C.S. Lewis – Out of the Silent Planet

Title: Out of the Silent Planet
Author: C.S. Lewis
Year: 1938

Like most people, I’ve read the Chronicles of Narnia when I was young, but it was in translation to Swedish and I don’t remember much of them anyway. However, I have encountered C.S. Lewis indirectly, in writing about him, or of him (for instance, he wrote a fairly interesting analysis of Paradise Lost, included in my edition), and after some recommendations, I’ve been eager to read either The Screwtape Letters (which I still intend to read) and Out of the Silent Planet. Since the latter but not the former was available in our library, the choice was pretty easy.

In its basic form, Out of the Silent Planet is based on a well-explored concept of a man, Ransom, being abducted and taken to an alien planet, even though the story is somewhat unusual in that it’s fellow humans who abduct him. This discovery of a new world is adequately interesting to keep my interest, but I’ll not go so far as to say that it’s good. In addition to this, however, Lewis adds a layer of theology/philosophy, which at least is enough to attract my attention, even though this expansion of the book’s topic comes fairly late in the narration (this discussion is mostly about the current state of human morals and mindset, something which certainly has not developed much since 1938).

I like Out of the Silent Planet because of the language and because of the wider meaning of the story itself. Although I’m not religious in any way myself, I’m not among those who dismisses works like this as mere Christian propaganda; instead, I view it as an interesting way of discussing these topics and issues. In addition to this, the book is very short (only about 150 pages) and well-composed; few passages are unnecessary and even if the first half feels a bit tedious, it nicely sets the stage for the final part.

Taking this into account, there are still some problems. For instance, the environment fails to be very unique, but only partly because it’s rather old by now. In the first hundred pages, there are few things in the setting that haven’t been covered a million times in cheap fantasy or science fiction novels or short stories (admittedly, Lewis is a skilled author and the atmosphere he creates is much better than most). Lewis of course uses his own approach, but it’s still not enough for me. Also, the plot itself is not terribly interesting for the most part, albeit that it does present the reader with some unusual twists.

To summarise, Out of the Silent Planet is a good novel. It’s short, it’s well-composed and it has some sort of depth to it, everything set in an environment which at least isn’t bad. However, it doesn’t have that extra something that makes it very good. My feelings about the novel when I finished it would merit four snails, but considering that I truly believed the first two thirds to be fairly boring, I’ll only grant Mr. Lewis three and a half snails. There are two more books in his Space Trilogy, but having lots of more interesting books to turn to, I think it unlikely that I’ll read them any time soon.

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