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The Space Trilogy #1

Out of the Silent Planet

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In the first novel of C.S. Lewis's classic science fiction trilogy, Dr Ransom, a Cambridge academic, is abducted and taken on a spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra, which he knows as Mars. His captors are plotting to plunder the planet's treasures and plan to offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the creatures who live there. Ransom discovers he has come from the 'silent planet' – Earth – whose tragic story is known throughout the universe...

160 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1938

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About the author

C.S. Lewis

1,271 books40.2k followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Clive Staples Lewis was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.

Lewis was married to poet Joy Davidman.
W.H. Lewis was his elder brother]

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,315 reviews
Profile Image for Brad.
72 reviews17 followers
April 12, 2013
You don't review C.S. Lewis. He reviews you.
Profile Image for J.G. Keely.
546 reviews9,760 followers
May 13, 2012
It is strange to me how often Lewis is mentioned as a leading Christian apologist, since his views on Christianity tend to be neither conventional nor well-constructed. Of course, he's not taken seriously by Biblical scholars or theologians--I suspect this is because his Jesus is a cartoon lion and his God is a space alien.

As Michael Moorcock pointed out, the prominent tone in both Tolkien and Lewis is condescension, and I admit my general impression of Lewis is that he's talking down to the audience in a sing-song voice as if we're disturbing his perusal of the morning paper. Thus I was pleasantly surprised by the opening of this book, which looked to be a more mature adventure with a more-or-less neutral narration.

It immediately reminded me of Burrough's John Carter books, an influential series of planetary adventures about a man marooned on an alien world. Of course, Lewis' take was much more plodding. Instead of jumping from action to action, nakedly slaying naked green giants with space-swords, we wander around mostly in the main character's head as he ponders things. The further along, the more ponderous it got, until our 'climax', which was an extended conversation about the myriad flaws of man.

Once again Lewis shows that the only villain he's capable of creating is one who is stupidly comical and malicious, undermining the whole conflict. It's almost as if he's so incapable of comprehending the thoughts and actions of others that he can't write believable characters unless they think and act just like him.

Actually, in this case, there are a few more layers of complexity, but they serve to undermine Lewis' overall message, so I'm not putting that in the 'win column' for the old boy. Without giving too much away, he creates a situation where all humans are helplessly screwed by the galacto-spiritual system, but then he manages to still blame them for being ignorant and desperate.

Like in his other books, the climax is both caused and fixed by an infinitely wise spirit of goodness who carefully explains everything to us and who resolves the conflict by having everyone laugh at the villain's wretchedness for a chapter and then being so powerful that it turns out there was never any conflict in the first place.

But yeah, the climax was extremely lame with Lewis just building up Straw Men and then knocking them down, one after the other, all the while ignoring the fact that the villain is the logical result of the supposedly beneficent system.

There's also the odd issue of the alien languages as presented in the book. They're all fairly straightforward, with verbs, suffixes, prefixes, compound words, and so at first I assumed we were just supposed to take them for granted, which I have no problem with. Tell me a guy has a laser sword, and I'm with you. It gets more tedious when the author keeps going on about the laser sword, trying to explain it and make it seem important.

The linguistic structure we were given was not complex enough to be interesting or thought-provoking, the plot didn't hinge on it, it didn't introduce any complexities into the philosophy of the story--yet Lewis kept returning to it over and over. Sure, he made the protagonist a linguist, but then he never took the opportunity to analyze the differences in thought and expression that a linguist would come across when learning a language (except for the occasional eye-rolling 'they have no word for hate' tidbit). There was nothing vital or interesting in it, but that didn't stop Lewis from devoting endless paragraphs to the subject.

Then again, I suppose that aimless precision is Lewis' general mode. He goes on about theology despite the fact that he doesn't have much to say. He has long scenes where he makes fun of his villains and presents them as idiots despite the fact that it renders the whole plot conflict pointless. He endlessly paints his fellow humans as stupid and worthless, as if his faith had made him so blind that he is incapable of feeling sympathy for anyone with a different point-of-view. Who knew that Christian sentiment could be turned so readily into misanthropy?

Also, his depiction of technology and sci fi elements was fairly silly. I don't even mean that it didn't age well, because it compares poorly even to depictions of earlier writers like Verne--then again, Verne somehow predicted weightlessness in space.

I was hoping I'd like this more, but then I've never really enjoyed anything by Lewis. When it first began, I had a fleeting hope that he might have written a four-star book, but by the time we got to the space angels and the exceedingly lengthy lecture about how terribly humans are, it was over.
Profile Image for Hope.
112 reviews56 followers
January 27, 2011
First of all, this book has a cool title. I mean, seriously…Out of the Silent Planet… Say it to yourself a couple times. It sounds pretty, almost spooky, sort of dramatic and enigmatic. Ooh.

Man, I love a good title.

I also love a good allegory. And it’s my opinion that C.S. Lewis pretty much wrote the best allegories. Like, for real dude. This is like The Chronicles of Narnia for big people.
(I’m still partial to the childlikeness of The Chronicles though).

So basically, this book is about a man named Ransom who is abducted by these two crazy professor dudes, and taken to a planet called Malacandra (or, Mars). Once they reach the planet, Ransom promptly runs away from the crazy professors, and does a little exploration of the planet.

Where Narnia was written in a very simplistic style (which I personally preferred), Out of the Silent Planet goes heavy on the adjectives, and there were points when I was thinking, “How many fancy words can you use to describe one thing?!”
Although Lewis’ descriptive passages are a bit heavy and at times dull, he makes up for it with a mastery of dialogue. I have noticed that in all of the C.S. Lewis fiction I have read, it is not his descriptions (which he tends to over-flowerify), but his conversations that make his novels what they are.

The book is short in number of pages, but it drags a little until about chapter seventeen or eighteen. Once I got to that point, everything started making sense and the allegory came over loud and clear and sweet.

So anyway, I could have given it four stars--and with my complaints about the adjectives, it probably would’ve been a more accurate rating--but I gave it five because it turned out to be quite entertaining. And yeah, it gains back the star it lost by having great dialogue through chapters 18, 19, and 20 (if I’m remembering correctly). ;)
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
968 reviews17.6k followers
April 18, 2023
Simple goodness is pure Being; conflictive evil is the animadmixture we call Non-Being - and conflictive evil FEEDS upon simple goodness.

It is parasitical - and such, in a nutshell, is the theme of this book, and the uncertain plight of its hero, Ransom.

The meaning of his surname is in fact double - for, in the Christian mindset and, for that matter, in the theoretical Christianity of the Stanford philosopher Rene Girard - the Victim Held to Ransom is the central symbol.

And ordinary, innocent people are so often sacrificed in real life.

That's the central grand image of this book's symbolism. Just as Ransom is nefariously selected for sacrifice to placate the aliens.
He escapes, but has learned that evil is REAL. And that, in turn, will inspire him on his Life's Quest.

But for the evil scientists who kidnapped him into space:

This is the greatest sin -
This the greatest treason -
To do the right deed
For the wrong reason.

But what say many postmodern philosophers of Chaos Theory? Doesn't that explain it all better? (Then, at least, we won't need a Deus ex Machina!)

Well, to our theorists Chaos is never intrinsically good or evil, for It is a common fact in the lives of ordinary people. Sh*t happens. When it does, say Chaos theorists, it is never random and never leads to widespread universal disaster.

So say our theorists, at any rate - for Chaos has to fit into the modern elegance of theoretical physics - but is it true for Christians?
Not really.

Scripture says things have a beginning and an end, and a peaceful end for simple, good people in heaven. In other words, justice will be.served.

And that's the truer angle from which C.S. Lewis sees things.

The symbolism of Christian scripture is the hidden side of Out of the Silent Planet.

The planet we call earth has the Face of a Janus - one honest, one deceitful - yet it can develop a third Synthesizing Face.

The Face of Faith.

And we must see Ransom, then, as John Bunyan saw the character Christian -

As a good man called to combat the parasitical evil inside (and outside) of himself:and overcome his two faces in Faith -

And thus win the Eternal Prize of Peace.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,219 reviews2,051 followers
February 23, 2020
This was so much better than I expected. In fact it was really beautiful. I do not know why I have never read it before. As someone who loved Narnia as a child, reread it as an adult and who loves sci fi I really should have come across this trilogy before.

Anyway, better late than never. It was a beautiful book with some amazing imagery, a great story, and some very interesting ideas. I loved the characters, especially Ransome who turned out to be a remarkable human being - the type you would want to be representing humanity in space, unlike the two reprehensible apologies for humans who went with him. I thought the dialogue was frequently brilliant, satire, sarcasm, humour, it was all there.

From the blurb I see that Ransome is in the next book too so I will be reading that very soon.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.6k followers
April 10, 2010
Not C.S. Lewis's best or most popular book - for every person who reads this, there must be at least ten who read Narnia. However, the exchange between the humans and the Oyarsa (the angelic ruler of Malacandra/Mars) is extremely effective satire, and deserves to be better known. Ransom is the only one in the party who has been able to acquire any fluency in Malacandran. He is given the task of translating Weston's fascist rant, which he clearly rather enjoys:
'Speak to Ransom and he shall turn it into our speech,' said Oyarsa.

Weston accepted the arrangement at once. He believed that the hour of his death was come and he was determined to utter the thing - almost the only thing outside his own science which he had to say. He cleared his throat, almost he struck a gesture, and began:


'Life is greater than any system of morality; her claims are absolute. It is not by tribal taboos and copy-book maxims that she has pursued her relentless march from the amoeba to man and from man to civilization.'

'He says,' began Ransom, 'that living creatures are stronger than the question whether an act is bent or good - no, that cannot be right - he says it is better to be alive and bent than to be dead - no - he says, he says - I cannot say what he says, Oyarsa, in your language. But he goes on to say that the only good thing is that there should be very many creatures alive. He says there were many other animals before the first men and the later ones were better than the earlier ones; but he says the animals were not born because of what is said to the young about bent and good action by their elders. And he says these animals did not feel any pity.'

'She,' began Weston.

'I'm sorry,' interrupted Ransom, 'but I've forgotten who She is.'

'Life, of course,' snapped Weston. 'She has ruthlessly broken down all obstacles and liquidated all failures and today in her highest form civilized man - and in me as his representative, she presses forward to that interplanetary leap which will, perhaps, place her for ever beyond the reach of death.'

'He says,' resumed Ransom, 'that these animals learned to do many difficult things, except those who could not; and those ones died and the other animals did not pity them. And he says the best animal now is the kind of man who makes the big huts and carries the heavy weights and does all the other things I told you about; and he is one of these and he says that if the others all knew what he was doing they would be pleased. He says that if he could kill you all and bring our people to live in Malacandra, then they might be able to go on living here after something had gone wrong with our world. And then if something went wrong with Malacandra they might go and kill all the hnau in another world. And then another - and so they would never die out.
Lewis does a good job here of exposing the absurdity of the argument which purports to show that evolution ("the survival of the fittest") somehow justifies selfish behavior. Of course, it does nothing of the kind, as Richard Dawkins has pointed out innumerable times. "The fittest" are by definition those who survive, and, as Dawkins delights in showing you, there is no end to the ingenious survival strategies developed by different species, which involve apparently unselfish cooperation just as often as apparently aggressive competition.

Christian apologists would, however, be on firmer ground if Christians were not quite so keen on justifying aggression in terms of divine justice. It seems to me that this is as much a perversion of true Christian principles as Weston's speech is a perversion of true evolutionary science. If you accept the tenets of Christianity, it should follow that only God can administer justice. He has no need of Man's help to do so, and, since God is omnipotent, justice is inevitable.

What I find interesting here is that strict evolutionary principles and strict Christian principles end up with the same conclusion: the world is, by definition, fairly organized, whether you call this survival of the fittest or Divine justice. People are in neither case required to assist the process.

Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews780 followers
January 20, 2021
After all the post-cyberpunk, Steampunk, New Weird, Post-Singularity, Post-Scarcity etc. books I have been reading lately it is nice to turn to an old school sf book (Christianpunk?) for a change of pace and a bit of coziness. Out of the Silent Planet is in fact more of a science fantasy than something you would expect Asimov, Heinlein or Clarke to write. C.S. Lewis is best known and loved for his wonderful Narnia books, where religious allegory is woven into exciting and wondrous fantasy adventures aimed primarily at children. Out of the Silent Planet is similarly allegorical but written more for adults though you let your children read it without worrying about them picking up some "funny ideas".

Out of the Silent Planet tells the story of Dr. Elwin Ransom who is kidnapped by a couple of men of low moral fiber and transported to Mars (called Malacandra by the natives). Soon after landing he escapes his kidnappers and embarks on an adventure on this strange planet and learns many things which changes everything he knows about life and the universe. That is all I am going to say about the plot!

The difference between how sf was written then (1938) and now is quite intriguing, and I am not even talking about the science. The aliens in this book are rather anthropomorphic, very old school; bipedal, a little human or animal-like, no talking amoebic blobs of jelly here. They can communicate with human beings by sign language and gesticulation. The alien kids can even be petted like puppies. Aliens in more recent sf books tend to be more bizarre and inscrutable (read Embassytown for totally WTF aliens). There is little in the way of a sense of wonder when the aliens are not that far removed from what the reader can imagine. Every word of the neologism herein is explained as soon as introduced, this makes the book immediately accessible but less challenging. However, Lewis has one major advantage over most genre authors today, he is a very fine writer and story teller. His prose is literary, elegant and refined, at the same time his story telling is clear and visual, it is not hard to picture what is transpiring in the book in your imagination as you read; this makes for a pleasantly immersive experience.

The pace of the book started as something of a romp and gradually settle down to pastoral episodes and profound philosophical musings about the nature of humanity, morality, good and evil. As mentioned previously the book is a religious allegory but Lewis does not hit you over the head with it. If you do not have a single religious bone in your body you can always ponder the issues the author is raising about what it means to be human. Of course you can just kick back and read the book from beginning to end just for the entertainment value without pondering anything if you don't feel so inclined. Lewis did not forget to tell a story here while blending in the subtexts.

This book is the first of C.S. Lewis' quaintly named Space Trilogy, the other two volumes are Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. By all accounts the quality does not slip in subsequent volumes and I have often heard that the third book That Hideous Strength is the best of the three. I have every intention of finding that out for myself and will report my findings back to you accordingly.
Profile Image for Allison Tebo.
Author 20 books323 followers
December 6, 2020
WARNING: This review contains some spoilers.

How can I review a C.S. Lewis book? I feel completely inadequate. To properly summarize his work, one feels that you would have to be Lewis himself.

In the end, I feel that I can do nothing better than to let him speak for himself and to include a few quotations. But then I am left with the impossible task of choosing those quotations, for any writing by Lewis is a series of building blocks, one concept layered upon another.

And so, in the end, all my attempts will be insufficient, leaving me with the mighty exhortation that you really must read his work for yourself. But, never mind - onto my insufficient thoughts.

In a poem entitled “An Expostulation: Against Too Many Writers of Science Fiction” Lewis complains that science fiction writers transport us light-years away, only to give us “the same old stuff we left behind...stories of crooks, spies, conspirators, or love. He then asks why he should leave the Earth unless “outside its guarded gates, long, long desired, the Unearthly waits.”

And, based on this frustration, Lewis must have taken his own advice “If they won’t write the kind of books we like to read, we shall have to write them ourselves” and crafted this masterpiece. For “unearthly” is the only world that properly describes Out of the Silent Planet.

This is exactly the sort of science fiction I like – a “quiet” sort of adventure, a magnificent world, but ultimately, all of it mere trappings to discuss deeper ideas. Lewis uses the fantastical setting of space and other planets to pose fundamental questions—less than questions, but rather suggestions. He truly sticks to his speculative genre and does exactly that – he speculates.

Some might find this dark – but it’s certainly not any darker than something like, say, The Lord of the Rings. Some might call it bizarre, but it’s no more bizarre than any other sci fi novel, and has the great benefit of Truth to bring clarity to its unusual world.

The beginning of the novel is fascinatingly creepy and a prime example of the old fashioned “shocker” (what we know today as a thriller) as our hero, in typical shocker fashion, walks unwittingly into a frightening situation that has a quality of the hideous as some insidious plan begins to unfold and catches him in its web.

This Gothic feeling lingers as Ransom is rocketed (literally) into space and lands on an alien world. The suspense grows as Ransom is filled with both terror and entrancement, but then the fear gives away when he finally makes “first contact” with the peoples of this unknown world – and we are plunged into something that is not a nightmare – but more like a dream, for there is a slow dreamy quality to this novel that never lets up. The tone shifts gears into something fantastical and mythological in feel. Most authors, while portraying something bizarre, cannot do so without making it grotesque – but not C.S. Lewis. He makes the truly weird unsettling and irresistible, without ever being revolting. And Lewis does what few other writers can do. He makes PEACE exciting.

In a world where writers are enamored with sensationalism and rely on violence and chaos to create conflict and excitement – Lewis does what feels like the impossible. We are explorers in a new world, we are in a science fiction novel, we are in conflict with evil men, and yet it is all as peaceful as a reverie.

A Random Collection of Loving Notes: The world building is unique and, to my mind, left nothing to be desired – it is truly awful and wonderful, bizarre and enchanting. Admittedly, I have not read a lot of science fiction (not for lack of desire, let me assure you, but because of the lack of quality in the genre) and, to my mind, it felt different from anything I’ve read before. I utterly adored the creatures of this world – especially the otter-like hross. The focus on language and Ransom's attempt to learn the unique speech of this world was fascinating. I loved the angelic leader of the planet, Oyarsa, (the concept of angels overseeing over planets was a fascinating one) and Lewis’s vision of what angels might be like. Powerful, but not omnipresent. Holy, but not divine. Good, but not God. A Just leader, but not the Ultimate Judge or leader. Entrancing, but merely a kind of servant. I loved how Oyarsa ends up asking Ransom for his knowledge of the Silent Planet and the “great thing” that happened there. The scenes where Ransom is describing the coming of Christ the Angel are reminiscent to me of the Scripture. “Even the angels long to look into these matters.”

An Aside: This novel should not, in any way, lead us to the idea that C.S. Lewis believed in alien life. This is not history, this is not even hypothesis, this is science fiction. To assume upon reading this novel that C.S. Lewis believed in alien life demands the further assumption that Lewis must have believed in talking lions and magical wardrobes. We all write about things we don’t believe in to better describe the things we DO believe in. But, really, even if he did believe in aliens or evolution, this just goes to show that all humans (even brilliant ones) can err. That doesn’t make this novel any less good or powerful – let us not throw out the baby with the bath water. If he got one truth wrong, there are still plenty of other fulfilling truths to be gleaned from this novel for the discerning reader. What IS clear in this novel is the anti-humanist, anti-facist themes that are explored through the stories principal villain. As well as decrying the debasement of selfishness and cruelty that are represented in the animal- like Devine and the exhortation for a holier, more spiritual transformation for all mankind.

A Conclusion: As always there is a true sense of love in Lewis’s work that is often absent from other novelists. Not only an invitation to love Malacandra and its creatures, but to adore Love itself – the source of love.

There is a great deal of philosophical and theological depth that it is sometimes hard to take in all at once. It is the sort of book to be nibbled and slowly digested and gradually invited into the subconscious to be pondered on again and again. Like a set of Russian dolls, there are layers in this book that are well worth opening.

More than anything, and more than any other science fiction novel, this book made me think of what lays beyond for ME. There is a strange, new world to be explored in my future, full of things the mind cannot even conceive. The fuzzy concepts of this future world produces both fear and expectation. The feeling that I will one day be meeting the thing I have both longed for and avoided all my life. In this Malacandra, Lewis expostulates on what is in store for all who believe – but it is from another one of his works that he truly captures our feelings on the subject.

Suppose you were told there was a tiger in the next room: you would know that you were in danger and would probably feel fear. But if you were told "There is a ghost in the next room," and believed it, you would feel, indeed, what is often called fear, but of a different kind. It would not be based on the knowledge of danger, for no one is primarily afraid of what a ghost may do to him, but of the mere fact that it is a ghost. It is "uncanny" rather than dangerous, and the special kind of fear it excites may be called Dread. With the Uncanny one has reached the fringes of the Numinous. Now suppose that you were told simply "There is a mighty spirit in the room," and believed it. Your feelings would then be even less like the mere fear of danger: but the disturbance would be profound. You would feel wonder and a certain shrinking—a sense of inadequacy to cope with such a visitant and of prostration before it—an emotion which might be expressed in Shakespeare's words "Under it my genius is rebuked." This feeling may be described as awe, and the object which excites it as the Numinous.” - The Problem of Pain

Out of the Silent Planet raises the hair on the back of one’s neck, for it is a reflection, an echo, of that Numinous. I do, indeed, feel rebuked upon reading it, but also enamored. Fearful, but excited. Uncertain, yet longing for more. Lewis can ignite the spiritual core of a reader like no other I have ever read. Out of the Silent was truly a journey to another world and, also, to a deep corner of myself. As another reviewer said so adroitly: “You don’t review C.S. Lewis – he reviews you.”
Profile Image for Lee  (the Book Butcher).
255 reviews67 followers
May 20, 2021
I'm a bit embarrassed by how much i liked this. Out of the silent planet is more like pulp sci-fi and of course the theories are now recognized as bad science. I like the style C.S Lewis writes with, he tell you everything in a strait forward manner that has fallen out of favor with authors today. Really reminds me of Jules Verne. The Christian allegory of Narnia is upgraded to Christian theology and i thought it worked really well in the sci-fi genre. i found myself nodding along at those parts it made sense to me or at least seemed plausible from a Christian viewpoint.

C.S Lewis has a great imagination it's probably his best attribute. not sure if his writing style helps that or takes away from it. but he is able to tell you everything in his worlds even if he can't show you. this has a lot in common with the Narnia series talking beast, foreign worlds, sentient beings this time this world's "Aslan" gives you answers about the world. But like the Narnia series it takes to long to get there. I Kinda would like a narnia field guide. I understand story plot and what not but when your able to create such world sometime i just want to be in that world. Dr. Ransom is kidnaped by two scholarly gentlemen and taken to another planet as a presumed sacrifice. Ransom escapes his captors and finds everything on the planet agreeable. i was impressed by the was Lewis stuck to the theme of less gravity in creating his world good worldbuilding albeit bunk science. He is lead to the planets higher power or "aslan" this is the Christian theology bit that i liked. reminded me of Brave New World where john the savage talks to Mustafa Mund at the end. Ransom and his two companions are sent back to earth and the story ends with ransom having a beer. That's not really the end Lewis creates some intrigue with a letter from the real Dr. Ransom who name is disguised asking Lewis to tale his tale because his evil companions are at it again setting up a series with a battle of good v.s evil.

Christian sci-fi is not the genre for everyone but if you like the way the chronicles of Narnia are told maybe check this out!
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 3 books580 followers
September 25, 2022
(The 1989 read date for this book is approximate, not exact. That's often the case for books read pre-Goodreads. It's one that Barb and I read together, and she also liked it.)

Even today, nearly 60 years after his death, British literary scholar, Christian apologist and Anglican lay theologian C. S. Lewis is still well known, especially in Christian circles, but among general readers as well. An author of speculative fiction as well as of voluminous nonfiction, he's best known to genre fans for his Chronicles of Narnia fantasy series, written in the first instance for children. But he also appreciated the literary worth and possibilities of science fiction, and in that genre he wrote directly to adults. The three novels, starting with this one, bound together as a loose trilogy by the common protagonist, British philologist Dr. Elwyn Ransom (there are a couple of other characters from this book who appear in one or the other of the later two as well) were his main contributions to SF, though he wrote a few short stories in that vein as well.

Lewis had read some of the SF of his day, including the work of H. G. Wells, and understood its conventions. Space travel by means of rocketry was a staple idea in the genre by 1938, and Mars was a popular destination. Writers of that era, Lewis included, commonly imagined the Red Planet to be more hospitable to life than we now know it to be, so the kind of Martian physical environment he depicts would have been considered plausible at the time. His aliens (of which he depicts three very distinct and well-realized species here, with distinctive cultures) are genuinely alien, in the sense of very unlike humans physically. This gives his work more originality than that of many contemporary and earlier SF writers, who tended to picture the inhabitants of other worlds as essentially humans who just have a different address, but it isn't a unique feature; other writers of his generation and the preceding one, such as Wells and Stanley G. Weinbaum, has also depicted aliens who aren't anthropomorphic.

The really unique character of this novel, and of the Space Trilogy in general, though, lies in its fundamental conception, and its thought content/messages. Most British and American SF authors in the 1930s wrote from a secular-humanist, positivist, materialist and Darwinist standpoint, in which technophilic Science was the engine of Utopian "progress" for autonomous Mankind in its destined (by the "inevitable" ratchet of History) mission to dominate the planet, and eventually the galaxy. Earth's environment was to be conquered, re-engineered and exploited, by technological means, in this quest; similarly, the "less fit" races and cultures of Earth were to dominated and used (and if necessary, eliminated), in proper Darwinist fashion, by the American/European ruling class who happened to be the "fittest" embodiment of Mankind. The latter group's imperialist project here on Earth would furnish the proper model for galactic expansion when they were ready. Prof. Weston, the inventor of the clandestine spaceship in which he transports the kidnapped Ransom to Mars, and his buddy Devine are the spokespersons here for this view (though Devine is a lot less intellectual than Weston, and more interested in the gold that's abundant on Mars than he is in a grand program for conquering the galaxy.)

Their standpoint, though, isn't Ransom's, nor is it Lewis' view. As in all of his fiction, the Space Trilogy is underlain by a Christian worldview that's diametrically opposed to everything that Weston and Devine believe. Here (as events on Mars reveal), Mankind isn't the autonomous result of accidental evolution in a meaningless universe and the fashioner of its own destiny. Rather, it's the creation of a benevolent and omnipotent Creator who rules the universe, and accountable to Him --but in rebellion against Him, and Earth is known to its neighbors as the "Silent Planet" because its primordial fall into sin has rendered it the one planet that's out of communication with the unfallen universe. Mars, in contrast, is an unfallen world, and its three sentient species live in harmony with each other and their environment. While the book has an absorbing plot dealing with extra-terrestrial adventure and danger, it's also a novel of serious ideas, but set out in a dramatic fashion that's anything but boring.

While this novel would be particularly congenial to Christian fans of the genre, it was designed to intellectually engage non-Christian readers as well (or, at least, those who aren't philosophically opposed to intellectual engagement with ideas different from their own, lest they be seduced). I'd recommend it to science fiction fans in general, or to readers who want to explore the genre.
Profile Image for Djali ❀.
112 reviews99 followers
April 7, 2022
L’autore è sicuramente famoso grazie a Le Cronache di Narnia, ma è anche il padre di questo gioiellino.
Clive S. Lewis era un intimo amico di Tolkien (autore de Il signore degli anelli), Lontano dal pianeta silenzioso è frutto di una scommessa tra i due: Tolkien avrebbe dovuto scrivere una storia “lontana nel tempo”, Lewis una storia “lontana nello spazio”; così nasce il libro.
Se hai voglia di salire su una navicella per esplorare i segreti dello spazio, pur rimanendo seduto sul divano di casa tua, è certamente la lettura adatta; Lewis ha il potere di farti sognare a occhi aperti, ti sembrerà di avere tutte le stelle della galassia davanti mentre stai fissando il soffitto di camera tua.
Profile Image for Edith.
1 review
December 31, 2008
I read this book and its companion volumes--Perelandra and That Hideous Strength--sometime after college, which must have been in the early eighties. I have re-read all three books numerous times since then.

The books show Lewis' deep love of and knowledge of European literature and languages. I stand in awe of his ability to bring together elements of Scandinavian and Celtic and Greek and Roman and English literature to create a universe that can hold the galaxy-spanning intellects of the eldila and the very physical, in-the-moment instincts of tame bears and all the people and creatures inbetween.

Lewis obviously wrote out of a particular time and culture, and some aspects of his trilogy are "dated." But the books have held up for me over the years. They are very familiar and yet new every time.

Though it took me a long time to actually get into and through That Hideous Strength, I think it is my favorite of the trilogy. I marvel each time I read it at his ability to create a well-rounded and sympathetic character in Jane Studdock, and I cry every time I read about the eldila descending to Earth (the passage evokes some pretty big, solemn, awe-filled feelings).

Some people don't like C. S. Lewis, his way of writing, or what he stands for. Too sad for them. What grandeur, what humor, and what good writing they are missing.
Profile Image for Terry .
394 reviews2,146 followers
October 11, 2013
3.5 stars

_Out of the Silent Planet_ is the start of C. S. Lewis’ ‘Space Trilogy’ a series that, for me at least, comprises his best works of fiction. I’ve never been much of a fan of the Narnia books and Till We Have Faces fell totally flat for me so aside from his purely academic texts this is generally the series I go to when I want to read Lewis. In a nutshell the Space Trilogy documents the adventures of academic and philologist Elwin Ransom as he finds himself embroiled in events of cosmic significance. There is definitely a heavy influence from some of Lewis’ fellow Inklings in these works (specifically Tolkien and Charles Williams). The former is not surprising given the story that these books came about from a discussion Tolkien and Lewis had about the need to write ‘the kind of stories they liked’ in which they would describe a world in which what we view as fanciful myth actually has objective reality; it was agreed that they would each take a different perspective from which to view this: the former would tackle time-travel and the latter space-travel. In the end Tolkien never produced his story (or not in full anyway, a fragment of the story can be found in The Lost Road and Other Writings), but Lewis produced first _Out of the Silent Planet_ and then the rest of the trilogy as a result. The character of Ransom himself (esp. as a philologist) also seems like it may have been based on Tolkien to some extent (certainly that appears to have been Tolkien’s suspicion). As to William’s influence, that is much more obvious in the later volumes so doesn’t bear much discussion here, but the fact that as these grew they became more and more like the ‘spiritual thrillers’ that Williams was famous for (and also ended up drawing heavily on the Arthurian mythos of which Williams was enamoured) makes the link obvious enough.

Given the publication date this could be considered ‘classic SF’, though I have to admit that there are ways in which this novel seems to contravene many of the assumptions of sci-fi as a genre, and often the series veers much more into territory most would consider more related to fantasy than SF (though I’d be the first to admit that any clear-cut distinctions between the two genres are always a topic of hot debate). When it comes to old-school sci-fi I often find myself completely thrown out of the book when I come across scientific or engineering ideas that even I (in my relative ignorance) know to be dated or silly, but I never had the same feeling with this book despite its significant departure from ‘real’ science. Instead I was further engaged since the very cosmology of the tale is based on a self-conscious conceit of the author’s that I find intriguing: what if the classical/medieval model of the universe were true instead of the one that modern science had posited? What if instead of the dead, dark vacuum of empty space we instead had ‘the Heavens’ populated by numerous non-physical entities which swam in a stellar light of incomparable beauty and perfection? What if some of these intelligences further had authority over the planets in the solar system and were themselves the seed for the ancient myths that humanity invented when they talked about gods and angels? (See Lewis’ excellent overview of ancient and medieval cosmology in The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature for a fuller picture of the kind of universe he is positing.) and we thus end up with something that is as much alternate history as it is sci-fi. Given certain thematic elements of the story some might even view it as something akin to anti-sci-fi, for while the journey through space and meeting with extra-terrestrial intelligences are no less thrilling or composed of sensawunda than might be expected of any other sci-fi tale, the message is pretty much the opposite to what we would normally expect: space travel and other worlds are not for us, due not only to physical, but moral restrictions.

This interest in not only positing an alternate cosmology for the universe, but in the ethical considerations of space travel and their relations to an underlying moral framework in creation points out another primary aspect of the story: while there are certainly moments of action and real (or perceived) danger in the tale, it is primarily a story of philosophical, rather than physical, adventure. It is about discovering a whole new (or wholly different) worldview from what one had assumed was the truth. Ransom’s adventures on Malacandra (the inhabitants' name for Mars) all lead him to the final ‘show-down’ which proves to be an audience with the angelic patron of the planet where Ransom’s linguistic abilities allow him to stand-in as translator for the other humans who see Malacandra as merely a stepping stone in man’s continued greatness and evolution into the stars. It sounds boring, but actually provides a fair bit of humour as we see Ransom struggling with the challenge of expressing some of the more outré elements of his companion’s philosophy in a way that will make sense to the Malacandrians. Overall I think that Lewis really shines in building an intriguing vision of Mars and the strange creatures that inhabit it and tying it to a fast moving and interesting story. His cosmic history of the solar system that draws on human beliefs (both pagan and Christian) meshes well with his medieval/classical cosmology and enough details are drawn into the story to flesh things out with colour, but are few enough to not bog things down in irrelevant or excessive details. You might not agree with all of the ideas that Lewis presents here as regards the underpinnings of the universe, but he definitely presents them in an intriguing and entertaining way. Not the best in the series, but a good introduction nonetheless.
Profile Image for Celeste.
904 reviews2,339 followers
September 21, 2018
How many times have I started this book only to flounder within the first chapter or two? Honestly, too many to count. This trilogy is one of the very few things written by C.S. Lewis that I have never read. He’s one of my favorite authors of all time, so I want to read everything in his canon. But there is just something about this tiny book that has defeated me time and time again. Seriously, it’s less than two hundred pages. I have read some gigantic books, so something this teensy should not be able to best me.

However, I have finally, finally, vanquished it from my TBR shelf. It proved to be just as difficult as I feared, but it was also rewarding. Lewis’s writing style in this series just feels so bizarre to me for some reason. It doesn’t feel like him, at least at first. If I was to pick up a coverless copy of this book and have no idea who penned it, I would insist that it was some lost work penned by H.G. Wells. The style and tone and word choices all screamed Wells to me.

Once I finally got past the cognitive dissonance and accepted that Lewis had indeed written this book, I began to appreciate the story itself. There is so much philosophical and theological depth that it is sometimes hard to keep your mind afloat as you read, but it is so worth the work put into reading it, in my opinion. Imagine if there were actually other planets in our solar system that were populated by other intelligent races. Now, imagine that all of these planets except one were governed by angelic beings following the orders of a divine Creator. And then, imagine if that one ungoverned planet, called by others “the silent planet,” was ours. There were so many fascinating premises laid out in this short book, some of which I expect to mull over for months to come.

While the philosophical aspects were the standout elements for me, Lewis also did a wonderful job on his creation of alien races and landscapes. The pictures he painted of the different peoples residing elsewhere in the solar system were detailed and crystal clear and easy to visualize. This is something I have struggled with in the past when reading science fiction, but it was never a struggle here. I could easily see this alien world and how it must look to the first humans stepping onto its surface.

While I enjoyed the book, I did struggle with the prose periodically. It felt far more antiquated than I expected from Lewis, but I feel like that was part of the point. There were times when I almost felt like this was assigned reading for a college course instead of being simply a novel to read and enjoy. I also feel that it is a book that will be more enjoyable with each rereading. It undoubtedly is a book worth reading; just make sure you’re in the mood for something very academic before picking it up.
Profile Image for Michael.
55 reviews15 followers
July 24, 2011
CS Lewis once wrote a poem entitled “An Expostulation: Against Too Many Writers of Science Fiction”. In it, he complains that science fiction writers transport us light-years away, only to give us “the same old stuff we left behind...stories of crooks, spies, conspirators, or love.” He then asks why he should leave the Earth unless “outside its guarded gates, long, long desired, the Unearthly waits.” It’s easy to see his point. Most of the science fiction written during his lifetime were twice-told tales set on rocket ships with ray-guns instead of revolvers. Lewis was looking for something that was truly unique, something never before captured in a work of science fiction; the genuinely alien. Though I have no proof of this, it strikes me that, since he could not find anything that fit the bill, he decided to go ahead and write it himself. “Out of the Silent Planet” is the result.

Though not science fiction in the strictest sense (there is no hard science to be found in Lewis’ Space Trilogy), “Out of the Silent Planet” certainly qualifies as science fantasy, and is one of the best examples of the genre. Its protagonist is Dr. Elwin Ransom, a philologist and Cambridge professor. While alone on a hiking tour through England, Ransom is kidnapped by two men, Richard Devine and Professor Edward Weston. Weston, a physicist, has invented and built a spaceship, and together with Devine they force Ransom to join them on a trip through space to a planet they call Malacandra. During the long voyage, Ransom deduces from the conversations of the other two men that the planet to which they travel is inhabited, and that he is being taken there to be offered up as a sacrifice of some sort. Though not the typical SF hero, Ransom has no intention of being offered up without some sort of resistance, and shortly after touching down on the new planet’s surface he is able to evade his captors and effect an escape.

This is where Lewis’ imagination takes flight. Ransom encounters flora and fauna that bear no relationship whatsoever to anything Earthly. At first it is a tremendous shock; the world is so alien that Ransom literally does not know what he is looking at. He is like an infant, newborn from the womb of space. He possesses all of the faculties of a grown man, but like a baby he has no vocabulary for what he sees around him. The world is new. There is vegetation, he sees creatures that move on four legs, others that swim in the waters, but has no categories in his mind in which to hold any of them. In spite of his peril, all that he beholds is beautiful and wondrous. Lewis does an amazing job of capturing the sense of awe that Ransom feels as he learns more about the new world he has crossed space to enter.

Eventually, and quite by accident, Ransom stumbles upon an intelligent alien. Though surprised by each others appearance, they do not fly, and Ransom’s contact with sentient life on Malacandra begins. It is a meeting like few in science fiction. The two beings recognize each other as alien, but intelligent, and proceed from there. There is no malice, no suspicion, no hostility, only curiosity and hospitality. Ransom is taken in by the alien, a Hross named Hyoi, and, given that Weston and Devine are not likely to take him back to Earth, settles in for what appears to be a long stay.

His training as a philologist serves him well and it is not long before he is able to converse with the Hrossa, a water-loving race who bear a faint resemblance to giant otters. As he learns more about them, he discovers that their society is completely unlike any on Earth, which of course addresses the complaint of Lewis about SF authors. The Hrossa, and the other sentient races on Malacandra, live in a state of innocence, untouched by the fall of man. Evil does not exist there. There is no crime, no war, no injustice. The three sentient races who populate Malacandra live in peaceful, amicable co-existence. At the same time, it is not some dry, sterile, idyllic utopia. Malacandra is a rich world with a complex past and an unsettling future that its inhabitants seem to accept without fear. The more Ransom discovers about Malacandra, the more we discover how thoughtful an author Lewis was. He never violates the internal logic of his setting. The whole hangs together as neatly as if the place were real and the reader is drawn in and invited to love Malacandra as much as any reader loved Narnia or Middle-Earth.

But “Out of the Silent Planet” is far more than an alien travelogue. Sadly, Weston and Devine do not give up on finding Ransom. He is found, blood is spilled, and the innocence of Malacandra, though not spoiled, is deeply shaken. When this happens, it begins to look like Lewis will fail to achieve his goal after all and the book will turn out to be nothing more than a sermon on how civilized man corrupts the noble savage. Nothing could be further from the truth. The end of “Out of the Silent Planet” is as surprising as everything that has gone before and sets the stage for even greater delights to be found in the second book of the trilogy, “Perelandra”.

“Out of the Silent Planet” is easily one of the most beautiful books I have ever read. Lewis successfully creates the appearance of a world that is not fallen. In it, he explores numerous themes that only another book could analyze fully. It is a meditation on what alien intelligences might truly be like, particularly if they are not affected by the fall of man. It is an homage to and working out of medieval cosmology and natural philosophy. It is an exploration of language and its original source. It is a critique of modern science divorced from a moral compass. And yes, given that Lewis was a devout Christian, it is a deeply spiritual work. Hopefully, that last point will not discourage any from reading “Out of the Silent Planet”. It contributes more to the excellence of the whole than can be imagined. One could no more remove Lewis’ Christianity from his work and retain its genius than Bunyan’s from “Pilgrim’s Progress” or Milton’s from “Paradise Lost”. I highly recommend it to all.
Profile Image for Sharon Barrow Wilfong.
1,117 reviews3,942 followers
August 21, 2017
Around the turn of the last century and a little before, a number of 19th century writers turned their hand to a brand new genre. Nowadays we call it Steampunk, which is just a hipster name for Science Fiction written during the late Victorian and pre WWI years.

Most of them painted a bleakish picture of our future. Maybe they were afraid of change or had a pessimistic view of man's ability to rein in the technological age the industrial age was ushering in. There were many unknown factors. Would the power received from all sorts of wonderful inventions make life easier for the general populace? Or would it make it easier for power mongers to destroy the world as it was known and create an enslaved class of proportions never before seen in the history of mankind?

H.G. Wells is our best known Science Fiction writer of the time and he certainly expressed in stark descriptions the sort of world we would all be living in if man learned how to become invisible or create giants or time travel.

Even E.M. Forster provides a provocative possibility in his short story "The Machine Stops" of how alienated humans could become to each other thanks to modern inventions "taking care" of our every need.

As much as I enjoy Wells, Forster, and as well as any number of Steampunk authors, the fact is none of them inspire hope. The landscape is gray, desolate and godless.

Which brings me to why I love C.S. Lewis's Science Fiction trilogy so, so much.

Lewis has the ability to give the reader a clear-sighted view of man's heart (which is desperately wicked) while showing that there is a Power higher than that desperate wickedness that is ultimately going to triumph.

As a result, one finishes Lewis' Science Fiction heartened, encouraged, and ironically feeling greater love for humankind and hope for the future and the human race, at least a portion of us. Some of Lewis characters willfully rush towards eternal destruction.

Out of the Silent Planet is the first book in a trilogy. I have read the first and last and will soon start on the middle. There is a reason I read it out of order that I won't get in here, but this is the third time reading it so it doesn't really matter.

Our hero is Dr. Elwin Ransom, and the inset of the dustcover informs us that Lewis based this memorable character after his dear friend J.R.R. Tolkien.

Ransom is a philologist. Like Lewis and Tolkien were fond of doing, Ransom is on a walking tour through the countryside. Soon he is tired, hungry, and hopelessly lost. He approaches a house where he hopes for a little hospitality.

What he finds there, to his surprise, is an old schoolmate named Devine, the least favorite of his old schoolmates and with good reason as we'll see, and another man, Weston, who turns out to be a megalomaniac scientist. Of course Ransom doesn't initially know Weston is megalomaniac but he soon discovers it as he realizes the two man have nefarious plans for him.

Those plans consist of kidnapping him and taking him to another planet. The planet is called Malacandra and I won't tell you which planet that is so as not to ruin the surprise.

I also won't tell you too much of Ransom's adventures there for the same reason. However, being Lewis, the creatures are of such a sort as to inspire awe, fear, dread and respect and also love.

There are certain beings that exist there that are unknown to humans but actually exist on Earth as well. Because of humankind's fallen nature and the "bent" Oyarsa that rules the planet, these beings are invisible to the human eye. Man's corrupted eye cannot see them although originally they were supposed to.

Ransom learns all of this while he is on Malacandra after talking with the Oyarsa of the planet, but we meet him only later in the novel. We first meet the physical beings that Ransom can see and gets to know.

Eventually, Ransom discovers why Devine and Weston have brought him to Malacandra. But even they do not realize that they are merely tools unwittingly carrying out the evil intent of Earth's bent Oyarsa.

This final revelation is a prelude to the second and third novels in the trilogy.

This story is adventurous and suspenseful but most of all, it inspires the reader to care about all of the characters, even the bent humans, because Lewis is able to project his own unconditional love onto each person, terrestrial and extraterrestrial, and in turn make them lovable to us.

Profile Image for Clint Hall.
162 reviews4 followers
June 18, 2022
Have you ever moved to a different city/state/province/country and felt a little trepidation? Your family will be left behind, your friends, too. You won't have your favourite restaurant anymore, your favourite hang-out spot is back there, too. How will you make new friends? Will you make new friends? Must you try out every new restaurant in town to find a favourite? I'm sure there are more things to consider as well, but the point is going on a new adventure like leaving the safety and comfort of your old home can give you a nervous tic.

Now turn that new city/state/province/country into an entire planet. You have many more things to worry about than hang-outs and new friends. Such as, will you be able to breathe? Is this a one-way trip, etc. These early pulp sci-fis I read tend to slide right past that trepidation, jumping straight to the main character weaving his way into an alien society and excelling in battle and life in general. And maybe that was the moral of those stories: deal with your situation and don't be so neurotic. But not with this one. The main character in 'Out of the Silent Planet' has nothing short of a panic attack on his way to another world. Finally, someone I can identify with!

The book has a tonne of imagination, and well defined prose. C.S. Lewis is obviously not known for this series, but takes a nice stab at the genre. Aside from Ransom, the main character, the cast isn't really anything special. Ransom moves from place to place doing this and that, but it didn't really capture my attention. Cured my insomnia, though.

The final chapter is very strange. It feels like the writer had a bunch of notes that he forgot to sprinkle about, so he just dumped them all on you like Christmas letters to Santa.

The book didn't work for me. I wouldn't really recommend it, as the whole panic attack thing happens in the first act and that was all I liked. That being said, the sequel sounds like it's more in my wheelhouse. I'll take another adventure with C.S. Lewis, but will it be to Perelandra, or the Wardrobe?
Profile Image for kellyn.
78 reviews11 followers
June 13, 2013
I read this first about 7 or 8 years ago, but found it difficult to get through. This time it was over too soon-I felt like I was on Malacandra myself and feel like I experienced everything that went on as much as Ransom, the main character in the book. Lewis explores philosophical questions that if not discussed in the context of another species' existence would strike me as really basic; by discussing these questions in the setting of another world, he refreshes them and has insights that we often miss. I really enjoyed it and think it will become part of my 'book consciousness'. (one of the books I often re-read throughout the year)

A discussion between Ransom and a creature of Malacandra by the name of Hyoi, that began with Ransom asking if the three main races of Malacandra ever fight, then Ransom must explain about warring peoples of the Earth and how they fight over resources.

"If both wanted one thing and neither would give it," said Ransom, "would the other at last come with force? Would they say, five it or we kill you?"-Ransom
"What sort of thing?"-Hyoi
"Well-foor, perhaps."-Ransom
"If the other 'hnau' wanted food, why should we not give it to them? We often do."-Hyoi
"But how if we had not enough for ourselves?"-Ransom
"But Maleldil will not stop the plants growing."-Hyoi
"Hyoi, if you had more and more young, would Maleldil broaden the 'handramit' and make enough plants for them all?"-Ransom
"But why should we have more young, 'Ren-soom'?"-Hyoi
"Is the begetting of young not a pleasure among the 'hrossa'?"-Ransom
"A very great one, 'Hman'. This is what we call love."-Hyoi
"If a thing is a pleasure, a 'hman' wants it again. He might want the pleasure more often than the number of young that could be fed."-Ransom
"You mean," said Hyoi slowly, "that he might do it not only in one or two years of his life but again?"
"But why? Would he want his dinner all day or want to sleep after he had slept? I do not understand."

And so the dialogue goes. It's so great!
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11k followers
April 27, 2010
3.5 stars. First book in the classic "Space Trilogy" by C. S. Lewis. Much like the Chronicles of Narnia, this story has a very "Christian" feel to it and deals with the nature of the universe, the struggle of good and evil and the status of "Earth" as "The Silent Planet." Well written, entertaining and thought provoking.

Profile Image for Howard.
1,174 reviews73 followers
September 16, 2021
3.5 Stars for Out of the Silent Planet: Cosmic Trilogy, Book 1 (audiobook) by C. S. Lewis read by Ralph Cosham.

I enjoyed this early science fiction story. It was interesting to see a 1930’s British take on science fiction. I find it fascinating to see where author’s minds go when they can make up their own worlds. I think it gives a lot of insight into what is important to the author.
Profile Image for Julie Davis.
Author 4 books265 followers
July 3, 2019
Good Story 202. Julie and Scott were kidnapped and are now on a spaceship headed for Mars. Julie misses all of humanity. Scott just wants a cheeseburger.

The library had the audio for this and recalling how audio has helped me through other books which left me cold in print (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, for example) ... and also knowing how many people have urged me to read this trilogy ... I am attempting it for the third time.

All this is to say that I am 36 minutes in and for a second I almost forgot what I was listening to, because I felt as if C.S. Lewis were telling me about John Carter of Mars (another book I've never been able to get very far with). I've gotten far enough in that (many times) to know about the travel to a different planet disorientation.

That's further than I've ever gotten before, so onward and upward!

It turns out that this is my final book finished for 2013.

If I could give this 3-1/2 stars I would, but I am going to err on the side of generosity because I feel that rereading this will open the book up even more for me.

Thanks goodness for the audio version or I'd never have made it. As it was I went in and out of being interested in the story, primarily because I was much more interested in the world development and exploration than in Ransom's dealings with his fellow Earthmen. The scientist's final letter to the author really caught my attention. In particular, his comments about death among the Hrossa were mind-blowing in their implications about our own life here on fallen Earth. I also really liked the use for "bent" instead of "evil," showing just how we are turned from what we were meant to be.

I will definitely be listening to the next book, Perelandra.
Profile Image for Natalie Vellacott.
Author 18 books858 followers
January 13, 2020
They were astonished at what he had to tell them of human history—of war, slavery and prostitution.
"It is because they have no Oyarsa," said one of the pupils.
"It is because every one of them wants to be a little Oyarsa himself," said Augray.
"They cannot help it," said the old sorn. "There must be rule, yet how can creatures rule themselves? Beasts must be ruled by hnau and hnau by eldila and eldila by Maleldil.”

Honestly, at the end of this audio-book by the much loved C. S. Lewis, I found myself on Wikipedia looking up the plot summary! I didn't get it at all.

As a general sci-fi story, it was basic and pretty boring. One man gets kidnapped by two others and taken to an alien planet in a space ship. Their plan is to give him as a sacrifice to the aliens. However, he escapes and bonds with the aliens in a way that neither of his captors are able to. The three then come together again and are expelled from the planet by a god-like creature named Oyarsa. The man then tries to make sense of his experiences...

If there is some religious significance to this tale, it is extremely vague and perhaps even misleading. The idea presented is that if you worship the divine power that has been placed to rule over you, things will go well for you. If you don't, things will go badly...this is prosperity gospel of the worst order. The religious underpinnings are really difficult to spot and I'm not sure that anyone would get them unless they are really searching...and even then it's questionable...hence my recourse to Wikipedia.

Maybe my expectations were too high but I ended this feeling totally confused.....there is also some blasphemy in this which is disappointing to say the least.

P.S. This link may help with the Christian themes that I couldn't detect.... https://www.litcharts.com/lit/out-of-...
Profile Image for Gabi.
693 reviews120 followers
April 16, 2020
This was a lot better than I expected.

It starts with a bit of H. G. Wells' "The First Men in the Moon" feeling (which Lewis concedes to in his introduction) and since I had fun with that book I was preparing myself for a similar reading experience. And, indeed, the 'scientific' approach was as lovely naive here as well. I just adore the imaginations of strange new worlds and aliens within the solar system. It's the stuff my childhood was made of.

But once the unlikely Earth astronauts reach their destination Lewis dives into a vivid description of alien life and geography. The path the mc Ransom takes and the beings he encounters on his journey were rendered so detailed that I completely forgot about my initial patronising smiles. His dialogues are smart and his philosophical musings made me nod my head rather frequently. Lewis created a society of different races living side by side and completing each other that represented a convincing counterdraft to human society.

I haven't been brought up as a Christian so I most certainly missed some of his obvious Christian allegories. But his view works on a pure philosophical basis just as well and feels just as satisfying.
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,811 followers
November 23, 2010
Fantastic trilogy.

Here we get to meet Ransom and follow him on a trip to "Mars". Lewis sets up an allegorical story (somewhat heavily influenced by his classical education it must be admitted.) A thought provoking work. His picture of "God" (and the angelic beings) brought to mind (for me) somewhat, the "picture" painted in The Silmarillion by J.R.R.Tolkien (maybe that shouldn't be that surprising as they were friends and read their work to each other also discussing it with each other as well as the other Inklings). This is an exceptional book and without giving "spoilers", Lewis's word pictures, his universe (multiverse ?) building and story are amazing. The explanation of the title and what it portends is in itself inspired.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Douglas Wilson.
Author 279 books3,523 followers
June 3, 2009
Just a lot of fun. Dated, as all early science fiction tends to be, but Lewis overcomes all of that. Also read in December of 1989. Also read in December of 1984. Also read in June of 1980.
Profile Image for Wreade1872.
688 reviews140 followers
October 20, 2020
Edit 20/10/2020: According to wiki there's a note at the start i never read "Certain slighting references to earlier stories of this type which will be found in the following pages have been put there for purely dramatic purposes. The author would be sorry if any reader supposed he was too stupid to have enjoyed Mr. H. G. Wells's fantasies or too ungrateful to acknowledge his debt to them." end of edit.

So this is Lewis's knockoff and attack on H.G. Wells novel 'The First Men in the Moon'. Its also basically Narnia in space but with even less happening. A sort of dry utopian story with religious allegory. I could have easily given it 2 stars but wanted to differentiate it from some even worse books like A Journey in Other Worlds .

Most of the fun comes from comparing it to First Men in the Moon so i;m not sure how much those who havn't read that book will get. For example, 'First Men' has two protagonists, , wow subtle :P . It also does the rather pointless postscript which 'First Men' also used (although the latter doesn't call it a postscript but it certainly feels like one) .

I'm not sure what the main idea was that this book was trying to convey perhaps it was , or that , or that , or that , all of which seem pretty stupid ideas. On the other hand if the whole thing is an indictment of colonialism then it works quite well :D .

There is some good stuff here i especially like a view on how something you experience is built into you for the rest of your life, although that also seemed like a allegory Lewis could use to avoid having sex with his wife again ;) .

Short and not badly written, although it certainly feels like it ripped off the writing style of Wells not just the plot, very 1890's rather than 1930's.

Edit: Changed it to 2 stars, it may not be worthless but reading it is still pretty pointless.
Profile Image for Erin Clemence.
1,052 reviews312 followers
May 11, 2020
Quarantine has served one useful purpose- introducing me to books that I may have overlooked before. Now, I am a huge fan of C.S Lewis and his Narnia books have left an indelible mark on my reader soul. I know he had written other novels, and when I got the chance to pick up “Out of the Silent Planet”, his first novel in his “Space Trilogy”, I was over the moon (no pun intended).

In performing a good deed, Ransom is abducted by two scientists, who admit they are bringing him to another planet to use him as a human sacrifice. Once they arrive on the planet Malacandra, Ransom is able to escape his captors. Soon he is living among strange extra-terrestrial creatures in a strange, yet beautiful world.

As is usual in Lewis’ works, “Silent Planet” is beautifully told, amidst exquisite settings and strange, anthropomorphic creatures, but there is always an undercurrent of deeper meaning. Like “The Chronicles of Narnia”, on the surface “Planet” tells one story, but underneath, it tells another.

Ransom is a typical man, who is merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, and by saving the life of another, he is soon in grave danger. But is he in worse danger among his human traveling companions or among the strange creatures on Malacandra?

This novel will stick in your head. It is thought provoking in the way that only Lewis can be, leaving you questioning your behaviour, attitudes and even your humanity.

I am excited to see how Random’s journey continues in the following novels in this series. “The Silent Planet” just reinforces my belief that Lewis is an incomparable writer whose creativity is beyond his time.
Profile Image for Jenny.
919 reviews89 followers
January 24, 2019
Original review: 2014
The only thing I've read by C.S. Lewis until now is the Narnia Chronicles. I love them. They are some of my favorite books and some of my favorite stories. Lewis is part of my childhood and an author that I always think fondly of. I didn't know he had written a Space Trilogy. The only other books I'd heard that he wrote are his nonfiction works. Discovering this in the used bookstore and realizing that it happened to be the first Space book by him made me happy.
I really enjoyed the story of OOTSP. Ransom is a good character and well-developed, and I like the metafictional frame narrative, including Lewis as a character. The descriptions of Malacandria (Mars) are beautiful as are Ransom's observations of and experiences with the Malacandrians, particularly the hrossi.
Sometimes, the story moved a little too slowly, and that's the only reason I gave this four stars instead of five. I think Lewis's style is more suited to children's books, at least when it comes to fiction. I would still recommend this book, though, because the themes and the descriptions are beautiful, even though the plotline isn't very unique at this point. Still, the book is short enough that it doesn't matter much.
Just a word on this edition: the copy editing is terrible, and the back of the book even states that Ransom "is abducted by aliens and taken via spaceship to the red planet of Malacandria." But Ransom is abducted by Weston and Devine, two earthly men. I don't understand how the editors and publishers could let such a mistake slide on a book described on their cover as "First in the celebrated Space Trilogy." Have some more respect for a celebrated book by a celebrated author!
It's so weird to see my original thoughts on this book because I feel very differently about it this time around. For one, I read it aloud to my dad this time, and that changed my perspective substantially. For another, I've read more between readings, of course, and I've specifically read more fantasy and a little science fiction that has given me a broader scope of this type of writing.

Now, one of my biggest impressions is that C.S. Lewis reminds me of Madeleine L'Engle here, a correlation I didn't make the first time, somehow. He's writing about science in a very faith-based way, which is interesting. Lewis, unlike L'Engle, though, definitely comments indirectly on the dangers of becoming all about science and losing some sort of faith or humanity. Another impression is that Lewis tucked in a lot of postcolonial perspective between his cosmology and science and other major (and more predominant) themes. There's definitely a commentary on the "white man's burden" type of thinking and about the dangers of looking at another race as less than yours just because its people look different. There's a commentary on intelligence, the different kinds of "civilization" there can be and how our "triumphs" don't necessarily make us advanced. Also, language is very important, and the arrogance of thinking it can be said best your way is definitely critiqued. The other dominant impression I had this time is that Ransom gets to explore Malacandra. It's all about discovery. It's about opening your mind and being able to see from a different perspective and what you can learn when you do. The best scene of this type, I think, is when Ransom sees Weston and Devine for the first time on Malacandra since he ran away from them, and he doesn't know what they are, but they're small and wrinkly and ugly. And then, he realizes that's how Malacandrians see humans. Of course, another great moment of perspective is when Ransom sees the earth from the outside in and realizes how seemingly insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things.

Finally, this book is not as well-written as I seemed to think the first time I read it. Lewis is an excellent writer of children's fiction and probably of nonfiction. For some reason, his style in this book doesn't work for me. It's earlier than the Narnia Chronicles, but it's also trying too hard. He obscures a lot of gaps in his knowledge of science and space by blurring the descriptions a bit and skipping over things and making excuses because Ransom wouldn't understand something as a philologist. He also does cheap tricks like including a Postscript where Ransom criticizes Lewis for not doing this or that in the writing, sort of Lewis telling the reader to excuse him for not being 100% accurate, but he's getting the story secondhand. What I liked as "meta" the first time I now see as necessary to disguise gaps. Sort of like plastering over a hole. The hole is obscured, but you can see the plaster.

That being said (the "finally" was a lie, I guess), I'm sticking to my rating and my shelving of this as a favorite because of the ideas and the beauty of the imagery and the philosophy behind this story. It really reminds me of A Wrinkle in Time in that L'Engle's views are clear through her conception of space. Her joy in the divine shows through her descriptions of the universe. Lewis is the same way. He reveals his wonder through Ransom's delight. He also includes evocative pictures of open space (though I question the physics), and the climax of the novel when Hyoi dies and Ransom speaks with Oyarsa and finds out all the truth is a wonderfully shaped essay clothed in fiction about Lewis's conception of the universe.

I'm not doing the book justice, really. I recommend this novel to people who will appreciate a Christian's view of space through a science fiction novel, light on the science, and who can overlook the flaws and appreciate the strengths. You might have to be a true Lewis fan to do so, but you might not have to be one. You might turn into one after reading this. And if this is the first Lewis book you read, hopefully, it'll lead you to his Narnia Chronicles, which are beautifully written works of genius.
Profile Image for Kat  Hooper.
1,582 reviews398 followers
September 19, 2012
Originally posted at FanLit.

You probably know that C.S. Lewis was a Christian apologist who wrote many popular books — both fiction and nonfiction — which explain or defend the Christian faith. His most famous work, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, some of the most-loved stories in all of fantasy fiction and children’s literature, is clearly Christian allegory. Likewise, his science fiction SPACE TRILOGY can be read as allegory, though it’s subtle enough to be enjoyed by those who don’t appreciate allegorical stories and just want to read a thoughtful science fiction adventure with an intelligent hero.

In Out of the Silent Planet, the first book in the trilogy, Dr. Elwin Ransom, a Cambridge philology professor, is kidnapped and taken by spaceship to Mars, which is called Malacandra by the alien species that live there. Suspecting that he’s about to be offered as a sacrifice, Ransom escapes from his captors and must survive by himself on the strange planet. There, he is enchanted by the beautifully foreign scenery, meets aliens who are nothing like humans, learns about the origin of the species on Malacandra and Earth and, finally, morosely reflects on the fallen nature of mankind.

I liked everything about Out of the Silent Planet — the descriptions of the spherical space ship and the planet of Malacandra, the idea that space is full and living instead of empty and dead, the development of Ransom from a conservative college professor to a daring space traveler, the interesting metaphysics and the ideas about the perception of light and movement, the allegorical explanation of humanity’s greed and selfishness which suggests a spiritual origin for social Darwinism. Best of all was Ransom’s translation of one of his captor’s speeches about human destiny for aliens who previously had no concept of human ambition and aggression.
It’s easy to see that C.S. Lewis loved language, mythology and knowledge, and that he was ashamed of much human behavior. The Christian allegory is easy to see, too, if you’re willing, but discussing that here would require spoilers and remove all the mystery, so I will leave that for you to discover.

Out of the Silent Planet was written in 1938, long before we knew enough about Mars to realize that Lewis’s story is impossible. However, Lewis did his best with the knowledge he had, settling his Martians in the trench-like canals and leaving the surface dead. Generally, the story doesn’t feel as old as it is.

I listened to Blackstone Audio’s version, 5½ hours long, which was read by Geoffrey Howard who I liked very much. I look forward to listening to him read the next book in the SPACE TRILOGY, Perelandra.
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