Everyone has heard of The Chronicles of Narnia. Many of you probably read them as children (or maybe even as adults). If you grew up in a Christian environment (or maybe even if you didn’t), you also know that C. S. Lewis is considered one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century, and you can probably list several of his philosophical writings, including Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves, The Problem of Pain, and more.
As it turns out, Lewis also wrote a second fictional series: the Space Trilogy. Comprised of the books Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength, the series details the adventures of Dr. Ransom, a British professor who travels through time and space and experiences previously unexplored theological ideas.
The trilogy begins with Out of the Silent Planet, in which Dr. Ransom is captured and drugged by two scientists and taken on their spaceship to the planet Malacandra, which turns out to be Mars. Upon arriving on Malacandra and escaping from his captors, Ransom meets and befriends three entirely alien species, learns their languages, and lives among them. The book ends with the introduction of the heavenly spirits, or eldila, that will come to dictate many of the events in the second and third books.
This was my favorite book out of the three. It’s simple, charming, and easy to follow, and while there was some religious allegory in it (it is C. S. Lewis, after all), it isn’t so dense that you lose track of the story. Of the three, it’s definitely the most alike to the Narnia books in tone and readability.
Perelandra takes a completely different approach. This time, Ransom travels alone to Perelandra, more commonly known as Venus, and discovers a planet with an unfallen human race. A significant portion of the book is devoted to lots of philosophical musing, either between characters or as Lewis’s own narrative. It can be difficult to follow, which will come as no surprise if you’ve ever read any of Lewis’s nonfiction books, and when I read this book by itself in high school, I had a hard time understanding it. However, it asks an interesting question: what if there is a race on another planet that remains unfallen from God?
The third book in the trilogy, That Hideous Strength, is much longer than either of the previous two… in fact, it’s about the length of the others combined. Instead of focusing on Dr. Ransom, this book is centered around a young British couple who are being torn in different directions and forced to choose sides in the battle between the Christian faith and science gone wrong.
To tell the truth, I had a bit of trouble getting through this book at times. I generally think the world of C. S. Lewis’s writing, but this one wasn’t always paced evenly. There are sections with tons of action and other sections with long speeches by characters or by Lewis himself, like in Perelandra. It only gets really exciting in the final third of the book, which probably explains why T got about halfway through and then quit. For me though, it was worth working my way through the first two thirds to get to the end, which was where most of the action happened, as well as some extremely significant scenes of faith.
Overall, I recommend the Space Trilogy to a) avid readers who have a particular fondness for science fiction and/or philosophy, and b) Christians who appreciate the other writings of C. S. Lewis. However, if you’re looking to introduce your kids (or friends) to Lewis as well as broad religious metaphors, I would stick to The Chronicles of Narnia.
Have you ever read the Space Trilogy? What did you think of it?