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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars

VINE VOICEon 28 August 2011
Michael Ward wrote the more substantial Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis to set forth the concept that the Narnia books each echo the characters of the seven mediaeval planets. It is an excellent book: however, it is a challenging read - unsurprising, as it is fundamentally a PhD thesis. He was invited to write a book defending this thesis at a more accessible level, and "The Narnia Code" is the outcome.

More than being a stripped down version of the other book, there is new material here - there's value in having both books. Ward has continued to explore the thesis, and the evidence in support of it is very strong, on the level of motive, opportunity and means.

A book about books always runs the risk of taking away the magic. In my opinion, as with Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint's Trunk, this book doesn't do this at all - it adds to the magic, once you can see how cleverly Lewis has used imagery to create the work. I would strongly recommend this book for anybody who has enjoyed the Narnia books enough to read more than one of them.
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on 17 December 2012
Every child who ever loved Narnia knew instinctively that CSLewis was a genius but now Michael Ward has given every sceptic the proof that our instincts were right. Ward shows that each chronicle was structured from within so exquisitely finely that like all great creations they appeared deceptively simple but like Narnia itself have layers within layers within layers and the deeper you go in the bigger the place becomes.

I am lost for words as I contemplate the way every aspect of each of the mediaeval planets is so cleverly woven into the individual stories . For example Suddenly the horse and his boy shimmers in new and unrealised ways. Comments or observations that seem randomly chosen now have a much deeper meaning..

If you want to know why Lewis tells us Prince Cor was a boxer, why in the voyage of the dawn treader Eustace is turned into a dragon, why Bacchus appears in Prince Caspian, why the Queen of the underworld wears green, and why the apple tree is in the far west beyond NArnia and is guarded by a mysterious bird read on. These and hundreds of other unspoken questions will be answered. Why does Father Christmas appear in the lion the witch and the wardrobe, what is the significance of the very last sentence of Prince Caspian?, and above all why does Aslan behave in such different ways in each story.

Ward's analysis reveals utterly convincingly that Nothing , not one single line or word in the Narnia Chronicles has been chosen randomly or carelessly. Every single word, sentence and paragraph has been purposefully designed.
And when you see the design you just become more and more in awe of the whole.
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on 2 December 2014
Amazon should pay their full share of tax in the UK!

This is a more accessible book covering similar ground to Michael Ward's more academic tome "Planet Narnia" - in fact, it sets itself up as a warm-up activity to that book. You can then go on to Planet Narnia to go deeper (and I probably will).

Ward is very good at setting up why some have found the Narnia books to have something missing - an apparently absent third meaning beyond the Fairy Tale front and the Christian subtext beneath. He recounts how he stumbled across this third meaning, when it occurred to him that the seven Narnia books each represent one of the seven planets in the pre-Copernican perception of the universe. Where each planet - in its own level - was also defined by certain characteristics. These characteristics become themes within each of the Narnia books. So, for example. "The Silver Chair" is associated with the moon, or Luna, which itself is associated with lunacy, instability and mind games.

I've only read "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" as an adult, and probably had various others read to me when I was very young. But I found this book to be fascinating even without being overly familiar with the Narnia series.

My only gripe is that sometimes Ward gets a little too colloquial - but that's just a matter of style and taste.

This is a compelling book to anyone interested in CS Lewis. I highly recommend it.
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VINE VOICEon 2 August 2013
This book is excellent for many reasons. First as the title of the review implies, you do not know that your shoe is untied until someone points it out. Then it is obvious. It is not only Narnia but C. S. Lewis himself of whom we get a rather different view. A good book is also one that tells you what you already know but makes it a bit clearer.

I was impressed as almost every page has a footnote that could carry you off to a new direction. It is hard to be objective when you can see the C.S. Lewis world that Michael Ward paints. I had to keep a bible handy just to be sure of the context of the quotes that Michael Ward was using to make his point.

The focus of the book its self cannot really be summed up in a few well chosen statements. However Michael Ward tries to paint the picture of a pre-Copernican view of the heavens and the significant of stars. He shows how this is incorporated in the Narnia books as is the music of the spheres.

I really do not want to go into too much detail as that is why you will want to read the book. For people that have already read the book I do not need to rehash. My only hope is that I have mentioned enough to make you curious enough to want this book as it will not only serve the purpose of a better understanding of Narnia but also of our selves.
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on 31 May 2017
This book is like having a complicated trick explained to you. Once you see it you cannot understand why you did not see it before. Michael Ward alleges that CS Lewis was having fun with his structure for the Narnia stories and left plenty of clues for those with eyes to see. Compelling and fascinating.
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on 13 July 2017
A great book. Informative, well written, well-researched, and illuminating.
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on 21 July 2013
Really enjoyed the Narnia books so needed a fix of something Narnia related. The Narnia Code is an interesting concept although a little too heavily peppered with bible bashing for me to really enjoy it
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on 6 April 2011
This is not another 'Dan Brown' thriller but is far deeper and more satisfying. It gives a beautiful insight into the mystery of divine creation and makes a compelling case for the value of early scientific models of the Universe which we so readily dismiss in the light of modern discoveries. This delightful book opens a window on the beautiful mind of C S Lewis and made me want to re-read all the Narnia books again. I thoroughly recommend this book to any enquirer after truth.
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on 2 May 2013
Michael Ward's thesis is that each of CS Lewis' Narnia stories relates to one of the seven "planets" (the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) in the cosmology of the medieval and ancient world. Undoubtedly there is a great deal of material in the Narnia books that reflects the characteristics of the seven planets. However, Ward has not produced a single shred of actual evidence that CS Lewis planned the series so that each book is based on the characteristics of one of the planets. If Lewis planned it that way, he did not tell his brother, his lifelong friend and correspondent Arthur Greeves, his literary friends the Inklings, his publisher, or Pauline Baynes the original illustrator of the books.

Ward therefore has to fall back on the claim that Lewis was secretive and could sometimes tell falsehoods. What Ward calls secretiveness was actually confidentiality. One would not call a doctor secretive because he or she refused to divulge medical information about a patient. The reasons why Lewis married Joy Davidman (p 12) were surely also good reasons for keeping the marriage confidential (secret - if you prefer). Ward's example of falsehood is an occasion when Lewis saved a fox by misdirecting the hunt. This is laughable. Surely any of us would have felt sympathy for the fox and been tempted to do what Lewis did.

Ward likens his "discovery" of the "Narnia Code" to Archimedes discovering the principle of displacement in his bath (p 15) and to John Adams' prediction of the existence of another planet beyond Uranus (p 10). In fact there is no comparison. These two events could both be confirmed by experiment and observation. The only way to check Ward's thesis would be by finding a document in which Lewis confirms it.

Ward claims to have read "absolutely everything that Lewis had ever written" (p 29). Fine, but Ward is selective in his use of Lewis' writings; he ignores anything that goes against his thesis. For example, "All my seven Narnian books, and my three science fiction books, began with seeing pictures in my head. At first they were not a story, just pictures" ("Of This and Other Worlds" p 79). That hardly sounds like a scheme for seven books of seven planets. Again, "I have watched with some care similar imaginary histories both of my own books and of books by friends whose 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: that the method shows a record of one hundred per cent failure" ("Fern Seed and Elephants" p 115). Michael Ward is asking us to accept that his guess is right; more, he is asking us to accept that he has privileged access into the mind of CS Lewis.

Although Ward lists the biography of CS Lewis by Green and Hooper in his "Further Reading" he does not seem to have made use of chapter 11 in which the authors describe the gestation of the Narnia books. It doesn't leave much room for a scheme such as Ward's. Roger Lancelyn Green was a student of Lewis' and later a friend and one of the Inklings. He read and gave constructive feedback on all the Narnia books before they went for publication. Yet he gives no hint that there was a scheme of seven books representing seven planets.

In focussing on the planets, Ward distracts us from recognising the other literary influences in the Narnia books. Lewis was one of the most widely read persons in the Twentieth Century and there are numerous passages in the chronicles which may have (perhaps unconsciously) come from that wide reading. "Lewis could ransack all myth for his dramatis personae, taking what he needed wherever he found it throughout literature and making it his own" (Green and Hooper p 307).

One of the most obvious borrowings is that the kingdom of Narnia is modelled on King Arthur and the chivalry of the Round Table. In "The Lion..." Peter has to win his spurs and is then knighted by Aslan; in "Caspian" Peter sends a chivalrous challenge to single combat to Miraz; in "Dawn Treader" Reepicheep's quest for the "Utter East" mirrors the knightly quest for the Holy Grail, which only the purest knights can attain; in the "Horse and His Boy" the chivalrous conduct of the Narnians and Archenlanders is contrasted with the treachery of Rabadash; and in the "Last Battle" King Tirian feels himself to be dishonoured for attacking two Calormenes without warning.

Taking one story as an example, the "Silver Chair", Ward says that Lewis constructed this story around Moon imagery, i.e. lunacy and water. "The link between the Moon and wetness came about because of the Moon's influence upon Earth's tides" (p 83). But this is not part of the Medieval cosmology and Lewis does not mention it in "The Discarded Image". Only with Isaac Newton's theory of gravity was the Moon (and Sun) recognised as causing the tides. Even in the early Seventeenth Century Galileo devised a theory of the tides that had nothing to do with the Moon. Of course there is water in the book; it starts in the autumn and a lot the action is underground - what else would you expect to find in caves except underground rivers and even seas? The Witch, says Ward, tries to turn Prince Rilian, Puddleglum and the children into lunatics. But she does not - she tries to enchant them. The chapter (Twelve) in which the Witch tries to enchant the others is not about madness; it's actually a rational debate between Naturalism and Supernaturalism - a greatly simplified version of the discussion Lewis put into "Miracles, a Preliminary Study". One of PG Wodehouse' "Jeeves and Wooster" books (The Code of the Woosters) starts with an autumn fog and ends with a downpour of rain. The action centres around possession of an antique cream jug made of silver. Using Ward's logic, we should conclude that Wodehouse constructed this novel out of Moon imagery.

The danger of following Ward's thesis is that we neglect the Christian imagery and message in the Narnian chronicles. Green and Hooper quote from a letter of Lewis in which he outlines the Christian elements in the stories (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!

In "The Inklings" H Carpenter says that Lewis once described a project as "chasing after a fox that isn't there" (p 154). I am inclined to think that the same description can be applied to Michael Ward's "Narnia Code".
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on 26 February 2011
I knew I wanted to read this after it was recommended on Dr Ruth Bancewicz's blog. It's absolutely fascinating and I would recommend it to any CSLewis fan or anyone else for that matter.What a genius Lewis was and what a mind Michael Ward has to unravel it. I shall read it several times, I'm sure. It isn't a work of classic prose, just simply written and clearly explained with nothing taken for granted so don't be insulted if it tells you lots you already knew. Not everyone knows it!I had never realised what a pivotal role Copernicus played in our thinking about the universe and man's place in it.It casts refreshing new light on the Bible. I found myself often saying out loud 'Wow! This is amazing!'
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