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on 4 July 2009
For the first time I could see the thinking behind the series, and could appreciate that it was not just isolated one offs that happened to inhabit the same world. Very impressed by the author's thought and research.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 2 August 2011
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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on 24 June 2009
I agree that Michael Ward's book is a must for anyone interested in C S Lewis. I would also suggest that it is also a book by one of the few wise people and his views on theology are those of someone who was a deep thinker and who experienced God.

He was also a very clever man and an academic but those attributes are only good if they are tempered by wisdom.

I feel that by reading this book you will enhance your enjoyment of the Narnia stories.
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on 14 May 2013
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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on 27 December 2013
Purchased as a gift for my wife - I have nothing more to say about it so why should I?
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VINE VOICEon 6 September 2016
There is no question that Michael Ward is a bit of a genius - it took someone who was completely immersed in the world of C S Lewis to be able to spot what Ward spotted - namely that there is a subterranean structure to the Narnia Chronicles, just teasingly hinted at in his poetry.

And there is no question that he makes a convincing case, showing how each of the Chronicles corresponds to one of the planets in the medieval cosmos. The evidence floods out with parallels, allusions and imagery drawn from his academic writing, the science fiction trilogy and the poetry. It's overall effect is to show how extraordinary Lewis's mind really was - and how far us mere mortals fall short.

So this is a remarkable book - and one that inspires adult rereading of Narnia Chronicles. But the only slight negative is the fact that reading the whole is probably going to be the preserve of the true Lewis geek/aficionado. Having found the main thesis wholly convincing, I found myself less inclined to plough through every detail of corroborative evidence!
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on 20 July 2010
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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on 18 January 2017
Michael Ward's evidence for his theory convinced me utterly - coming as it did from Lewis's own writings. It was like new doors and windows being opened up onto Lewis's writings, particularly the Narnia Chronicles. I absolutely loved reading this, as well as the subsequent pleasure of re-reading the Chronicles in a whole new light. Inspiring literary detective work, and so clearly and passionately presented.
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on 4 September 2015
I always loved the chronicles and read them many times as a child although as an older child I did become puzzled by the very different tone of each book and also the different flavours of approach to religion. For example, the central scene of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a retelling of the Easter story in a way which was obvious to me even at an early age, while the beautifully whimsical creation story in The Magician's Nephew is more reminiscent of the Vedas than anything in the Bible. One thing that always bothered me was the odd inclusion of Father Christmas in The Lion etc (and I was in good company - apparently Tolkien agreed and argued with Lewis about it at their Inklings meetings). Planet Narnia makes sense of all these things in an extraordinarily satisfying way. Usually books claiming to have uncovered something in another's writing make you go "hmm.. maybe...", this one makes you go "YES!".
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on 1 January 2011
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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