Perelandra, the second of C S Lewis’s science fiction trilogy, is as disappointing as Out of the Silent Planet is excellent. Once more the hero is Ransom, this time transported to Perelandra (Venus) by Oyarsa, the arch-angel of Malacandra. Perelandra is a (water) Garden of Eden, complete with its Eve (the Green Lady) and the Devil in the form of Professor Weston - one of the men who had previously kidnapped Ransom and taken him to Malacandra. Ransom has been sent to prevent the Fall. There is an ‘Adam’, The Lady’s ‘King’, but he hardly figures in the plot.
In the first book, as A N Wilson observes, the Christian theology does not ‘wage war on the story’; in Perelandra, it positively beats the reader about the head with a blunt instrument. Only two outcomes are possible; either submit to the polemic, or put the book down and do something else. I chose the latter, with the book about half read (I have read it before). That was a pity, because Lewis’s descriptions of Venus, with its floating islands and extraordinary plant and animal life, are about as good as one gets in a science fiction novel. Clearly though, he allowed his fervent Christian ideology to overrule his artistic judgement. The turgid and opaque theological arguments in Perelandra may go down well in an Oxbridge common-room, but there are infinitely subtler ways of achieving the same objective with the reading public, as the first book clearly demonstrates.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs