C.S. Lewis "Space Trilogy" Series

Perelandra

Book cover: 'Perelandra'
Author(s): 
Clive Staples Lewis
Copyright: 
1944
Publisher: 
Macmillan Pulblishing Co. Inc.
Series: 
C.S. Lewis "Space Trilogy"
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
222 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Perelandra is Venus. Ransom gets sent to Venus on a mission. Of course it takes him some time to get settled with the new surroundings again.
While Mars was an old and mostly ruined world Venus is brand new. The clouds hide a lush tropical paradise. And Ransom is to see to it that this world's "Eve", temporarily separated from her "Adam" for this adventure, is kept from the fall. There is no guarantee. In fact, Ransom bears the same, human, form as the tempter - none other than Weston. But he is more often called the Tempter and the Un-man. He is, like the serpant from Eden, a possessed thing.
Lewis explores original sin AND original good. Having read this in seventh grade, this was the first book that really made me think about the latter a lot. It is a fascinating 'world' to explore. There are incredibly lengthy debates that are actually exciting to read. How can Ransom convince her to choose good when she knows nothing of the other option? How does one justify the good to the just? It is an exploration in first principles.
This book could be read as early as 7th grade. But it would be better understood by high school age.
Click here for our study questions on this book.

Review Date: 
3-17-2001
Reviewed by: 

That Hideous Strength

Book cover: 'That Hideous Strength'
Author(s): 
Clive Staples Lewis
Copyright: 
1946
Publisher: 
Macmillan Pulblishing Co. Inc.
Series: 
C.S. Lewis "Space Trilogy"
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
382 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

Despite the fact that That Hideous Strength is the third book in the Space Trilogy none of it takes place in space. In fact it takes place in one of the most cozy, domestic settings you can think of. It is set in the small towns and College lounges of early 20th century England. The good guys live at St. Anne's - which is just a large home - and is named (here we go again with Lewis) after the Grandmother of our Lord. What could be more comforting?

This is NOT a comforting book. The intrigue and activity is startling. And 'Hideous' was a word well chosen.The National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments is abbreviated N.I.C.E. - but it is not. It is at once exciting, unfathomable and scary.

But to the story. We are back at College now. Our main character is Mark Studdock. A professor of course! He is just being brought into the 'in' crowd. This crowd is so much more progressive. And it is a key, he is sure, to some real recognition and power that he feels he deserves. That his wife, Jane, and he get estranged is not a big concern to him - he will have time to fix that later, when he is a big man. He is getting more and more 'in' as the book goes on. But N.I.C.E. has an air about it that makes the reader nervous (Lewis is a really good writer!!). There is something big going on at N.I.C.E. Mark is being promoted to the highest ranks. But they still won't tell him what is going on. And it all seems like chaos from within. And yet it is something he perversely wants more of. You are caught by a sense of it and then realize how good Lewis has made this allegory for sin and the subsequent seductive flirtation with evil that can spiral into the folly of Babel.

Meanwhile his wife has taken up residence with people at St. Anne's whom she slowly learns to trust. Jane is a very modern sort of girl. But she learns about other mindsets and sees the follies of her own while at St. Anne's.

"I thought love meant equality," she said, "and free companionship."

"...Yes we must be guarded by equal rights from one another's greed, because we are fallen. Just as we must all wear clothes for the same reason," said the director."Equality is not the deepest thing."
...

"But surely in marriage..."

"Worse and worse," said the director, "Courtship knows nothing of it..."

That is SO TRUE!!! Five words is all it took! Lewis is introducing his characters to new ideas again. We get to listen in. By seeing both sides converse and contrast you can't help but stop and think for yourself from time to time.

And there is the Pendragon. And there is Merlin. And then there is Mr. Bultitude, the pig. Sorry, can't tell you more. You have to read it!

This book explores good and evil in a very modern setting. Despite the fact that the setting at first looks quaint and ridiculous (set in the 1940s or some such for goodness sake! - they didn't even have stem cells!) it becomes clear that the underlying ideas about science are very current and the quaint and ridiculous is how most of today's theories will look in a few short years.

This book is also rich and deep. And while the first reading will be occasion for more than enough discussion further readings are well warranted. Just look at the worn and used cover of mine!

This book probably should not be read before the second half of high school.

Click here for our study questions on this book.

Perspective: 
Judeo-Christian
Review Date: 
3-17-2001
Reviewed by: 

Out of the Silent Planet

Book cover: 'Out of the Silent Planet'
Author(s): 
Clive Staples Lewis
Copyright: 
1965
Publisher: 
Macmillan Pulblishing Co. Inc.
Series: 
C.S. Lewis "Space Trilogy"
Binding: 
Softcover
Number of pages: 
160 pages
Subject(s): 
Grade / Age level: 
Review: 

The first story in the "Space Trilogy", Out of the Silent Planet begins with a man of such littleness that he is only known, for now, as the pedestrian. He is taking a summer holiday - trying to 'get lost' - from his philology professorship.

This is NOT a nailbiter yet.

By accident Ransom (Lewis himself was a Cambridge professor keen on words - so you know you have been given his name for a reason) stumbles onto an old schoolmate, Divine, and another professor, Weston, in a strange house. The bizarre scene sees them drug our poor Ransom and gives way to the much more bizzare rest of the book. They travel through space to Mars (or Malacandra as the inhabitants call it). But like a mystery novel the strange story starts to give way to order. Ransom is smart. He gathers that he is being brought back to Mars by these two as a sacrifice to creatures called Sorns. They had been to Mars before and started happily collecting gold there. But the inhabitants told them they would have to present themselves to the world leader. They dreaded this so much they returned to Earth just to retrieve that sacrifice, that Ransom! (see I told you)

Ransom escapes shortly after they arrive and goes about trying to survive, understand and finally love this new world. There are 3 or 4 species on the planet which are intelligent (it's handy to be a philologist when you have to learn a few new languages in a hurry!)

I can't tell you more because it really is a book that is hard to put down. After you get through the first bit you will drink in the rest with exceeding pleasure.

Lewis has given himself a tool to really explore different mindsets. Here he is not bound by current conventions - not even by 'terrestrial' conventions. In fact we are allowed to explore a world that is so different Ransom at first has trouble separating out the geographic, plant and animal features - they are all just a sort of blur when he first sees them. And just when he has allowed us to wonder about talking with different species he gives us some of the most eloquent defenses of what in life, in every life of every intelligent species, is good and strong.

There are many things to explore in this book. I am sure that I have not plumbed the depths of allegory and language that Lewis, a professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature, is sure to have woven in. But even the first reading will bring to the surface an abundance of issues to discuss and ponder.

This book could be read as early as 7th grade. But it would be better understood by high school age.

Review Date: 
3-17-2001
Reviewed by: