to go into too many details because discovery is the real joy in reading this book. However, I must say that Ransom is one of Lewis' most complex and compelling (if somewhat ambiguous) protagonists; and therefore...one of my favorites.
I thoroughly enjoyed Out of the Silent Planet. I sincerely encourage you to acquire this book and read it. It is an amazing adventure.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 21 September 2000
Out of the Silent Planet is a definite must read for anyone who enjoyed Lewis' Narnia Cronicles. His talent at creating new worlds really catches the imagination. I found myself believing in Malacandra and the reality of peace there. He writes about an existence were there is no evil; no evil feelings or evil intentions, where there is perfect comunication and understanding between all creatures. In sad contrast, is our 'silent' planet where people have lost sight of what is good and pure, where we no longer reach out to comunicate with divinity. Although written a relatively long time ago, it is no less accurate today. Perhaps even more so today. The degeneration of man is represented by Ransom's two captors with great insight. But we are not without hope. That is what I liked most about the book. It appears that the message Lewis is sending is that despite our present attitude, "divinity" is reaching out to communicate with us. We have not been forsaken to remain in evil. It is a message of hope that a person of any faith would find encouraging.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2008
I put off reading this book for a very long time and I regretted doing so almost as soon as I'd begun reading it. It's a complete breath of fresh air (the age of this story defies belief). Lewis' writing style is flowing, his ideas timeless and his delivery both profound and universal. However `Out of Silent Planet' is by no means a perfect story.
This is a short book, close to a novella in length, which is very useful if you're concerned that perhaps the material won't be to your liking. But while I appreciated the brevity, which allowed for good pacing, I would have preferred more character development, especially in regards to the protagonist who is given only the most basic attributes. There's no real sense of Ransom as a person- he's purely the `everyman'- reacting as most people would in his situation, which obviously has its advantages, but struck me as a hesitancy on the author's part to provide him with any distinguishing features. He seemed to me to be less of a person and more of a walking, talking story-telling device, the vehicle for an idea, one designed to entice as large a readership as possible into Lewis's science-fiction themes. Consequently, Ransom never shows very much emotion, even at the untimely demise of one of his closest newly made companions on Malacandra. So rather than a character-driven adventure, the end result is instead an analytical and well-plotted exploration of classic science-fiction themes and is a story that often sacrifices warmth and intimacy between characters for grand themes and logical thought progressions.
But the story works, there's no doubt about it- `Out of the Silent Planet' is a truly compelling tale and one that I heartily recommend. With so many examples of fiction treating aliens as nothing more than the off-worlders next door, it's really refreshing for a story to explore how exactly a human being would react to the first-hand experience of meeting the member of another species in the flesh, to invalidate all our imaginative assumptions, all our vague wonderings and lofty expectations, and to reward readers with creatures wholly outside our species' realm of experience. At times confusing, but consistently thought-provoking, inherently flawed, but impressively timeless.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 September 1998
This was a great novel, but it had it's flaws. The plot line of Out of the Silent Planet is excellent, perhaps one of the best sci-fi plots I have come across, but the characterization is something to be desired. Don't get me wrong, the charcters were plenty entertaining and Lewis developed them nicely, but they are a little bit one sided. By that I mean that Dr. Ransom (the main character of the story) is all good -- he has no bad traits. And the antagonist(s) are the same way, they are bad, plain and simple. Personally I like a little bit of ambiguity... just somthing to make the story a little more interesting and a little less predictable. The reason for this aspect of Lewis' characters is probably because of the religous message embeded in the story, for most religons have characteristics of pure love and pure hate rather than ambiguous qualities that I am talking about. (Don't let the religon and deeper meaning thing scare you off, it's still great sci-fi!) Besides the whole religous reasoning, the characters may be a little lacking simply because this is one of Lewis' earlier works, thus he had not likely had much experiance in character development. If you like fantasy and havn't read The Chronicles of Narnia, you may want to read those first (they are also by C. S. Lewis), but otherwise I recommend this novel (despite the negative connotation of this review :). It is, overall, well written and thoroughly entertaining. You definately will not be able to put it down.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 1999
The science is fairly lousy (written in the 1930s by a fellow in English), but despite that I found it very good and moving. The description and vividness is as good as anything I've read for a long time, and throughout there is the nagging question of why we as a race are so twisted. Why should we find pleasure in exploiting others for our material gain? A good read and a gripping one. It made me laugh and nearly cry as well.
Criticisms might be that the main character is, like the author, an Oxbridge English fellow and again like the author is an expert on medieval literature, which opens the way for some very obscure references.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It may sound a bit snobbish, but however clever a modern novel is written in my opinion - the older literature is far better composed. I believe people's written English years ago to be far superior to that of anything you will find today - whether this has to do with poorer education; or merely that our writers were better at the subject is a matter of debate, but this is a fine example of a cleverly written piece of work. This is a sci-fi novel written in 1938, and as a result has all the advantage I like of the full imagination of other worlds - our having not reached in reality space travel. Not only is the story interesting, but the prose and way in which it has been composed makes for superb reading indeed!
This is the story of a man minding his own business on his travels one night when he gets caught up in a planned trip into space. He's abducted by two men, and taken with the travellers and has an experience not only he won't forget, but one that probably won't be believed!
The descriptive text of the planet known to us as 'Mars' - along with detailed and thought-provoking descriptions of its inhabitants, makes this an extremely enthralling and satisfying novel. This is part of a trilogy which I will most certainly be reading.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is the first book in C.S. Lewis's amazing Space Trilogy. These books are far less known than Lewis's Narnia series or even his Mere Christianity or The Screwtape Letters, yet it is just as good as any of those writings and goes to show the versatility of Lewis as an author.
This first book begins with our hero, Dr. Ransom, out for a walking tour in the countryside, dressed in that shabby way for which professors are renowned. His foes are his former schoolmates Devine and Weston. These men believe they need a human sacrifice, and by capturing Ransom they have their victim, for they have made a spaceship and are taking Ransom to Malacandra the red planet.
Once on Mars, Ransom escapes his captors, meets many species, and finds out that on Mars there has been no `Fall' and Ransom from Earth or the Silent Planet is a bit of an oddity. People from earth are considered to be `bent' in nature, from the original sin of the fall.
Follow Ransom as he treks across a strange world, and must find the courage to risk it all to save not only an alien race, but also, possibly his own soul.
This is a first book in an amazing series. Try it - you won't be disappointed.