Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis

I read this series because I heard a talk by N.D. Wilson on C.S. Lewis. In that talk Wilson said when he wrote the first story, Out of the Silent Planet, there was mixed reactions and people didn't get the point Lewis was making and those who did, said he didn't really believe them as the point wasn't that strong. Lewis then realised the power of a story and what he could get away with, so he wrote the second book, Perelandra, which is the same story only juiced up. Then, Wilson said, in the last one, That Hideous Strength, Lewis just cut to the chase and has scientists kneeing down worshipping a head they are keeping alive in vat. He stripped back Scientism to its gruesome reality, with all the pro's (like autonomy with no responsibility to God) taken away.

Hearing Wilson talk about this trilogy this way sparked my interest. Beside the above, I didn't really know what else to expect.

Out of the Silent Planet

In this book, the main character, Ransom got kidnapped by two scientists and taken to another planet. If this sounds too far fetched, then sci fi just isn't for you. The scientists had previously been to this planet and when they were last there they encountered a large race of sentient beings (the séron) who are experimenters like scientists. The human scientists thought they wanted a blood sacrifice the next time they were to return, so they brought Ransom along to fulfil this demand. However, almost as soon as they arrived on this planet Ransom escaped and eventually encounters another "race" of sentient beings (the hrossa) who were into language and poetry. It so happened that Ransom was a linguist, so learned the planets language and all about the planet. Later we learn or a third major "race" (or hanu) called the pfifltriggi, who are miners and engineers, but we don't spend much time with them.

While on this planet Ransom learns of the eldil who are like "spirits" who are not solid, can live in outer space and move wherever in the universe they please, except for Earth. It seems something bad happen on Earth so they no longer visit it for it is an evil place. This planet we learn is what we call Mars, and is an old planet, and is dying. The mountains are stretching up into the sky above the atmosphere, animals are becoming extinct, and most things would be considered too tall or long by Earth's ratios.

All the hanu on the planet are good, and they did not want a blood sacrifice, it was a poor interoperation on behalf of the scientists. They just wanted to introduce the scientists to their planet god called Oyarsa. Oyarsa sends a message to the horssa for them to send Ransom to meet them. 

With the help of the séron he meets Oyarsa, which is the climax of the book. The scientists are also brought in the presence of Oyarsa, only they don't believe in superstitious nonsense and think one of the other creature is projecting their voice like a ventriloquist. This results in rather a humours scene, and the short comings of the smartest rocket scientist from Earth is shown for how silly they really are. They thought they were representing all of mankind with coming to this planet and were going to colonised this one for all humanity. And yet, this planet was old and dying, and strangely to Oyarsa, it didn't make much sense of their noble representation for humanity, when their first act on this planet was going to be a human sacrifice. In the end the people were sent back to Earth.

I'm not sure what else I expected from this book. I think it was a bit long on descriptions and sometimes I didn't really understand what the world looked like as maybe I don't have a good imagination, or it wasn't well described. I also thought the story was slow in parts, although I did appreciate one or two chase scenes, and the confrontation at the end was worthwhile.


This was a good complement to it predecessor. In this story, Ransom is taken by the eldil to the planet Perelandra, or what we know as Venus. By contrast to Mars, this planet is young, mostly water with some floating islands and there are only two really sentient beings on this planet for they are yet to populate the planet. The only problem is that the King has been separated from the girl. On this planet there is one rule: you are not allowed to spend the night on the fixed land, instead you are to sleep on the floating islands that are controlled by the whim of the weather patters.

Just after Ransom turns up, it so happens that one of the scientists who kidnapped Ransom and took him to Mars comes in his spaceship to Venus. They have a fight and it seemed that Ransom killed the scientist, although the next day he was up and acting strange. It becomes apparent that the scientist was posses by a "bent" eldil. Both these characters find the sentient girl and it becomes apparent to Ransom why he was brought here. The possessed scientists tries to convince the girl to not listen to the rule laid down by the King, and that she should spend the night on the fixed land. Ransom's job, although never told to him explicitly, was to stop this girl from breaking the one rule. This situation was very much the garden of Eden all over again.

Rather than the climax of the book, I found the discussion for and against breaking the law the best bit about this book. All sorts of arguments and counter-arguments are put forward. If you like watching debates you will probably like this book. After a long time Ransom decides logic and reason is only getting them to a stalemate so he then resorts to physical violence. There is a long chase, which had its good tense moments. In the end (spoiler) good wins, the girl finds her King and Ransom is taken back to earth.

That Hideous Strength

I'm not sure if this series was intended to be a trilogy. This book does kinda work in the series, and is fitting that it takes place on Earth, but Ransom only turns up about halfway in, but it's not revealed that its him till closer to the end. There is also a bunch of King Arthur mythology thrown in on top of the continuing story line of the eldil and the planet gods.

In this story the two main characters are married to each other but they are on different sides. The husband, Mark, is an academic and gets an opportunity to work for a new research company called N.I.C.E (The National Institute of Coordinated Experiments) who buy some land from the uni he is at. This means Mark is out a lot and pretty much lives in the N.I.C.E facilities. In this company there is lots of politics that Mark is trying to navigate. He is trying to promote himself, while fitting in and then being manipulated by the people around him. One of Marks jobs is to write articles in all the papers, pretty much as a spin doctor, so that N.I.C.E can do what they want. But it is fine because N.I.C.E are all about the pursuit of knowledge and the ultimate good will for all people. Nothing could go wrong at all...

N.I.C.E.  run their own police force and cause a bit of mayhem in the area and get away with it. They get a prisoner who is to be executed, chop of his head and put it in a vat and then  start communicating with it. Only some of the scientists know where this true power comes from.

Marks wife Jane, starts to get visions of things that come true. These mostly resolve around what the N.I.C.E are doing. She gets herself caught up in a group that is run by Ransom who is able to talk to the eldil or the Oyarsa for Earth. Their goal is to stop N.I.C.E and all the evil they are up to, but these guys care about the means by which they do it. There is no real in-house fighting in this group and everyone seems to work as a team while still keeping their personalities.

N.I.C.E are looking for the legendary Merlin. Like the first book, there is a great scene when these grate thinkers miss the point entirely. Think they have found the great Merlin but it turns out they have really found a homeless man whom they had taken in. It turns out that Merlin is on the side of good and ends up brining everything crashing down around the N.I.C.E and possibly saved the whole Earth. Phew.

I was not sure what I was expecting in this series. There were some good moments in each of these book. If you like a bit of sci fi with some scientism vs Christianity overtones, then maybe pick these up.


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