I had to force myself to finish this one. I didn't care about any of the characters, the plot was muddled and confusing (still not really sure what haI had to force myself to finish this one. I didn't care about any of the characters, the plot was muddled and confusing (still not really sure what happened), and the romance was shallow and silly. Oh, well. ...more
Hmm. Well, this was different than I thought it would be. But it did suck me right in, which I wasn’t expecting. However, I was caught off guard at hoHmm. Well, this was different than I thought it would be. But it did suck me right in, which I wasn’t expecting. However, I was caught off guard at how pagan this world was—blood sacrifices and all. I think if it was an author other than C.S. Lewis I would’ve found it even more disconcerting. At least with Lewis I knew there would be a point in there somewhere. This is really unlike any of his other works that I’ve read. It’s not exactly an allegory, and Christianity is never mentioned. But there are a lot of seeds of the Word scattered throughout, even if it is just showing the lack in what Christianity eventually made whole. For example, Orual’s relationship with Psyche shows how our weak human love isn’t enough; it too easily becomes soured by jealousy, pride, and possessiveness. A love outside of ourselves is needed to purify our human relationships. But all philosophizing or theology aside (although I think the book doesn’t completely make sense without those things), this is a just a really good, immersive story. Lewis created such a distinct world and a thoroughly memorable main character. The ending confused me a lot at first. The more I thought about it, though, the more I liked it. Life, suffering, love, justice, awe, the ancient gods as just angels—it illuminated every gnawing ache that came before it, and the blending of classical myth with Christian truth and narrative experience was quite brilliant. The more I think about this the more tempted I am to keep adding stars to my rating. I was originally going to give it two stars, now I'm up to four. Before I'm done it will probably be five. A sign of good literature? It gets better and better the more you reflect upon it!...more
**spoiler alert** Against the background of post-WWII England, the battle between good and evil plays out on a cosmic scale, and ordinary people are f**spoiler alert** Against the background of post-WWII England, the battle between good and evil plays out on a cosmic scale, and ordinary people are forced to choose a side. This is an original, engrossing read packed with many spiritual and practical truths. I liked it better than the first book in the series (I haven’t read the second yet). It’s more grounded in the real world, which makes it more interesting to me and more fascinating ... considering how the dystopian part eventually plays out.
The critique of scientific materialism that begins in Out of the Silent Planet is embodied in this book by N.I.C.E.’s utterly utilitarian view of the human person. As their names convey, Frost and Withers reveal the icy, shriveled core of real evil. Devoid of love, they have become slavish and self-destructing automatons. This is in direct contrast to the side of good, where the diverse mix of personalities become more fully themselves through cooperation with grace. Instead of having an abstract ideal of just saving the world, they are concerned with saving individuals and preserving the world as a place of teaching people to love.
A main focus of the book is how evil operates—disguising itself as a good or preying on weaknesses. Mark’s insecurity makes him feel flattered when he is drawn to the inner N.I.C.E. circle. Stifling the voice of conscience, his pride and vanity leads him right into the snares of a supernatural battle. Lewis is honest about showing such effects of concupiscence on a fallen race. In his spiritual combat, Mark struggles with the “infinite attraction to this dark thing” (267). But he is still free; he always has a choice. The way Mark and Jane wrestle within about which path to follow shows how even in the face of so many opportunities to cooperate with grace, we often resist or rationalize against having to change.
I don’t know if I really like the characterization of Mr. Fisher-King. It was hard for me to see how some of this fit in with the Christian vision. The stuff about Logres was particularly puzzling. It seemed very Gnostic.
I didn’t like the ending very much. Besides the rather weird (but creative) thing with the angels, the concluding scene with Mark and Jane seemed like obedience without love. The procreative aspect was there, but not the unity. Likewise, some of Lewis’s other commentary on the sexes was confusing. While I might even agree with Lewis (if I knew more clearly what he was saying), a lot of those sections were just poorly worded. For example, what was Mrs. Maggs’s idea about how men and women can never really connect?
Overall, though, this was a very interesting book. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like it. It’s not always comfortable to read, but it did really challenge me to think in new ways. My copy is now heavily underlined and annotated!...more
**spoiler alert** This was another one that I read for a class, and one of the things we discussed was whether or not the tone of this book works agai**spoiler alert** This was another one that I read for a class, and one of the things we discussed was whether or not the tone of this book works against the message. Who exactly is the audience supposed to be? To atheists or to strengthen the brethren? Does the sarcasm subvert the message and prevent evangelization? Is the tone actually un-Christian in its us-versus-them style?
Scattered with hit-and-miss pop culture references, at times perhaps this book tries a little too hard to sound hip and relevant (would a twenty-five-year-old who has read all she has and graduated from college still use “4-ever” in place of “forever”?). Also, from a character perspective, the fact that she gives the Christian or theistic argument for something, cited and well-explained, and then just throws in a “but they’re stupid” phrase (because she’s a militant atheist) doesn’t initially make the format believable or justify how she knows all this. While these passages may present excellent defenses, are they true to who the character is supposed to be? I struggled to completely suspend my disbelief and buy that this was a young punk atheist—not Mary Eberstadt. The fact that the protagonist seems to embody just about every vice imaginable also makes her unconvincing … or maybe that stuff is more ‘normal’ today than I think.
To be fair, the bulk of these reservations were ironed out by the end of the book. In fact, I think many of these factors make the ending all the more powerful. Speaking of the conclusion, I like how her thinking, reading, and inquiring was at best a jumping-off point toward Christianity; it is only through an encounter with the living God that the gift of faith is given to her. (But what was with the votes?)
As a whole, the book does present some very thought-provoking critiques of the atheist worldview—not just the debunking of fallacious inferences, proportionalism, etc., but also exploring the cultural collateral that comes from trying to prop up a world without God. With authentic and infinite Love forcibly removed from the equation, the results are incredibly damaging to the human person. The sanctity of family life and the conjugal union are quickly displaced by a view of the family dominated by ridicule, materialism, and a loss of dignity. Christianity, a religion based in holding up and defending the weak and vulnerable, detrimentally clashes with a post-Christian society based on survival of the fittest. The necessity of religion for authentic culture spreads to all aspects of society. The book touches on many of these, including charitable works, the witness of individual lives, intellectual contributions, science, art, and how the transcendentals—goodness, truth, beauty, belonging—figure into the Christian vision as they express and point to the Almighty. Still, I don't feel like this book would be very helpful at converting any atheists ... especially that ending (which probably seems a bit of an imaginative embellishment even for Christians).
Despite it's flaws, overall, this is worth a read. Although I’m still not sure who exactly the target audience is ... ...more
Because science fiction generally isn’t my thing, this probably isn’t a book I would have gleefully devoured on my own. But having to read it for clasBecause science fiction generally isn’t my thing, this probably isn’t a book I would have gleefully devoured on my own. But having to read it for class, I enjoyed it as an intriguing parable of many theological, philosophical, and scientific topics. It proved a springboard for some great discussions about spiritual combat, the perils of scientific materialism, man’s place in the cosmos, free will and concupiscence, the self-destructive nature of hedonism, the importance of having a sense of humor, and more. (It is Lewis, after all—described by some as the most influential theologian of the twentieth century.)
The passages about danger and adventure particularly stick with me. There is a quote in Chapter 12 where one character asks whether love or life would be so sweet if there was no risk. This brings to mind the kind of courage that is prompted by Jesus in the Gospels: to be not afraid! Life is dangerous, but it is also a daring adventure. After all, the true definition of adventure is to lose oneself, and this is the great Christian paradox: in order to truly become yourself, you must lose yourself. It doesn’t mean to be foolhardy but to have the courage to bind oneself to what really matters, to what lasts.
This is really just a snippet of the book's depth. I wrote a paper on how Lewis' critique of scientific materialism in this text echoes Catholic ethical and moral teaching on embryonic stem cell research, and I am sure that is just one of the allegorical parallels that could be drawn from this book. It’s been almost a year since I read this (due to my school schedule I am just now getting around to reviewing it). I wish it was fresher in my mind so I could comment more. My general impression is that it was a very thought-provoking read, even if it’s not one that I will curl up with on a regular basis just for enjoyment....more
Tedious and predictable. Of course the message about trusting God’s plan is a good one, but the plot and writing are so dull that everything becomes mTedious and predictable. Of course the message about trusting God’s plan is a good one, but the plot and writing are so dull that everything becomes mired down in the monotony. For a book that takes place in England, there is a very poor sense of place, and the characters consist mostly of one-dimensional figures plucked out of Christian fiction central casting. (I guess we are supposed to root for Edward, but he didn’t seem like much of a catch to me.) All the guys are dashing with high cheekbones and the women are gorgeous and the babies are cute and this story is just very boring....more