Out of the Silent Planet: A Book Review

O for Out of the Silent Planet.

C.S. Lewis is best known for his fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia, so I was a bit surprised when I discovered that he had written another series that had been published long before Narnia.

Published in 1938, Out of the Silent Planet is the first book in the Space Trilogy (also known as the Cosmic Trilogy or the Ransom Trilogy). The other books in the series are Perelandra (1943) also called The Voyage to Venus,

and That Hideous Strength (1945).

Out of the Silent Planet begins with Elwin Ransom, a Cambriged philologist (someone who studies language) goes on a hiking trip. As night quickly falls, he looks for shelter and bumps into two men, one of who was a former schoolmate. Devine (his former schoolmate) and his associate Professor Weston invite Ransom into their home and offer him a meal and a place to stay. Ransom readily agrees, not knowing that his drink as been drugged, and that the two men have an ulterior motive for their hospitality. Professor Weston, a scientist, has built a spaceship and he and Devine need a third man to take with them on their journey. Ransom finds himself on a ship traveling through space to a planet called Malacandra, which is later on revealed to be Mars.

On Malacandra, Ransom escapes and ends up living with the Hross, one of the three intelligent species who inhabit the planet. He learns their language and through a series of adventures, meets the Oyarsa of Mars, an Eldil or angelic being in charge of guarding the planet. The Oyarsa tells Ransom that Earth is called Thulcandra (“the silent planet”) because Earth’s Oyarsa or guardian has turned evil and has been restricted to Earth by Maleldil, the ruler of the universe. Oyarsa, who knows what Weston and Devine are really up to, gives the three men a chance to return to Earth.

My Review:

The novels are classified as Science Fiction but they don’t really start out that way. Since Ransom is the main character, everything in the story is seen through his eyes. And since he’s not exactly a scientist, he doesn’t go into technical details. Instead, he describes what he sees as a normal person (albeit one with a great handle on language) would describe things.

It took me a chapter or two to really get into the story, partly because I had to get used to the book’s narrative voice. The narrator in these books sounds very professorial, partly because they’re written by C.S. Lewis, who writes in a more complex style than what we’re used to nowadays; and partly because they’re written in the point of view of Elwin Ransom, who studies language for a living.

I easily picked up on the theological overtones which C.S. Lewis was known for. In this Sci-Fi stories, he talks about angelic beings, and the constant battle between good and evil in all worlds.

Once I got used to the language, I actually enjoyed the story itself. Ransom is an interesting and complicated main character, and the adventures that befall him are imaginative and suspenseful.

The Space Trilogy is certainly a classic–and something all self-professed sci fi fans should deign to read.


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26 Responses to “Out of the Silent Planet: A Book Review”

  1. Geeky Daddy says:

    Huh! really. I think I better read some more Lewis, but I am still reading his CoN series. I think the next one is going to be his Space Trilogy. as the saying goes So many books…so little time.

  2. Kelly Barnes says:

    I read Out of the Silent Planet (good review btw), but I haven’t gotten around to reading the other two (when I remember to get them I’m not in a used bookstore, and when I’m in a used bookstore…)

    Your blog looks great!

  3. Bish Denham says:

    You see? I read and knew about this series long before I knew about Narnia! It is a series I need/want to read again, it’s been so long ago. Sometime in high school

  4. RaeLynn Fry says:

    No way! I had no idea C.S. Lewis wrote another series! That’s awesome. Good review. I might have to pick these up and add them to my collection. :) Nice A2Z!

  5. Jay Noel says:

    I’ve been meaning to read some of his earlier, science fictional works. Thanks for reminding me!!!

  6. Angel Sharum says:

    Nice, comprehensive review of the book.

  7. Sara Hill says:

    I love this trilogy! And Lewis is one of my heroes.

  8. Pam says:

    Who would have thought that CS Lewis was a SciFi buff?!

    Great post :)

  9. Elizabeth says:

    I first read Out of the Silent Planet for a university science fiction literature class. I went on to read the rest of the trilogy on my own. It is a unique set of books unlike anything else I’ve ever read.

  10. I started to read the first book in the series, but never really got into it. I should go back and finish it sometime!

    The Golden Eagle
    The Eagle’s Aerial Perspective

  11. Great post. I loved the Narnia books but had not realized Lewis wrote another series. Now I have more books on my gotta read list. Thank you, I think (LOL.)

  12. CS Lewis also wrote a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche (titled “Till We Have Faces”), and it’s one of my favorites!

    I really need to go back and re-read the Space Trilogy, though. It’s been too long.

  13. Jenny says:

    I’m not familiar with these books. Guess I better get with the program!

  14. Very cool. I’ll have to see if I can find copies of these. I know a few young men that would really enjoy them. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Petra says:

    I love the Space Trilogy (and everything else by C.S. Lewis), especially the first two.

  16. notes4neta says:

    I’ve never read this series, although I have heard of it and I have read other C.S. Lewis books. I do enjoy some science fiction, so I will probably pick this up sometime.

    Visiting you from the A-Z Challenge. Nice blog! :)

  17. Dave Wagner says:

    I recall reading at least the first book in the trilogy many, many years ago, but I literally remember nothing of the story, or even if I read all 3 books or not… not a good sign. I may have to track them down and try again…

    Thanks for the review!

    Dave the Goof

  18. I had no idea C.S Lewis had written another series – the things you learn!
    I also love reading about another blogger – very generous of you to share your space!

  19. Faith says:

    The space trilogy is one of those things I keep meaning to read, but just haven’t got around to yet… one of these days! Ahhhh, so many books to read!!!

  20. I always forget that CS Lewis wrote more than ‘just’ the Chronicles. Nicely comprehensive review – I am not tempted to go and check out some of his other work!

  21. I read this trilogy decades ago, and the religious content just turned me off. I felt preached to and did not get much out of his insights. Since I am a confirmed heathern, you can take my response with a few grains of salt.

    I might get more out of it now that I have resolved most of my animosity to the church (Jesus is just all right with me). I’m not all that about the Chronicles for the same reason, and just shoot me, but I’d rather be shot than read Lord of the Rings again, written by Lewis’s best friend and writing partner, Tolkein.

    I think the devastation of the world wars seeps through these works, and it is that which Lewis wrestles with. I don’t doubt his skill and his learning, but I don’t like his stories much.

    Happy A to Z Challenge.

  22. Trisha says:

    I’m definitely gonna add these to my TBR, just ’cause they’re C.S., man!

  23. Dave Kean says:

    I enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia but have not picked up CS Lewis in a few years. More books to add to the list, just need to find the time.

    Really enjoyed your site and the narrative of your England trip last year.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck with the A-to-Z challenge.

  24. RedHobbit says:

    Interesting, I too had no idea C.S. Lewis had dabbled in science fiction.

  25. deniz says:

    I really enjoyed the tone of these stories when I first read them. I loved the deep sense of mystery behind them, and in his other story, The Dark Tower.

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