Out of the Silent Planet (Scribner Classics) Hardcover – 28 Oct 1996
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"Los Angeles Times"
Lewis, perhaps more than any other twentieth-century writer, forced those who listened to him and read his works to come to terms with their own philosophical presuppositions.
"The New Yorker"
If wit and wisdom, style and scholarship are requisites to passage through the pearly gates, Mr. Lewis will be among the angels.
"Los Angeles Times" Lewis, perhaps more than any other twentieth-century writer, forced those who listened to him and read his works to come to terms with their own philosophical presuppositions.
"The New Yorker" If wit and wisdom, style and scholarship are requisites to passage through the pearly gates, Mr. Lewis will be among the angels.
"The New York Times" This book has real splendor, compelling moments, and a flowing narrative.
The New Yorker If wit and wisdom, style and scholarship are requisites to passage through the pearly gates, Mr. Lewis will be among the angels.
Los Angeles Times Lewis, perhaps more than any other twentieth-century writer, forced those who listened to him and read his works to come to terms with their own philosophical presuppositions.
From the Back Cover
There was no sound of pursuit. Ransom dropped down on his stomach and drank, cursing a world where cold water appeared to be unobtainable. Then he lay still to listen and to recover his breath. His eyes were upon the blue water. It was agitated. Circles shuddered and bubbles heaved and a round, shining, black thing like a cannon-ball came into sight. Then he saw eyes and mouth – puffing mouth bearded with bubbles. More of the thing came up out of the water. It was gleaming and black… Ransom lay perfectly still, pressing his body as well down into the weed as he could, in obedience to a wholly theoretical ideas that he might thus pass unobserved.
In the first novel of C.S. Lewis's classic sci-fi trilogy, Dr Ransom, a Cambridge academic, is kidnapped and transported to another planet. His captors are plotting to plunder the planet's treasure, and plan to offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the rational creatures they have found there. Ransom discovers he has come from the only 'silent planet' and the tragic story of Earth is known throughout the universe…--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product description
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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.
I'm not sure how grounded in contemporary (pre WWII) science this was, but anyway it's more an exploration of theology. What might a planet where there was no Fall be like? And what would be the effect if Fallen man (and it is man, I don't think there were any female characters apart from a brief appearance from a random countrywoman at the beginning on Earth) arrived? Enjoyable, but needs a shifting of mental gears to get into if you're more used to traditional SF.
But Lewis was in his best form when he wrote his Space Trilogy, a sprawling H. G. Wells-inspired story about a philologist traveling between worlds and encountering increasingly strange life-forms. Unlike most sci-fi stories, Lewis manages to do double-duty with his focus -- the first volume, "Out of the Silent Plane,t" is a solid, dreamy slice of imaginative science fiction with deep philosophical underpinnings.
During a walking tour of England, philologist Dr. Ransom encounters an old despised schoolmate named Devine, who is busy trying to abduct a mentally handicapped teenager. 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 traveling to the planet Malacandra (Mars) -- and worst, he's destined to be a human sacrifice.
After landing on Malacandra, Ransom manages to escape, and quickly finds himself alone on a strange alien world. But fortunately there is life on this 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.
While it does have some interplanetary travel, "Out of the Silent Planet" feels less like your average space opera, and more like a novel by H. G. Wells (the spaceship journey) or Edgar Rice Burroughs (the detailed descriptions of the weirdness of Malacandra). Big fleshy plants, sentient otter-people, decreased gravity and petrified forests all give it the feeling of a truly alien world, as do the three species who populate it.
In fact, the aliens are perhaps the most alien you can find in fiction -- 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 underscored by Lewis's contemplative stretches of ethical and philosophical dialogue, and the thought-provoking approach to ideas like consciousness, cruelty, love and so on. And he takes some razor-sharp jabs at ideas such as the "white man's burden" or that people who "aren't useful" to society (such as the handicapped) being disposable.
Lewis' writing has a dreamlike, somber quality that lends the story an eeriness that really permeates the entire story. And while Lewis' Christian beliefs are on view, I wouldn't classify this as a religious book -- rather it's a science fiction tale as seen and perceived through the lens of a man of faith. For instance, the character of Oyarsa could be seen as an angelic figure, a nearly invisible shimmer of light and shadow that rules Malacandra, but others might just perceive him as an alien. Others might see him as both.
Lewis reportedly based Ransom on his close friend, fantasy author/philologist J. R. R. Tolkien, and there's an obvious affection for his protagonist even as he's kidnapped, sent into space and becomes a "stranger in a strange land." He almost goes bonkers once or twice, but always makes it through with steadfast morality and intellect. On the other hand, Weston and Devine are the kind of person you have probably encountered in many comment sections -- they pay lip service to great advances and high ideals, but they are cold cruel men who value science and self above compassion and humanity. The opposite of the Malacandrians, in fact.
"Out of the Silent Planet" is a spellbinding, vivid and beautifully written piece of science fiction, with the intelligence and open-mindedness to see that the limits between the scientific and the spiritual don't have to exist. Off to Mars!
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