Mere Christianity. The Chronicles of Narnia. The Great Divorce. The Screwtape Letters. The Weight of Glory. The Problem of Pain. A Grief Observed. The Abolition of Man. Outside of his memoir Surprised by Joy, every book that I have read by C.S. Lewis has been outstanding. His fantasy is a classic of the genre and it is recommended one reads Narnia at various stages of life to get the full effect, his essays are excellent, Mere Christianity is one of the more important and influential books in modern Christianity. Why, then, did I hesitate for so long before starting the first volume of his Space Trilogy? Did I have some premonition? Everything else has been stellar.
And then comes Out of the Silent Planet. I couldn't have been more dissappointed. It's the story of a man named Ransom who is out walking in England when he meets a man he knew back in school. The man, and a cohort, knock Ransom out, kidnap him, and take him to another planet: Malacandra. There Ransom escapes his captors and discovers various alien creatures and learns about their culture (not humanoid at all) and tries to figure out what exactly he should do next and where exactly he is. Malacandra is far more familiar than he would have thought, and the reader can probably guess early on which planet we're talking about here.
Fairly simple story, but it's all in the telling. Lewis must have missed something that has served him well in his other fiction, because I could not have been more weary of this book. The action is told in such a way that even when these big events are happening (travelling to another planet, first contact with a sentient alien race, speaking with a nearly divine creature), it feels like nothing is happening. I'm not sure how that could be. Lewis described creation in The Magician's Nephew and the end of creation as we know it in The Last Battle, and it was wonderful. By the time I hit the fifth and sixth chapters I was simply waiting for it all to end. It didn't matter. Thankfully this was a short novel, otherwise I may have put it down without finishing, but I feel bad. I wanted to like this book, I like the work of C.S. Lewis. I'm sure somewhere in this trilogy there is a built in Christ story like the Narnia books, but I don't think I'm going to find out. I can't imagine picking up Perelandra and trying to read it. There are plenty of books by Lewis which I haven't read and I'm sure they are all far superior to Out of the Silent Planet.
They'd have to be.