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Out Of The Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
Publisher: Pan Books Ltd | ISBN: B000VE440M | Second Edition 1960 | Pages: 103 | PDF | 1.3 MB

Out of the Silent Planet is the first novel of a science fiction trilogy written by C. S. Lewis, sometimes referred to as the Space Trilogy, Ransom Trilogy or Cosmic Trilogy. The other volumes are Perelandra (also published as Voyage to Venus) and That Hideous Strength, and a fragment of a sequel was published posthumously as The Dark Tower. The trilogy was inspired and influenced by David Lindsay's A Voyage to Arcturus (1920).

According to his biographer A. N. Wilson, Lewis wrote the novel after a conversation with J.R.R. Tolkien in which both men lamented the state of contemporary fiction. They agreed that Lewis would write a space-travel story, and Tolkien would write a time-travel one. Tolkien's story only exists as a fragment, published in The Lost Road and other writings (1987) edited by his son Christopher.

The first volume of Lewis's Cosmic Trilogy, the book Out of the Silent Planet takes us to the planet Mars -- and into the meaning of “human”.

The plot looks simplistic at first: a man rushes to the aid of an innocent victim and ends up being kidnapped by a mad scientist (Prof. Weston) and his greedy accomplice. He is then taken, unwilling, to the planet Mars in a space vessel invented and secretly built by the scientist. Once on Mars, the victim, Dr. Ransom, discovers that he is to be given by his kidnappers as a human sacrifice to the native Martians. He manages to escape from his captives, and learns to survive on the red planet.

This plot might make it look like the book would be perfectly at home with many other “adventure” science fiction works written, like it, in the 1930s. However, while most other SF adventures written back then are of no interest today, and few of them are actually remembered (most would be classified today as “pulp” science fiction), Out of the Silent Planet stands out as a sustaining work. The similarities between this book and most of its contemporaries end on the surface level.

C. S. Lewis was, much more than a fiction writer, a Christian thinker. He wrote many non-fiction books dealing with Christianity, and his fiction books really deal with the same subject too. Out of the Silent Planet and its two sequels are no exception. The book is loaded with Christian symbolism and references. But among many other things, I found the book's most important aspect to be the discussion on the meaning of being hnau -- a conscious, intelligent being (human or otherwise).

In its writing style, Out of the Silent Planet is an easy and enjoyable read. During Ransom's travels on Mars (called “Malacandra” by its natives), a level of suspense is always kept and the reader would probably find himself interested in the plot. The characters, however, are somewhat lacking. In this book, Lewis seems to create characters that are easily classifiable as “good” or “evil”. Prof. Weston is Lewis's “stock evil professor”: in his general behavior, in his attempt to use others as Guinea pigs, and even in his loss of sense and dignity in front of higher truths, Weston is remarkably similar to Uncle Andrew from The Magician's Nephew. Compare, for example, Andrew's denying behavior on the land of Narnia in front of the talking animals to Weston's behavior in front of the Oyarsa. Reviewed by Tal Cohen

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