Growing up I had those glow-in-the-dark planet decals attached to the ceiling of my bedroom. Space exploration and the study of astronomy always fascinated me and still grips my attention. As a kid, I even made sure my planet decals were proportionately spaced from the sun [the light in the center of my bedroom ceiling] as the real planets’ orbit around the sun!
I have maintained a love of space through my reading of both scientifically based works like Stephen Hawkings’ A History of Time and Space to sci-fi works like Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. About five years ago, my cousin introduced me to another sci-fi series related to space—one by Clives Staples Lewis! You heard me right, the same C.S. Lewis who wrote great Christian apologetic works of The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity along with his endearing children’s series Chronicles of Narnia. Penned by the motivation of a literary challenge to delve into the genre of science fiction posed by his close friend J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis branched out and wrote three tales in The Space Trilogy. Because I want to share this amazing work, here is a brief review of the first book— Out of the Silent Planet.
The basic theme of the book centers around the idea of what life would look like in an unfallen [without Original Sin] world. Out of the Silent Planet opens with the main character, Dr. Elwin Ransom, being kidnapped by the antagonists—Devine and Weston. The kidnappers’ aim is to find another planet to colonize in hopes to perpetuate the human race. Ransom, Devine, and Weston end up on a mysterious planet known as Malacandra [more commonly known as Mars!].
Most of the book focuses on Dr. Ransom’s interactions with the planet’s hnau [a word used to describe rationale beings]. Ransom learns that the inhabiants of Malacandra do not suffer from the effects of Original Sin like humans from Earth do. A mutual respect between the species and self-less obedience to Maeldil [Jesus Christ] exist. Furthermore, he finds out that each planet in the solar system is guided by an angelic being known as an Oyarsa. What is different about Earth’s [called the Silent Planet] guardian is that our Oyarsa became Bent and led humanity toward a path of selfishness and destruction.
The remainder of Out of the Silent Planet explores the relationship between the various Malacandrian species and juxtaposes this harmony against the strife daily seen on Earth. What I really enjoy about this book is Lewis’ ability to imagine an unfallen world and ponder how that would concretely exist. His portrayal of the various species on Malacandra assumes that being a hnau [person] is not limited to a particular species. The best analogy I can think of is to image a world where humans, dolphins, dogs, and chimps all are viewed as rationale beings who mutually respect each other and worship the same God!
Reading Lewis’ tale is both a fantastical and metaphysical experience. The language of the hrossa, the first species Ransom encounters, is fun to learn and the idea of an unfallen world definitely puts a new spin on space travel for me. While the end of the book gets somewhat ethereal and philosophical there is a certain wit about it that is quintessentially Lewis. Without giving too much of the ending away I want to share a small quote from Out of the Silent Planet. The chief Oyarsa [angel] in charge of Malacandra tells Weston, “The weakest of my people do not fear death. It is the Bent One, the lord of your world, who wastes your lives and befouls them with flying from what you know will overtake you in the end. If you were subjects of Maleldil you would have peace” (p. 138-1389).
Overall, I would give Out of the Silent Planet four out of five stars. My only real concern was initially the style of writing at the beginning of the book took a little getting used to. Nevertheless, I loved the theme and the relationship between Ransom and the three alien species. Having re-read this book multiple times I encourage you to check out your local library or search for this book online. This is a must have work for any ardent C.S. Lewis fan!