Out Of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis

This book was recommended to me by a friend and I am glad she did! I have often thought I need to read more C.S. Lewis; as a child, I read all of the Chronicles of Narnia series and as far as I can remember, enjoyed reading them. What I can appreciate about Lewis is his imagination and creativity in purporting a Christian worldview. This demonstrates that things like art, literature, and humanities can be a redeemed from a world full of negative entertainment reminiscent of Nancy Pearcy’s comments on “Saving Leonardo” (which I read last year but didn’t care to write a review). I think Ron will be happy to hear I’m reading more C.S. Lewis!

Apparently, Lewis was inspired to write science fiction because he grew up reading H.G. Wells; books like “War Of the Worlds” and the like. But where Wells went wrong was in the philosophical underpinnings of his works. Lewis, coming from an obvious Christian worldview as seen in the Narnia books, and sought to write a Wellian-type book that had Christianity at it’s core.

And therefore, we meet Dr. Ransom at the beginning of the book. Ransom gets captured by two other fellows and they arrive on a strange planet called “Malachandra.” Ransom breaks away from the two (obviously evil) men and meets a strange creature called a Hross who befriends him. He takes him to his village and Ransom is inundated with their particular culture and way of life. Soon, the ruler of the world, Oyarsa, calls for him. He makes the trek to meet this mysterious person and meets other creatures that inhabit the world, a Sorn and a Pfifltriggi. When he goes into meet Oyarsa, his two captors (who have come to Malachandra for selfish reasons) have created some havoc by killing some of her inhabitants. Oyarsa calls for their removal and never to return.

This is a brief synopsis but what is more interesting is all the allusions to Christianity. The title “Out Of the Silent Planet” is intentional and warranted for this situation. The life on Malachandra call earth “Thulcandra” and it was once ruled by a being similar to Oysara. But a rebellion early on resulted in anarchy, or silence (which probably represents Satan). Now, men of earth are themselves their own “Oysara’s”. One particularly poignant moment of the book:

“They were astonished at what he had to tell them of human history – of war, slavery, and prostitution. ‘It is because they have no Oyarsa,’ said one of the pupils. ‘It is because every one of them wants to be a little Oyarsa himself,’ said Augray” (Lewis, 88).

And therefore, the silence Lewis speaks of is the absence of God. This is no more apparent then with Ransom’s captors, Weston and Devine. Both have made the long journey to Malachandra for selfish reasons. Weston even reasons at one point that the destruction of human life is necessary for the progress of humanity. In this, one see’s how the silence of Thulcandra has distorted the moral framework of men when he tries to reason with Oysara: is not all human life valuable? Weston tries to argue that sacrifices need to be made now for the eventual longevity of the human race. So other humans have more value than others?

While the two devious scientists who travel with Ransom are inevitably evil, Ransom goes through a transformation that some might consider “salvation.” He fears the new planet and is quite skeptical at first, but slowly conforms his thoughts to that of the Hrossa whom he meets early on. He speaks with Oysara and believes what he says is right and correct and stands up to the idiocy of the two men who come before him. Ransom’s story is one of self-discovery, but we cannot skip over the fact that this self-discovery is made only after he hears and learns the greater way of Oysara; a perfect allusion to the Christian experience.

Lew once said of the trilogy:

“What set me about writing the book was the discovery that a pupil of mine took all that dream of interplanetary colonization quite seriously, and the realization that thousands of people in one way and another depend on some hope of perpetuating and improving the human race for the whole meaning of the universe—that a ‘scientific’ hope of defeating death is a real rival to Christianity” (Letters of C. S. Lewis, 9 July 1939).

I think Lewis does a superb job in this book and I really can’t wait to read the next installment of the series.

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