A number of factors have come together which suggests this is going to be a year of reading C.S. Lewis for me. First I read his biography which I reviewed last week. Secondly, I happened across his science fiction trilogy for adults on sale at the library for 50c! I snapped it up not even knowing that Lewis had ever written for adults (not having got to that point in the biography yet!) I am also reading the Narnia series to my two oldest in the evenings (which we will come to in the ‘books to read aloud’ series soon). I found Pilgrim's Regress by chance in a second hand bookshop and want to reread The Screwtape Letters. So, a few reviews to come I think!
Today’s is the science fiction trilogy Lewis wrote in the 1930s-40s. The books being: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.
I found all three required keen attention as you read them, these are not books that flow over you easily. Perhaps that is because they were written 70 years ago and because they are dealing with issues that are not as prevalent today. Perhaps it is also because I do not read a lot of science fiction. Perhaps it was because they were so alien and odd on many levels that they really did require a lot of thought.
The first two I quite enjoyed. Out of the Silent Planet is the story of Ransom, a man forced by two other men, to travel with them to the planet of Malacandria (Mars). He escapes his captors and discovered the different life forms on Malacandria, makes friends with them and learns of the all powerful entities (eldils and others) who rule the universe. It is an interesting idea of God ruling all things everywhere and what a world would look like that respected all species equally (not just humans at the top).
The second novel Perelandra is the account of Ransom’s next interplanetary visit, this time to Perelandra (Venus). Here he meets the Lady, the woman of the planet, who lives in abundant joy in a verdant environment, enjoying what has been provided by her creator. Into this idyll comes an enemy trying to convince her to disobey the orders of her creator. It is a fascinating analogy to the Garden of Eden and sets up a situation: what would have happened if Eve set up a continued resistance to the temptation of the serpent? As the lady beings to consider the enemy’s words, Ransom realised he has been sent to stop the enemy succeeding. This was an interesting idea which I found I enjoyed following.
I probably should have stopped there. Book 3 (That Hideous Strength) I found interminably long and confusing. I did plod through it partially out of duty to finish it (why do I feel this way??) and partially because I kept hoping they would end up in space again. In essence, That Hideous Strength is about the final battle between good and evil (in a very simplified way), set in an English university town. Lewis uses fiction to address his concern over the growing feeling in society that science was the answer to everything, along with eugenics of humanity and vivisection of animals. People who like long philosophical discourse and who can admire Lewis’ ability to write at length will be very impressed. He could certainly write well. It just never really grabbed me and got so odd that I struggled.
However, I’m glad to have read them and exposed myself to more of his writing.