Allison Tebo's Reviews > Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
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bookshelves: science-fiction, v

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 the 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 are well worth opening.

More than anything, and more than any over 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.”
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Reading Progress

February 11, 2019 – Shelved
February 11, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
February 11, 2019 – Shelved as: science-fiction
April 4, 2019 – Started Reading
April 4, 2019 –
page 10
4.46% "Intrigued, charmed and creeped out in the space of a mere chapter."
April 5, 2019 –
page 50
22.32% "??????



"
April 7, 2019 –
page 70
31.25% "They're like otters! <3


"
April 8, 2019 –
page 122
54.46% "???????


*inconsolable wail of pain*"
April 18, 2019 – Finished Reading
May 15, 2019 – Shelved as: v

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by R.F. Gammon (new)

R.F. Gammon Eagerly awaiting your review ^_^


Elizabeth Dragina Same. Also, awaiting to read Perlandra with you!! =)


message 3: by Els (new) - rated it 5 stars

Els AHH I KNOW


message 4: by Karis (new)

Karis Ooooh! #excited

I'm so curious to hear your thoughts on this one!


Allison Tebo Elizabeth / Els - would you be ready, say, next Monday to begin?

Karis / R.F. - ahhh - hopefully soonish. :)


Elizabeth Dragina Sounds like a good time for me!! I can start Monday. :P


message 7: by Els (new) - rated it 5 stars

Els Allison wrote: "Elizabeth / Els - would you be ready, say, next Monday to begin?

Karis / R.F. - ahhh - hopefully soonish. :)"


Sure! :)


Allison Tebo *collapses* My wholly inadequate review has been posted - basically me saying I CAN'T review this - LOL.


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