Out Of Silent Planet - C.S. Lewis (A Space Trilogy, Book 1) - Review
One of three books in the series A Space Trilogy:
In Out of Silent Planet, the first book in the Space Trilogy series, the stage is set with an unassuming (albiet perhaps slightly pretentious) intellectual on a vacation 'walk' through the countryside in 1930's England. A kidnapping and a scientifically unlikely journey to another planet later, the story manages to show you the worst (and maybe not the best, but at least the forgivable) about ourselves.
I think to appreciate the book you must be able to separate yourself from what we now know about our solar system, and attempt to put yourself inside the mind of the author in an England at war in the early part of the past century. I don't know this to be true, but it seems from this series and the Narnia series that Lewis was truly traumatized by war, it is certainly a constant undercurrent in these writings.
Oh, but what writings they are. I think there are two things that I will remember about this book. First is the sheer weight of the literary work itself. Lewis simply overwhelms with words. In most books there are several phrases, sentences or paragraphs that really impress and stand out sprinkled throughout the story. Out of Silent Planet is filled with them, created out of them. It's a bit overwhelming. I'll give you a clue: anytime an author goes to the trouble to actually create a new, extra-terrestrial language as part of a story, you're in for a ride.
The second is how Lewis manages to so eloquently do that which is done by the best of science fiction writers. He persuades the reader to look at humanity from the outside, to see ourselves as creatures with no familiarity with our kind would see us. I'm sure you know where that's going.
It reminds me of a t-shirt on saw on a student at my daughter's high school. It said 'Please don't destroy the Earth - it's where I keep all of my stuff'. Funny, ironically sad perhaps, from our perspective. Then try to imagine what would it mean to creatures that not only were unable to conceive of something so horrible as to destroy something natural, but also had no concept of personal ownership. The saying on the t-shirt could not be translated into their language, because the underlying concepts are simply not there. This is where Lewis takes you.
The only fault I could find with the book is the length of it. You get the feeling it came under the axe of an overzealous, heavy handed editor, one that said 'This book will weigh no more than 5.4 ounces'. It's almost like you're reading the abridged version, and end up wondering what the rest of the story was about.
Overall, an excellent read, well worth the effort it will take.
Description from Amazon:
Back cover excerpt:
The first book in C.S. Lewis' acclaimed Space Trilogy, which continues with Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, Out of Silent Planet begins the adventures of the remarkable Dr. Ransom. Here, the estimable man is abducted by the megalomaniacal physicist and his accomplice and taken via spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra...
You can find the entire series at Amazon:
Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy, Book One)
Perelandra (Space Trilogy, Book Two)
That Hideous Strength (Space Trilogy, Book Three)