I apologize for the length of this post, but it contains herein the review of three separate, yet combined, books. If you care to read through its entirety, I hope you shall enjoy it.
I just finished the last book in CS Lewis‘ Space Trilogy. It was a pretty good series overall. I enjoyed it. I’m not too big into fiction books as a rule. Only certain ones really appeal to me. I picked up this trilogy, though, on recommendation from a friend. He specifically said I needed to read the second in the series, Perelandra, but I figured that it would be better if I were to go through the entirety of the story so as to better understand each part. I was correct. Each story builds on the previous, and the latter stories refer heavily upon the former.
Warning, the following descriptions and reviews may, though I have attempted to limit them, contain story plot spoilers.
Out of the Silent Planet:
The first in the Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, introduces us to our hero, Dr Elwin Ransom who, by wills other than his own, finds himself on an interplanetary voyage to Mars, or as he later learns is called by proper name: Malacandra. I would say that this is my second favorite in the trilogy. Right from the first chapter it captures your interest and makes you wonder what is going on and longing for more information as quickly as possible. Lewis’ description of Malacandra and it’s inhabitants paints an amazing picture for the imagination to run with. His attention to detail is thorough and he describes everything with finite proficiency. I felt like I was on Mars and that I was right there with Ransom on his experiences and journeys. On Malacandra, Ransom is held captive by his earthly kidnappers, Devine and Dr Weston. He knows they have some malicious scheme for him, but cannot figure out the details. He knows he must escape right away or face certain death. He sees his chance and takes it, and upon realizing his freedom Ransom is introduced to beautiful countryside quite different than that he is used to on Earth. He is introduced to a variety of hnau – hrossa, séroni, pfifltriggi, and even the mysterious eldila. He spends months upon months in the company of the different hnau, learning their language and ways. Eventually he is brought before the great eldila of Malacandra: the Oyarsa. The Oyarsa questions Ransom on why he is on his planet and tries to learn of happenings on Earth, or as it is properly known, Thulcandra. Thulcandra, in the Old Solar language, translates as “The Silent Planet.” All of the planets in the solar system have open communications between them. The Oyarsa of each handra (planet) freely communicate and share knowledge and wisdom with each other as they are not locally bound to the individual planets they represent. Well, all except one. No word has been heard from the Silent Planet, Thulcandra, Earth, for age upon age upon age. It all started thousands of millenia ago when the Oyarsa of Thulcandra fell into darkness and became known as “the bent one.” He waged war on Malacandra and destroyed most of the hnau inhabiting it. He was imprisoned on Thulcandra, not to exit beyond the bounds of its moon, and then turned his dark focus on Thulcandra itself and plunged the inhabitants into evil, corrupting every one and everything on the planet. It was because of Maleldil, who rules over the Oyarsa that any hope is left in it’s redemption. Maleldil, several thousand years ago came down to Thulcandra and became a hnau of the Earthly kind and performed a great sacrificial redemptive work to break the power of the bent one. And now, the Oyarsa of Malacandra feels that this meeting with Ransom is orchestrated by Maleldil himself as the beginnings of the final stages of the restoration of Thulcandra and the reopening of communication throughout the solar system. Ransom is sent home to await things that will soon take place as his story in this interplanetary struggle is just starting.
Perelandra is my favorite in the Space Trilogy. I felt that Malacandra would be a more desirable place to visit as compared to Perelandra, and I did have clearer picture of what Lewis was describing in Out of the Silent Planet, but the storyline of Perelandra is simply astounding. Perelandra, or as we know it, Venus, is a new planetary civilization. Earth is an older planet, in the prime of its story. Mars is the eldest of the three, in its twilight hours. Perelandra continues the story of Dr Ransom, who several years after his return from Malacandra is contacted by the great Oyarsa of Mars and sent to Perelandra on an imperative mission. He knows not what the mission is, but he goes nonetheless, though his travel this time is guided by the eldila themselves instead of by the bent will of Dr Weston and company. On Perelandra he finds a strange terrain, completely un–Earth-like. After a long adjustment period he notices that Perelandra is vastly more unpopulated as compared to Malacandra. In fact, in his searches he can find only one hnau on the entire surface. Later he discovers that there are, in fact, only two hnau – the king and the lady. It is the Lady he encounters and befriends. The king is missing and has been for quite some time. In his time on Perelandra he discovers that Venus is a type of picture of Earth in the Garden of Eden, for there had been no corruption of the world of Perelandra and the Adam and Eve of this land were still so new that they had no children. He is intrigued by the innocence and life-outlook of the lady and thinks of what it was like on Earth in the pre-Fall world. Soon he discovers his purpose in being there. It isn’t long before he notices a familiar rocket ship landed on the islands of Perelandra. Dr Weston had arrived in the very same type of vessel Ransom was kidnapped in en route to Malacandra. Weston, though, is not the same man he was before. He seems to have been totally given over to the bent Oyarsa of Thulcandra and has been sent to bring the same corruption and Fall of Earth to Perelandra. With haste he begins his assault on the Perelandrean Eve – the Lady. His deceitfulness and word-twistings are so subtle and clever and crafty that Ransom finds himself frustrated with combating it. The Lady seems resistant yet intrigued by Weston’s demoniacally inspired taunts. The mental battle ensue for days and weeks. Ransom’s very being and will is tested as his physical limitations are stretched to the point of breaking against Weston’s eldillically powered shell of a body. The battle leaves the mental field and enters a physical brawl across land and water and deep within the black caverns of Perelandra. Whoever wins the conflict will determine the fate of the future generations of Perelandra. The story ends with a great meeting of the found King, the Lady Queen, the beasts of Perelandra, the Oyarsa of Malacandra, and the Oyarsa of Perelandra. The celebration of the inauguration of the king and queen and the transfer of the rule of Perelandra from the Oyarsa to the royal couple lasts a full year, and in the end the body of Ransom is sent back to his home on Thulcandra. The reason I love this story is the underlying theology of it all. The question posed is, “What would have happened if the first human beings had not fallen?” What would our modern world look like? What would the relation of man and woman and beast and nature be in an unspoiled Earth? It offers some suggestion, but make no mistake this is fiction. The questions posed are enough to make you think and think and think some more about the fabric of our own beings and to make you grow as a result as you search for answers.
That Hideous Strength:
That Hideous Strength is the last of the Space Trilogy saga and, unfortunately, my least favorite of the series. The story takes place back on Earth. Dr Ransom is not the focus of this book. Our main characters are Mark and Jane Studdock. Mark is an official in a local university with a longing to belong to any “inner circle.” Jane, his wife has a gift of vision and dreams which prove to show real and true actual events happening around her of which she could never know in and of herself. Mark gets entangled with the NICE (National Institute for Coordinated Experiments) with the promise of wealth and acceptance. He quickly escalates within the ranks of NICE and delves deeper and deeper into the dark bowels of its secrets, though he is unaware the real reason that NICE is entertaining his company. As it turns out, NICE is being run by the fallen eldila of Thulcandra in an attempt to destroy the human race and bring the Earth’s corruption to a fuller reality. On the other side, there is a small company who resides in the mansion at St Anne’s who is hard at work to thwart the evil of NICE. Jane finds herself in their company and her dreams give great insight to things that must soon take place. All this happens within the first six chapters of the book along with long and detailed histories of the characters and events leading to where we are now. I will say that the first six chapters were a bit rough to get through. There was much “political” description of land acquisitions, totalitarianism, and vague talk that made it hard to tolerate. The chapters that followed, however picked up and brought life back to the story. It is found in these later chapters that the Director of the St Anne’s community is none other than Dr Elwin Ransom himself. From this point on he plays a somewhat major role in the story, though he is never the main focus. The final battle between St Anne’s and NICE reintroduces us to Malacandra and Perelandra (as we now know the Oyéresu are identified solely by the names of their planets) as well as three new Oyéresu: Viritrilbia (Mercury), Lurga (Saturn), and mighty Glund (Jupiter). Another famous historical figure is raised to new life in order to combat the great evil eldila who control NICE and bring their dark plot to an end, though you will have to read for yourself to see who he is and how he executes his righteous judgment on the fallen members of NICE. The story ends fairly abruptly, I felt. We are told that Ransom desires to go back to Venus with Perelandra and that Mark and Jane are reunited and that all is well, though we never see any of this happen. It is only implied. The ending happened so abruptly, actually, that I half missed it. I did not realize the story was over before I heard the closing credits from Audible.
Overall, the grand story was a good one. I enjoyed it. I read the audiobook version of these stories. They were narrated by Geoffrey Howard, who does an amazing job making the audio come to life. The story Perelandra alone is worth the purchase of the trilogy. You really do need all three parts to get a full view of what is going on, even if you intend to only read one.
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