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on 17 September 1998
I have read this book twice quite a few years ago and I plan to read it at least one more time. At the time the messages of the book were really lost to me. Lewis, in his description of this utopian wonderland and all the creative ways he answers some of lifes great mysteries, is quite compelling. This book has such great depth that one reading, fascinating as it is, is not enough. I think I would read it now with a different and deeper understanding.
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on 6 November 1998
The reviews below are fascinating, recalling Jesus' stark question of the Baptist's hearers: 'What did you go out into the desert to see?'
If it's entertainment and exotic creativity, why not look elsewhere? You will find these of course, but only at the cost of having missed much.
If, to some Purpose, you are compelled to explore the agonizing wastelands of moral chaos, be well-advised to take the adventure Aslan sends.
With Ransom, you may just sense the terrifying reaches of moral ambiguity, casual indifference, and spiritual weakness, the deep mysteries of human decision-making and Inhuman Courage, the simple earmarks of innocence and guilt. You may just glimpse a tiny, invaluable essence of the struggle with principalities and powers at extreme elevations.
...because Perelandra isn't really a novel, and most especially not science fiction. It's a manual, a guidebook, a map. It's a War Prayer, batteries included. If you want less, happily, you will be disappointed.
'From Strength to Strength go on.'
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on 22 July 2010
Rating this book is hard. I feel like it was a good book (Lewis certainly has a fine grasp of language and does not throw obscure words at you to show off) but as a novel I think it left something to be desired. The plot seems to disappear for long periods of time to make way for philosophical and theological lecturing or speculation disguised as dialogue or internal monologues (almost like Starship Troopers). It also reminded me of Philip Pullman's Amber Spyglass in how half of the events seemed to happen merely because the author wanted to make some kind of esoteric point.

Ransom is a bit of Gary Stu and the cast in general in the novel is very small; it's like Lewis didn't want any character in the story that didn't have some kind of symbolic purpose or something. If you are not familiar with the Garden of Eden story in the Bible you will no doubt be almost completely baffled by some of the segments here...all in all this is a lot more esoteric than Out of the Silent Planet and less accessible for someone wanting adventure. That isn't to say that there is no "science-fiction" in Perelandra as the presentation of the new world and its lifeforms is very imaginative and apparently was even quasi-plausible according to 1930s knowledge of the planet.

That said Perelandra spends most of its time focusing on symbolism and allegory so much so that it will mean far more if you are an enthusiastic practising Christian or at least have a keen interest in theology. If not you may experience frustration with the slowness of the story and even antipathy at Lewis' ideas of paradise and his presentation of "evil".

I recommend this book if you're up for a heavy read where plot and character development are secondary to an arguably greater literary and philosophical endeavour. This was Lewis's own favourite in the trilogy apparently so its really depends on the reader. Out Of the Silent Planet and the Narnia books may be ultimately less deep than this challenging book but as "stories" I found them more satisfying and perhaps less discriminative in their intended audience. Its a 3.5-4.5 really. One to re-read eventually.
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on 9 October 2012
Though not as well known as Lewis's Narnia novels, he also wrote a series of three novels, featuring Elwin Ransom as the main protagonist, in the late 1930s and early to mid 1940s. Lewis wrote the novels due to his famous conversation with his close friend J. R. R. Tolkien, who both said there wasn't enough of their type of fiction in the world, so they would have to write their own. Lewis wrote the Space Trilogy, and Tolkien wrote part of an abandoned, unfinished novel called THE LOST ROAD. Ransom, a philologist, is actually modeled after Tolkien.

There's a story in one of Tolkien's letters (published in LETTERS OF J.R.R. TOLKIEN) where his daughter, Priscilla, was reading the trilogy during one of the holidays in the 1940s, and, according to Tolkien, quite sensibly came to the conclusion that PERELANDRA was the best of the trilogy.

The second book in the trilogy is PERELANDRA. In many ways, it is the richest of the trilogy in terms of spiritual depth. While OSP is more straight science fiction, and THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH social commentary, PERELANDRA is closely modeled on the Adam & Eve story in Genesis. This novel is something of a homage to one of Lewis's favorite, John Milton. It's a beautiful book, and raises the question of what exactly would happen if Adam and Eve had not fallen. And this time, instead of being kidnapped Maleldil sends Ransom there.

Perelandra, the second novel in the, if you believe the blurbs, celebrated Space Trilogy, stands as Lewis's on contribution to the form of the modern epic and also his tribute to John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost. There are a plethora of epic references, and I agree that science fiction is the inheritor of the epic tradition. Much of what Lewis accomplishes through Perelandra is from the epic tradition. There are several elements in Perelandra that not only salutes Paradise Lost but also throws the whole epic tradition in a favourable light. Here are some of the numerous ways in which Perelandra harkens back to the epic tradition.

Like most epics, the story begins in a crucial point in the story, with Lewis himself attempting to make it to Ransom's house under severe attack. There are generally catalogs in epics, and this is played as dark humour in Perelandra, as Ransom accounts what each individual has to fight with (essentially two middle aged bodies). There are then descriptions of what these are. Then, to rally himself up, Ransom makes a speech to himself for encouragement. Weston becomes the Unman, a very common tradition of giving a name to a character based on the description of that character. One of the best developed portion of Perelandra's similarities with the epic is the very vivid description of the Underworld which is given in the last section of Perelandra. In it, we get the quite hellish descriptions of the subterranean world of Perelandra, which we had no idea existed. Lewis also gives us his reoccurring theme of privacy and the fact that we do not know everything, with the two thrones and the sea people who appear and then disappear very mysteriously.

The main plot of the novel has Ransom, who was kidnapped last novel, actually being sent to Venus. Lewis does away with the problem of spaceships this time around, having angels just take his protagonist there. He finds himself in a world of vast oceans, with floating islands that are actually behave like film or foam on the ocean, undulating and taking the shape of each wave. He soon meets the Green Lady, who is unfallen. Her husband is on another of the floating islands (they had become separated when they were on different islands which drifted away from one another).

Eventually, Weston arrives, the villain from the previous novel, and we find that Ransom must prevent him from corrupting the Green Lady, to prevent another Fall into Sin. Weston is an agent of Satan, and so wants to bring sin into Venus as well.

The majority of the novel focuses on Ransom and his efforts to protect the Green Lady from the Un-man, which Weston actually becomes after shortly arriving on Venus. Weston actually becomes demonically possessed, and ultimately must be stopped at all cost. Ransom is stripped, both physically and symbolically, having to rely on Maleldil (Jesus) to help him.

SPOILER:

Eventually, Ransom and the Un-man swim to an underground chamber, with the Un-Man biting Ransom's heel. This wound that will never fully heal, an allusion to Arthur and the Grail myth as well as the scripture in Genesis saying man will crush the serpent's head, and the serpent will bruise mankind's heel. In the end, Ransom puts the Un-Man to death, and so prevents Venus from having a second fall. The Green Lady and her husband are united.

END SPOILER

The descriptions of the floating islands and Ransom's experience on Perelandra in the first section of the book before he meets The Green Lady, along with the ending section of THE LAST BATTLE from Narnia where they are in heaven, to me is the most beautiful passages that ever came from Lewis's pen.

One fault that this novel does have it the ending seems to be rather preachy, but otherwise this is a first class novel, and for many readers this will be one of Lewis's most spiritually rewarding novels. Only in THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS does he deal so accurately and directly and with such psychologically insight on the problems of temptation and accountability.

While this novel is technically termed "science fiction", this is much more a spiritual track of our times than straight science fiction. The book is closely modeled upon Milton's PARADISE LOST.

For myself, the best way to read this book is reading it in conjunction with two other books, an unofficial trilogy, if you will. Because PERELANDRA is so closely related to PARADISE LOST, you should read that as well. Also read Lewis's literary criticism A PREFACE TO PARADISE LOST, in which he expertly discusses Milton's work. Lewis is a brilliant literary critic, and PREFACE is one of the best critical works on the PARADISE LOST ever produced.

My own unofficial trilogy:
1. Paradise Lost. (John Miltion)
2. A Preface to Paradise Lost (C. S. Lewis)
3. Perelandra

Overall, many readers will find PERELANDRA Lewis's most spiritually satisfying of the three novels. The characterization is strongest in this novel, as Lewis is only dealing primarily with three characters, and we really get to know all of them quite intimately. The novel is also focused mainly on evil in an unfallen world and what one must do to save that world. Until Lewis wrote TILL WE HAVE FACES in the late 1950s, the novel which he felt was his true masterpiece, he long felt this book was his best, and placed it second best after FACES. This was Lewis's favorite in the Space Trilogy and for good reason. It's probably the best (though my personal favorite is THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH).
.
.
-----------------------
[Throughout the years, I have written a number of reviews that have never been published online on Amazon. These writings comprise two types of reviews: unfinished reviews, abandoned during various stages of composition, and completed reviews that for life reasons were never posted. Of the later type, back in September 2001 I wrote a cache of work, a full sixteen reviews* of several different C. S. Lewis books which have never been released. I have issued these reviews in October 2012 on Amazon.com, over a decade after they were initially written. However, these reviews were heavily edited and in several instances radically and drastically revised. I am publishing these reviews now for the first time in their original, unrevised format as written in 2001, with bracketed additions added for occasionally necessary clarification. Mike London 10-23-2012]

Perelandra, the second novel in the, if you believe the blurbs, celebrated Space Trilogy, stands as Lewis's on contribution to the form of the modern epic and also his tribute to John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost. There are a plethora of epic references, and I agree that science fiction is the inheritor of the epic tradition. Much of what Lewis accomplishes through Perelandra is from the epic tradition. There are several elements in Perelandra that not only salutes Paradise Lost but also throws the whole epic tradition in a favourable light. Here are some of the numerous ways in which Perelandra harkens back to the epic tradition.

Like most epics, the story begins in a crucial point in the story, with Lewis himself attempting to make it to Ransom's house under severe attack. There are generally catalogs in epics, and this is played as dark humour in Perelandra, as Ransom accounts what each individual has to fight with (essentially two middle aged bodies). There are then descriptions of what these are. Then, to rally himself up, Ransom makes a speech to himself for encouragement. Weston becomes the Unman, a very common tradition of giving a name to a character based on the description of that character. One of the best developed portion of Perelandra's similarities with the epic is the very vivid description of the Underworld which is given in the last section of Perelandra. In it, we get the quite hellish descriptions of the subterranean world of Perelandra, which we had no idea existed. Lewis also gives us his reoccurring theme of privacy and the fact that we do not know everything, with the two thrones and the sea people who appear and then disappear very mysteriously.

*(These reviews covered all seven books of "The Chronicles of Narnia", the three novels of "The Space Trilogy", "The Abolition of Man", "The Four Loves", "A Preface to Paradise Lost", a revised version of my 2000 review of "Till We Have Faces", "Surprised By Joy", and "The Screwtape Letters".) [unpublished review incoroprated into main text of 2007 review 12-1-2012
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on 7 January 1999
I love this book! Perelandra is a book about a man named Dr. Ransom who was kidnapped by two humans to take to sacrifice to the planet Malacandra. Now he is called to the planet of Perelandra to protect it from a man named Weston who is possesed by the devil. Weston is trying to get the first women on the planet to disobey god and sleep on the fixed land. Just like when the serpent told Eve to eat the fruit in the garden of eden.
If the women goes on the fixed land Perelandra falls into corruption just as earth.
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on 20 July 1999
This work is extrodinary and astounding. It takes you places that are beautiful, strange, and exotic. Not only does it do this it also stimulates your imagination and allows you to open up your mind. These storys also carry a deep meaning. The are amazingly intertwined and completely agree with Christian ideas.
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on 3 September 1999
Not nearly as readable as Out of the Silent Planet. The ending is a little heavy handed and chiched for Lewis. It's still a great book and worth reading for people who enjoyed the first book. I don't know if I'd reccommend it on its own.
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on 21 February 2014
A slow start. But once the Un-man and Ransom begin to lock-horns philosophically, with the innocence and future of Perelandra at stake, the book truly begins to take shape. Although written in the 1940's, C.S.Lewis brilliantly delivers a prophetic masterpiece with this novel - seeing ahead and right through the aegis of late 20th / early 21st century Post Modernist human reasoning - which welcomes anti-religious secularism and a form of pride based, separatist feminism as delusory foundation stones for long term human flourishing.
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This is a really wonderful book, in which Ransom flies to Venus to intervene on behalf of a multi-colored Adam and Eve. It is very fun the way that Lewis uncovers details in the story, as Ransom proceeds with astonishment is his strangely deliberate and chaste way. An odd and very English character.

But the writing is absolutely wonderful, and some of the scenes quite unforgettable - there is one where he barely escapes a battle for his life, but winds up unknowingly in a pitch-black cave, waiting in frustration for the sun to rise. He then has to feel his way out, encountering a large insect-like creature he observes by the light of a lava flow. I simply loved that image, which makes this a genuine masterpiece of scifi in my opinion. As ever, it is full of surprizes.

Warmly recommended for true scifi fans.
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on 11 July 2015
The first Christian book I ever read. After more than four decades reading Christian books--it is still one of the best, most useful and joyous books I have ever read.
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