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Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis
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Out of the Silent Planet (original 1938; edition 1968)

by C. S. Lewis, Bernard Symancyk (Cover artist)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,825125654 (3.85)207
Member:TomVeal
Title:Out of the Silent Planet
Authors:C. S. Lewis
Other authors:Bernard Symancyk (Cover artist)
Info:New York: Macmillan, 1968 [c1938]. 160 p., 18 cm., Mass Market Paperback
Collections:Your library, Religion, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Alternate History
Rating:****1/2
Tags:#Science Fiction & Fantasy, Science Fiction > Mars > Angels & Demons, C. S. Lewis

Work details

Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis (Author) (1938)

  1. 30
    That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis (atrautz)
  2. 20
    Perelandra by C. S. Lewis (atrautz, KayCliff)
  3. 20
    The Dark Tower and Other Stories by C. S. Lewis (Sylak)
    Sylak: Once you've read every book C.S. Lewis published read this one for one last treat.
  4. 10
    The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley (legendaryneo)
    legendaryneo: This is another Christian space trilogy, and one of the best series I've ever read.
  5. 11
    Between Planets by Robert A. Heinlein (markusnenadovus)
    markusnenadovus: Lewis is great, but Heinlein does better SF
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English (120)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (125)
Showing 1-5 of 120 (next | show all)
Nearly everyone has read C.S. Lewis’s iconic series The Chronicles of Narnia. Despite Lewis being a fairly prolific author in his time, I’ve never read anything else by him, living in the delusion that there really wasn’t much more that he’s written, or, perhaps, anything worth reading. Recently, I stumbled upon the first and third books in his science fiction series at a used book sale. Out of the Silent Planet is a short but dense book that is absolutely worth reading.

The main character of Out of the Silent Planet is Dr. Ransom, an academic who begins a walking tour of England and is searching for a place to stay the night when the story opens. Things quickly go downhill for him when he is kidnapped by a mysterious, aging physicist and brought to a planet called Malacandra. But Dr. Ransom isn’t too keen on being a human sacrifice and escapes into the wilds of this unknown world, his chances of ever making it home becoming slimmer and slimmer.

Like Lewis's more famous series, this, too, is steeped in allegory, not all of which I am convinced I recognized. Despite just finishing this novel, I feel like I should reread it. More than that, I want to. Some of the allegory is hard to miss. But even then, I feel as if it were crafted more finely than some of his children’s series. While I love Narnia, it can feel as if you’re being hit with an allegorical sledgehammer at times when read as an adult. Maybe it was because it was my first time reading the book, but I felt that wasn’t always the case here.

C.S. Lewis is a wonderful writer, his sentences lyrical, his descriptions near perfect. This is denser than the Chronicles of Narnia. Descriptions are more detailed, and there are more of them. The native tongue of the peoples of Malacandra is described and related in parts, but not quite to the sort of extent someone such as Tolkien goes.

While I did love this novel, it is rather dense for being only 158 pages. A lot of a time is spent on Malacandra. And a lot of that time is spent with Dr. Ransom as he explores and gets to know the peoples and ways of this other world. There is forward momentum, but it can be bogged down in descriptions, beautiful and lyrical as they are. It also took me longer to read than many other novels take me, again despite the page count. While this doesn’t detract from the story in any way, it is something to keep in mind if you were looking for a quick read.

Ransom beings as a likeable, but perhaps timid character. While likeable he does have his flaws. However, there is more character growth than I had initially expected. We see Ransom grow throughout the tale. The way he treats the Hross, one of the native peoples of the planet, changes. This is slight, and it takes several chapters, but it is there. Where he referred to the Hross as ‘its’ they become ‘he’s’ and ‘she’s’, real people with real lives and cultures instead of the very 19th century idea of the 'uncultured savage'. When we were first introduced to these peoples through Ransom’s eyes I was afraid the story would fall into this stereotype. It was something I really didn’t want to happen, partially because I have such fond memories of reading the Chronicles of Narnia. However, this really never happened. If anything, the opposite occurred.

And the world building! Malacandra is a strange and wondrous place, at once so very unlike Earth, but pleasantly reminiscent at times as well. Its history, as much as we hear in this novel, at least, is rather fascinating. We learn a lot about the Hross, but I want to learn more about the two other races which inhabit Malacandra as well. I want more about the beginnings of the world, and the dead but still present surface world, an ever silent reminder of the horrors of the past and the fleetingness of life.

The ending is rather brilliant as well. There is an epilogue, called a Postscript here, which is supposed to be part of a letter to the narrator of the story. The one or two times the narrator breaks the fourth wall begin to come into focus, and this narrator feels more like another character within the tale. There are hints of more to come, though I can’t begin to predict what would happen in the next book.

Despite there being two more books in the series, the ending feels like a real conclusion. Sure, there are hints that there are more, or there could be more, but the ending is very satisfying. I would be completely happy if this were a standalone novel; it doesn’t necessarily need more. I really appreciate books like this. Too often I find books in a series just sort of stop instead of providing any real closure at the end. Also, if you are hesitant about dedicating yourself to reading yet another series, you don’t have to be. This can definitely be read as a standalone novel, and as it is the first in the series no background information or early world building will be missed.

There’s something magical about discovering a ‘new’ book by an old favorite author. Out of the Silent Planet was a little dense, but a truly wonderful read. I’m definitely going to have to find a copy of Perelandra, the second book in this series. If you like C.S. Lewis’s other work, or like stories with a lot of in-depth world building, this is for you. If you don’t like heavily descriptive writing this book may not be the one for you.

This and more reviews can be found on my blog Looking Glass Reads. ( )
  kateprice88 | Jul 19, 2018 |
Good, but too old-fashioned and slow. If I were on a deserted island with no other books read, I'd enjoy it. ( )
  TromboneAl | May 4, 2018 |
Sometimes I really like “going back in time” and read some of the old books in the genre. This one had been on my to-read shelf for a while. Unfortunately it was a bit of a disappointment.

The book is of course old so one would expect the science in it to be somewhat outdated and that it is indeed. Luckily there is very little science in this book since the little there is would have been outdated already when it was written.

Okay, fair enough. It is an old book after all. Unfortunately there is little real adventure in this book. Sure, Ransom is stranded on Malacandra (supposedly Mars) and he is discovering the planet, the inhabitants and making new friends. However, it is all happening in a fairly dull and long-winded manner. What is worse is that most of the conversation is made up of downright boring philosophical and (pseudo)religious dialogues between Ransom and various alien entities.

Lewis is also goes to great lengths in painting the humans as a horrible species that have lost their (religious) roots and divine mentor. It all ends up to a rather dull, even a bit depressing, book. I’m afraid that the only real enjoyment I had of this book was the somewhat old-fashioned use of the English language which was quite fun to read.
( )
  perjonsson | Oct 28, 2017 |
The Chronicles of Narnia, outside of the Last Battle, never quite sacrifices its plot for religious didacticism. Despite my own atheism, I adore the Narnia series as one of the most important pieces of my childhood. Out of the Silent Planet is, unfortunately, more on par with the Last Battle than with the rest of the Narnia series: Its plot nonexistent next to its dated, shallow, stupid, and hateful didacticism.

Out of the Silent Planet, the first of Lewis' Space Trilogy, has a lot in common with Dante's Paradiso. In place of a plot, we get a walking tour of a 'perfect' Mars as imagined in 1938 by someone completely ignorant of even 1930s science. Mars is a paradise inhabited by different races, all of which are variants on the noble savage stereotype, living in harmony with nature and each other.

It's Man, storming out from the Silent Planet -- Earth -- that throws the noble balance of Mars into disarray. Two scientists -- this story absolutely vilifies scientists as murderous, selfish monsters, literally looking to steal technology for the purpose of getting away with murder more easily -- kidnap a professor Elwin Ransom, currently on sabbatical and, reportedly, based on Lewis' close friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, to offer as an ignorant sacrifice to the Martians. They fly to Mars in their private spaceship imagined, again, by 1930s ignorance (i.e., it's incredibly stupid), only to have Ransom escape their clutches and spend months living in harmony with different Martian species, learning of their simple, perfect, harmonious life and how he can share that wisdom with the rest of humanity.

In this world, the different planets are paradises untouched by Eve's (woman's) mistakes; they all look at humanity as cut off, or 'silent,' by its own evil, locked in a struggle with the devil to return to its noble roots and rejoin the paradises among the stars.

The walking tour among the different alien species doesn't form a coherent plot in its brief ~170 pages, but instead provides a stepped series of teachable moments, of different methods of Christian wisdom to influence the reader and, through them, the rest of humanity. None of the characters have identifiable personalities: Ransom is a blank slate open to learning new things -- his dialogue can just be replaced by 'Wow' and 'Oh, interesting,' and you'd never notice a difference -- while both scientists are pure, unadulterated evil, and all alien species are perfect, caring, kind noble savages.

It's dumb as fuck and I hate it.

While this novel isn't, on the merits of its writing and story, a bottom-of-the-barrel piece of shit, it's that condescending didacticism that drags the negatives of Lewis' writing down towards worthlessness. Out of the Silent Planet, and, I presume (based on reviews and summaries), the rest of the Space Trilogy, speak to a niche audience, an audience interested in re-affirming their religious beliefs in place of telling a story worth a damn, of having shitty morals -- for Lewis' Christian morals get downright vile, especially when it comes to the worth of women and minorities -- rationalized. If you're not in this audience, stay the fuck away.

I have no plans of continuing this 'classic' series. ( )
  alaskayo | Aug 24, 2017 |
Nearly everyone has read C.S. Lewis’s iconic series The Chronicles of Narnia. Despite Lewis being a fairly prolific author in his time, I’ve never read anything else by him, living in the delusion that there really wasn’t much more that he’s written, or, perhaps, anything worth reading. Recently, I stumbled upon the first and third books in his science fiction series at a used book sale. Out of the Silent Planet is a short but dense book that is absolutely worth reading.

The main character of Out of the Silent Planet is Dr. Ransom, an academic who begins a walking tour of England and is searching for a place to stay the night when the story opens. Things quickly go downhill for him when he is kidnapped by a mysterious, aging physicist and brought to a planet called Malacandra. But Dr. Ransom isn’t too keen on being a human sacrifice and escapes into the wilds of this unknown world, his chances of ever making it home becoming slimmer and slimmer.

Like Lewis's more famous series, this, too, is steeped in allegory, not all of which I am convinced I recognized. Despite just finishing this novel, I feel like I should reread it. More than that, I want to. Some of the allegory is hard to miss. But even then, I feel as if it were crafted more finely than some of his children’s series. While I love Narnia, it can feel as if you’re being hit with an allegorical sledgehammer at times when read as an adult. Maybe it was because it was my first time reading the book, but I felt that wasn’t always the case here.

C.S. Lewis is a wonderful writer, his sentences lyrical, his descriptions near perfect. This is denser than the Chronicles of Narnia. Descriptions are more detailed, and there are more of them. The native tongue of the peoples of Malacandra is described and related in parts, but not quite to the sort of extent someone such as Tolkien goes.

While I did love this novel, it is rather dense for being only 158 pages. A lot of a time is spent on Malacandra. And a lot of that time is spent with Dr. Ransom as he explores and gets to know the peoples and ways of this other world. There is forward momentum, but it can be bogged down in descriptions, beautiful and lyrical as they are. It also took me longer to read than many other novels take me, again despite the page count. While this doesn’t detract from the story in any way, it is something to keep in mind if you were looking for a quick read.

Ransom beings as a likeable, but perhaps timid character. While likeable he does have his flaws. However, there is more character growth than I had initially expected. We see Ransom grow throughout the tale. The way he treats the Hross, one of the native peoples of the planet, changes. This is slight, and it takes several chapters, but it is there. Where he referred to the Hross as ‘its’ they become ‘he’s’ and ‘she’s’, real people with real lives and cultures instead of the very 19th century idea of the 'uncultured savage'. When we were first introduced to these peoples through Ransom’s eyes I was afraid the story would fall into this stereotype. It was something I really didn’t want to happen, partially because I have such fond memories of reading the Chronicles of Narnia. However, this really never happened. If anything, the opposite occurred.

And the world building! Malacandra is a strange and wondrous place, at once so very unlike Earth, but pleasantly reminiscent at times as well. Its history, as much as we hear in this novel, at least, is rather fascinating. We learn a lot about the Hross, but I want to learn more about the two other races which inhabit Malacandra as well. I want more about the beginnings of the world, and the dead but still present surface world, an ever silent reminder of the horrors of the past and the fleetingness of life.

The ending is rather brilliant as well. There is an epilogue, called a Postscript here, which is supposed to be part of a letter to the narrator of the story. The one or two times the narrator breaks the fourth wall begin to come into focus, and this narrator feels more like another character within the tale. There are hints of more to come, though I can’t begin to predict what would happen in the next book.

Despite there being two more books in the series, the ending feels like a real conclusion. Sure, there are hints that there are more, or there could be more, but the ending is very satisfying. I would be completely happy if this were a standalone novel; it doesn’t necessarily need more. I really appreciate books like this. Too often I find books in a series just sort of stop instead of providing any real closure at the end. Also, if you are hesitant about dedicating yourself to reading yet another series, you don’t have to be. This can definitely be read as a standalone novel, and as it is the first in the series no background information or early world building will be missed.

There’s something magical about discovering a ‘new’ book by an old favorite author. Out of the Silent Planet was a little dense, but a truly wonderful read. I’m definitely going to have to find a copy of Perelandra, the second book in this series. If you like C.S. Lewis’s other work, or like stories with a lot of in-depth world building, this is for you. If you don’t like heavily descriptive writing this book may not be the one for you. ( )
  kateprice88 | Jul 22, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lewis, C. S.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chu, KaiCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Craft, KinukoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kannosto, MattiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koven, BrookeDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nielsen, CliffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Symancyk, BernardCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my brother W. H. L. a life-long critic of the space-and-time story
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743234901, Paperback)

The first book in C. S. Lewis's acclaimed Space Trilogy, which continues with Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, Out of the Silent Planet begins the adventures of the remarkable Dr. Ransom. Here, that estimable man is abducted by a megalomaniacal physicist and his accomplice and taken via spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra. The two men are in need of a human sacrifice, and Dr. Ransom would seem to fit the bill. Once on the planet, however, Ransom eludes his captors, risking his life and his chances of returning to Earth, becoming a stranger in a land that is enchanting in its difference from Earth and instructive in its similarity. First published in 1943, Out of the Silent Planet remains a mysterious and suspenseful tour de force.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:08 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Dr. Ransom, a noted philologist, is kidnapped and flown by spaceship to Malacandra (Mars) where he flees his human captors and establishes communication with the planet's extraordinary inhabitants. What he learns galvanizes his attempt to return to Earth with a message of great urgency.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 12 descriptions

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