I have just finished reading Out of the Silent Planet again; in my opinion, C S Lewis’s finest book. I first heard it serialized on the ‘wireless’ in the 1950s. Something about it captured my imagination, and I have read it many times since. It is a sort of ‘comfort book’ for me.
Out of the Silent Planet is a beautifully crafted science fiction novel. It is a moral tale of good and evil; clever and intelligent, sad in some places but never sentimental. The hero, Ransom, is kidnapped and taken to Malacandra – Mars – with the intention of offering him as a human sacrifice to the Sorns, huge humanoid creatures, in exchange for ‘Sun’s blood’ – gold. It turns out that the Sorns are acting under instruction from their spiritual leader, the invisible to Ransom, Oyarsa, who simply wants to know about Earth.
Actually, I think the novel is rather clever – much cleverer, for example, than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, with its Christian allegory disguised wafer thin. As A N Wilson says of it in his biography of Lewis, into the book is woven ‘…straight Christian theology. [but] The theology does not wage war on the story.’
These days C S Lewis belongs to everyone, with his Narnia stories and tales of his readings, along with J R R Tolkein, the ‘Inklings’, at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford. Indeed the meetings of the Inklings have been woven into at least one episode of Lewis, the TV detective series set in Oxford.
But speaking as one who does not espouse Christian dogma – possibly a result of having had to endure a series of Catholic schools with nuns who would have given Vlad the Impaler a run for his money – Out of the Silent Planet comes remarkably close to being a very successful polemic for Christianity, and does give me pause for thought.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs