I just finished reading C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy. For years I was unaware that C.S. Lewis had a space trilogy. His most famous fiction writing is most certainly The Chronicles of Narnia, perhaps with The Screwtape Letters in second place.

Monday nights I meet (and have been meeting for years now) with a group of guys. We enjoy studying the Bible together and praying for one another. Most of us share a love for Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings as well the works of our friend, Mr. Lewis. It was in this fellowship that I first heard of the space trilogy, and one of the members lent me the paperbacks. One of the others asked me Monday if I might put down some of my thoughts, so here we go:

I enjoyed the books. They are interesting, well paced, and contain brilliant sentences. The world, or better, universe that Lewis explores is fascinating. The first of the three, Out of the Silent Planet explores (besides life on another planet) human nature. Here is played out Lewis’s theological anthropology as we see the hero able to appreciate and love the diverse nature he encounters, while the villains are ever-bent toward greedy exploitation. Like Uncle Andrew they see only the hideous in the beautiful.

The second work, Perelandra takes place on a different planet, one much earlier in its history. Lewis allegorically presents the story of Genesis in a new world. The central conflict is the temptation of the innocents by a satanic villain (introduced in the first book). Like Milton he imagines a more protracted wrestling match with greater appetites and cunning than our desensitized eyes glean from the Genesis narrative. This conflict held my interest strongest of the three works—I was turning pages and staying up far too late. To be sure, the descriptive sections would most certainly be shortened by “today’s standards.” But I found the imagery rather stunning in places—especially those that best displayed Biblical parallel.

The third, That Hideous Strength, was good, but not best. I felt the plot fizzle in places. And the story itself seemed to be more of a transport vehicle for his theological/political/philosophical ideas/essays than a narrative gem. Definitely worth reading, though, as Lewis’s ideas on all of these subjects are fascinating, and most are quite helpful.

Both Lewis and Tolkien saturate their fiction writing with values consistent with the Christian tradition. (The principle reason, in my view they are quite different than other fantasy fiction, i.e., Harry Potter or The Golden Compass). I think that Lewis is more blatantly allegorical. Where Tolkien colors the waters, so to speak, with Christian ethics and religious imagery, Lewis floats them more obviously on the surface. This makes it easier to understand your point, but doesn’t necessarily give you higher marks for storytelling. Nonetheless, they are both giants––two of my heroes. To cling to the faith, and challenge so many of the philosophical and theological assumptions of their context, yet to do so with such grace, and creative skill is a courageous and beautiful feat.

3 comments:

Kelly said...

If you enjoyed those, I think you should try one more christian author who both influenced Lewis and was also fabulous at writing. Who be that you may ask? Well, that would be the great G.K. Chesterton. I would suggest 'The Man Who Was Thursday' to you. It's awesome.

Meanwhile, it's fascinating to me that your favorite is Perelandra. I think the dialog definately stands out at it's best there, but I think That Hideous Strength might have been somewhat future seeing (keeping in line with the traditions of science fiction, actually). I particularly love how Lewis explains the devious methods of the N.I.C.E. in controlling public opinion (the paranoid side of me thinks it is basically exactly what so much of our news seems to be doing almost every day) and the way he showcases Ransom's relationship to animals as what should have been. (amongst many other things!)

Meanwhile, I love in Perelandra how Ransom in the end is with the King and Queen (why the King looks how he looks is an awesome reference to Christ as the "last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45)) and eldils worshipping God, and Lewis's descriptions about how each is "at the center..." is pretty cool (I think).

Glad you liked them!

The Blossers said...

Thanks, brother! And excellent comments. I agree with you regarding his comments about the press. He saw totalitarianism at its worst. Hopefully our press remains free.

And I also look forward to seeing what our relationships with animals will look like in the eschaton. His comments about the present "sub-rationality" of animals is much more nuanced in That Hideous Strength than in his other writings (I should say, of those I have read).

Good thoughts. I'll return your books.

Jonathan said...

I have not read Lewis's space trilogy, but I appreciate an evaluation that looks beyond the absence of direct, theological propositions, and appreciates the beauty of christian, theological expression in an area of an individuals giftedness.

thanks for the thoughts!