Sunday, September 3, 2017

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis





I had a growing collection of books that I decided to get rid of and I thought, since they're in good condition, I'll sell them on ebay.  What I earn would help feed my little book habit, while clearing the house of books whose only future was to collect dust and take up valuable shelf space.

It took three hours to photograph the books from every angle, inside and out, decide on a decent price and post.  That was three days ago and so far, nobody is nibbling.

I'm trying not to check the status on my account every hour. Ebay is supposed to notify me if anyone orders a book.

Do people really make money selling off ebay?  Maybe not with books unless you have a warehouse full.  Oh well.  It seemed like a good idea.  Live and learn.

I am listening to some gorgeous music by Anton Bruckner  Symphony No. 2 in C minor, conducted by George Solti







Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy, #1)Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Around the turn of the last century and a little before, a number of 19th century writers turned their hand to a brand new genre. Nowadays we call it Steampunk, which is just a hipster name for Science Fiction written during the late Victorian and pre WWI years.

Most of them painted a bleakish picture of our future. Maybe they were afraid of change or had a pessimistic view of man's ability to rein in the technological age the industrial age was ushering in. There were many unknown factors. Would the power received from all sorts of wonderful inventions make life easier for the general populace? Or would it make it easier for power mongers to destroy the world as it was known and create an enslaved class of proportions never before seen in the history of mankind?

H.G. Wells is our best known Science Fiction writer of the time and he certainly expressed in stark descriptions the sort of world we would all be living in if man learned how to become invisible or create giants or time travel.

Even E.M. Forster provides a provocative possibility in his short story "The Machine Stops" of how alienated humans could become to each other thanks to modern inventions "taking care" of our every need.

As much as I enjoy Wells, Forster, as well as any number of Steampunk authors, the fact is none of them inspire hope. The landscape is gray, desolate and godless.

Which brings me to why I love C.S. Lewis's Science Fiction trilogy so, so much.

Lewis has the ability to give the reader a clear-sighted view of man's heart (which is desperately wicked) while showing that there is a Power higher than that desperate wickedness that is ultimately going to triumph.

As a result, one finishes Lewis' Science Fiction heartened, encouraged, and ironically feeling greater love for humankind and hope for the future and the human race, at least a portion of us. Some of Lewis characters willfully rush towards eternal destruction.

Out of the Silent Planet is the first book in a trilogy. I have read the first and last and will soon start on the middle. There is a reason I read it out of order that I won't get in here, but this is the third time reading it so it doesn't really matter.

Our hero is Dr. Elwin Ransom, and the inset of the dustcover informs us that Lewis based this memorable character after his dear friend J.R.R. Tolkien.

Ransom is a philologist. Like Lewis and Tolkien were fond of doing, Ransom is on a walking tour through the countryside. Soon he is tired, hungry, and hopelessly lost. He approaches a house where he hopes for a little hospitality.

What he finds there, to his surprise, is an old schoolmate named Devine, the least favorite of his old schoolmates and with good reason as we'll see, and another man, Weston, who turns out to be a megalomaniac scientist. Of course Ransom doesn't initially know Weston is megalomaniac but he soon discovers it as he realizes the two man have nefarious plans for him.

Those plans consist of kidnapping him and taking him to another planet. The planet is called Malacandra and I won't tell you which planet that is so as not to ruin the surprise.

I also won't tell you too much of Ransom's adventures there for the same reason. However, being Lewis, the creatures are of such a sort as to inspire awe, fear, dread and respect and also love.

There are certain beings that exist there that are unknown to humans but actually exist on Earth as well. Because of humankind's fallen nature and the "bent" Oyarsa that rules the planet, these beings are invisible to the human eye. Man's corrupted eye cannot see them although originally they were supposed to.

Ransom learns all of this while he is on Malacandra after talking with the Oyarsa of the planet, but we meet him only later in the novel. We first meet the physical beings that Ransom can see and gets to know.

Eventually, Ransom discovers why Devine and Weston have brought him to Malacandra. But even they do not realize that they are merely tools unwittingly carrying out the evil intent of Earth's bent Oyarsa.

This final revelation is a prelude to the second and third novels in the trilogy.

This story is adventurous and suspenseful but most of all, it inspires the reader to care about all of the characters, even the bent humans, because Lewis is able to project his own unconditional love onto each person, terrestrial and extraterrestrial, and in turn make them lovable to us.





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21 comments:

  1. i read this trilogy in high school and liked it a lot... it was about forty years later that i realized it had something to do with Christianity; i'm still not sure what... it kind of reminded me for some reason of Olaf Stapledon's "The Starmaker" which i've read three times and even today think that it's one of the best sci fi books ever written...
    the trilogy(Lewis) also reminded me of some of Clark Ashton Smith's work, in it's description of outlandish locales...
    maybe this sort of genre should be termed "fantasy" instead of sci fi... a fine line of distinction, there...

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    1. Hi Mudpuddle. I have not read Stapledon or Ashton Smith but it sounds like I need to. I learned only in my thirties that Lewis wrote sci fi (or fantasy/sci fi). I loved the first and hated the third because it was so tense and too close to reality for comfort. The second I took with me for a long time because of certain lessons I learned from it. Such as, "This cannot last; it must pass."

      This third time around reading it, I find the third is now my favorite. Maybe I've reached an age where I can face adversity with greater courage than before. I hope so, anyway.

      I'm not sure what classifies a book as sci fi or fantasy. It certainly has both elements in it.

      And of course Lewis also infuses a good dose of Apologetics in his stories as well.

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    2. Good catch, Mudpuddle! Lewis wrote this book in response to Stapledon's Last and First Men and an essay by J.B. Haldane, published in a volume titled Possible Worlds. They presented man evolving into a divinity that could jump from planet to planet, a being stripped down to pure intelligence. Lewis felt that each, while on one hand portrayed man as a fascinating and beautiful creature, nevertheless showed man's littleness. To him these views held a potential danger, opening the door to options of experiments on humans and animals. He stated that the trilogy was less a tribute to earlier science fiction than a kind of exorcism of some of its ideas.

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    3. Wow, Cleopatra, I did not know that, not having read Stapledon. That is really interesting. Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Bravo! Yours is such a fine review of a book I long ago hoped to read but became sidetracked by life. Perhaps now I can find a copy as I am in my second childhood and would I think enjoy CSL S/F.

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    1. Hi R.T. I certainly hope you read it and let me know what your thoughts are.

      Have a great Labor Day weekend!

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  3. It has been a while since I read this trilogy but I agree that it is well worth the read.

    I have been thinking about optimistic verses pessimistic science fiction lately, however I do not think that I would have thought about this series. However, agree that this falls under the category of optimistic. This is interesting in that most other optimistic future stories also foresee a non - religious future. I remember being surprised by the religious nature of these books when I read them.

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    1. Hi Brian. You give such great reviews, I'd love to read a review about these books and also the other books you are referring to.

      I guess a really good review would be one on two different authors and do a comparison/contrast. I have not done that yet, but I should think about it.

      Hope you had a great Labor Day!

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  4. Sharon--a great trilogy, one that I've been planning on rereading for some time now. Your review is an inspiration to move it up on my TBR list.

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    1. Hi Fred, I hope you will get a chance to read it and I'd be interested in reading your review on them.

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  5. About what I'd expect from C.S. Lewis, though I've only read his non-fiction. (just this week started The Chronicles of Narnia. I'll have to get around the Space Trilogy one of these days.

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    1. Hi Joseph. I'm sure you would enjoy Lewis' space trilogy. Hope you'll read them soon and then write a review. I'd like to know your opinion.

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  6. This book was my favourite of the trilogy, but scholars seem to think the last two are better, so I wonder what that says about me and my ability to follow Lewis' theology in his fiction. Strangely enough, I seem to have an easier time with his non-fiction.

    In OSP, I really enjoyed Lewis critique of placing science in the position of God and what can come out of it. He explores the same theme in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader to a lesser extent. Thanks for a great review and a chance to revisit this book without having to actually read it myself! :-)

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    1. As I said to another commenter, I think it depends on what God is saying to us at specific times in our life. Right now He is speaking to you through the first, which is also the most fun. The others are quite intense, the last being the most suspenseful.

      I now like the last one the best because I see Lewis as a prophet (little "p"). I recognize what he is saying in our reality today. So I find it encouraging and a reminder that evil cannot win in the end.

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    2. PS I had not thought about science in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I need to revisit that book.

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  7. i've also got too many books, about 2500, i think; Mrs. M wants me to get rid of some and not build any more bookcases... i stopped at the lumber and bought some more pine boards today, haha... this is a move i know i'll regret... sigh but i know she's right; i don't think i've got the intrepidation to try selling them on the web; maybe a garage sale/?

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    1. Wow! You beat me. I have just under 2000. I vote for my bookshelves! And don't bother with ebay. So far I've only sold three and that was after lowering the price. So much for making a buck.

      I don't know about where you live, but nearby in Shreveport LA there's a used book store that will take my books, appraise them, then give me half off of what they are worth against future purchases. I think I'm going to just do that from now on.

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    2. I meant to write "I vote for MORE bookshelves".

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  8. We have several used bookstores here in Tucson that do the same. I've now got almost $100 in credit for future purchases.

    If they won't take the books, I donate them to the public library for their annual book sales. Sometimes, if the book is in good condition and in demand, they will put it on the shelf. Usually though, most books donated end up at the book sale.

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    1. Oooh! Hundred dollars credit! What I would do with that. I'd be like a kid in a candy shop.

      I should probably donate to our library as well. They don't have many books sales. Actually I should donate to the library in the town I work in. They have three or four book sales a year where I have bought a lot of books.

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    2. Sharon--yes, that's why I don't visit the bookstores very often. I'm trying to cut down on my collection as I'm running out of room for bookcases. Right now I go to the library first if I need a book for a discussion group and I don't have it at home, so I buy a book ibkt if I really need it and the library doesn't have it or can't get it to me in time.

      However, I find that InterLibraryLoan works very well, if I'm in no hurry for a book.

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I welcome comments from anyone with a mutual interest in the subjects I written about.