Thursday, March 15, 2018

Out of the Silent Planet - C. S. Lewis

Out of the Silent Planet
Title: Out of the Silent Planet
Author: C. S. Lewis
Publication Date: 1938
Pages: 241
How I Found It: A dear high school friend recommended this series back when I started the blog.
Date Completed: 2/28/18

Summary: An English professor finds himself kidnapped and taken to Mars to serve as a sacrifice for the native inhabitants. Instead, he finds himself learning a lot about both Mars and Earth in the process. 

What I Thought: Sometime shortly after I created the Read.Write.Repeat. Facebook page, a dear friend from high school commented and recommended this series to me. That was literally years ago. I can't believe it has taken me this long to take him up on the recommendation. Let this serve as proof of just how desperately I needed this 2018 TBR Challenge. It's making me finally go back and either cull or read long-ago suggested books. 

Of course, after reading this first one, now I know I want to read the other two as well. Sigh. Is this project helping or hurting me? I'm getting to read great books, so we're going to stick with helping! After all, the whole point of this is reading, not checking off things on a to-do list, right? 

This book is part of my 2018 TBR Challenge!
I, of course, am very familiar with Lewis's Narnia series. I really ought to go back and reread those sometime...ah! Focus! However, it wasn't until my friend recommended this trilogy that I even knew Lewis had delved into the world of science fiction. It's hardly surprising. His little troupe of writing friends, which included J. R. R. Tolkien, seemed to have deep, creative imaginations and spurred each other toward increasingly unique fantasies. We know them most for their fantasy works, but, while I'd solidly categorize this as science fiction now, the two would have been more closely related back when Lewis was writing. After all, both were still relatively new genres at the time - at least in the sense we know them now. 

What I found particularly interesting and immediately engaging about this book is how drastically our perception and portrayal of space travel has changed in the 80 years since Lewis wrote this. His descriptions of space travel, of gravitational forces on space and on Mars, and of how Earth looks from space all left me chuckling a bit. Lewis couldn't have known any differently. He wrote this book before any human had left Earth's atmosphere. Still, knowing what we know now, it's hard to process some of his details. How far we've come in so short a time! 

Those elements also got me wondering - and perhaps explaining - why this series has never been adapted for film or television. I think much of the story, of our protagonist's experiences, would have to be reworked to align with modern scientific knowledge. So, I'm not sure if it would ever work. It does, however, work well as a historical moment in the science fiction genre. 

The story itself was good. For the most part, Lewis keeps it moving. His pacing and style is similar to the Narnia series, although maybe a bit slower. He does have a few lengthy, preachy passages, particularly toward the end of the book. They are not bad. There's one particularly beautiful passage about savoring life rather than acquiring it. I found it to be incredibly lovely and moving. However, there are also some moments where he could have shortened things up and gotten the same message across. 

I read this book in participation with
Roof Beam Reader's 2018 TBR Pile Challenge.
As we expect from Lewis, there are deep Christian overtones throughout the story. I found it quite interesting to see how he reconciled the idea of other planets with other religious structures with the greater Christian narrative. I expect he'll dive deeper into that in the second two books of the trilogy and I'm anxious to see how he continues to handle that particular issue. 

Overall, the whole thing was interesting and engaging and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series. You have to be willing to set aside some modern notions and also engage with Lewis's style - which I know isn't for everyone. I found it to be worth the concessions, though. 

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Maybe. I'm definitely going to read the rest of the series. 
If You Liked This, Try: C. S. Lewis: A Life / The Martian / A Wrinkle in Time

A Reduced Review: A science fiction adventure, a fantastical world to explore, pre-space travel perceptions of the universe, and an author beloved for inviting us into his imagination. What's not to enjoy here? 

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