Out of the Silent Planet by CS Lewis
y an odd coincidence, I finished reading this book (finally! when did I say I was going to post on this originally?) on the same week that one of my short stories, "Gabriel’s Trumpet", was published in The Lamp Post of the Southern California CS Lewis Society. And it isn’t because the book is long that it took me forever to finish it. It’s only 160 pages. It’s just that, at first, it moved slowly. And don’t get me wrong. I love C.S. Lewis. I picked this up because I love his work.
But, Ransom, our hero, is much like most heroes. He’s smart. He’s kind. He has a deeply ingrained sense of right and wrong. And so it is on an errand of right that he goes to collect a stranger’s son from the house he is serving at. He runs into an old school chum, gets drugged, kidnapped, and taken to another planet to be given to the sorns. Well, of course whatever they are going to give him to isn’t going to be something he wants to go with. So he runs. And runs straight into another race of people on the planet, the hross. Like a lot of Lewis’s work, you can read the faith into it, but you don’t have to. Ransom does come to a kind of spiritual awakening, but not one involving specifics of current religions, just generalizations of goodness, trust, etc. But I just kept having a few problems with it.
For one thing, some of the science is off. Okay, it was first published in 1943, but Heinlein wrote at the same time and knew that gravity wasn’t going to weight you as you approach a planet (well, it will, but not significantly as it is in the story) nor is there going to be any kind of gravitation on a spaceship. Just the sort of stuff that bothers me. And then, of course, there is my feminist streak. There is not one female character in the whole book. Ransom spends time with a whole race of people, but the only ones mentioned are males. There is even a matriarchal society, however Ransom only really speaks to one of them and sees a few others, all male. And as much as I really try to let that go when reading older fiction, well, it grates.
So it took me a bit to get into it. You might say it was almost unwilling. But by the end I was curled up on the couch and telling my husband that he could either do something about dinner himself or wait for me to finish because I wasn’t moving until that last page had turned. It grew on me. And I have gone from thinking that I would never pick up the next book in the trilogy (yes, it is a trilogy. Isn’t everything in sf and fantasy a trilogy or series of some sort?) to hunting it down in the library. So now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go read the next one.