Maurinejt's Reviews > Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
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Jul 15, 2012

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Read in July, 2012

I waffled between a 2 and 3 stars, because I did not personally enjoy this book much. The long winded descriptions reminded me why I hate The Last Battle, and the main character was too much of an everyman without a real personality to serve as an engaging point of view. However. What makes Lewis' work great is his ability to deal with matters of the soul and religion in a sincere and visceral way without a trace of sentimentality. It is easier for an author to seek catharsis with something horrible, we all understand pain and fear. But asking the reader to relive a cosmic experience of intense joy--and joy completely of the spirit--is almost impossible. The temptation is great to slip into cliche. (Sort of like a character asking "Do you want to talk about it?" to elicit exposition. Who SAYS that?)

But despite its flaws, I love the idea of it, I love the reason why he wrote it: to counter the empiricist views still prevalent at the time. When other SF writers were penning books about colonies and subjugation of obviously inferior races, Lewis points out that with all our problems, we could very well be the backwards, black sheep of intelligent life forms and have absolutely no right to interfere with superior cultures. Kind of like the sophisticated cities sacked by Genghis Khan, with the resulting losses for all. As I was reading it was like a missing line of an elaborate drawing being connected: I suddenly could see how Madeleine L'Engle had read this and took exception with the premise that Earth had already fallen to shadow, her rebuttle became A Wrinkle in Time. I saw its influence in a more recent book I had read, The Sparrow, where a linguist leads a team to first contact on an alien planet and deals with two sentient species, ignorantly destroying an ancient balance. I was even reminded of an instance in a beloved fantasy series where a cataclysm had forced dwellers to abandon surface life for something underneath, protected and led by a deity.

And mad props to the post script, where Lewis deftly acknowledged some of the more obvious plot holes and fixed them without having to retype the whole thing, while laying ground for a sequel. I think we forget how laborious it was to write in those days, if you made an error you had to retype the whole page, often the whole chapter. It also occurred to me that it may have been added after the first edition when he started getting pointed questions from fans. Either way, it's sheer brilliance.

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