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Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy, Book One) (original 1938; edition 2003)

by C.S. Lewis

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,47497592 (3.85)174
Member:RichardBorkow
Title:Out of the Silent Planet (Space Trilogy, Book One)
Authors:C.S. Lewis
Info:Scribner (2003), Paperback, 160 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:science fiction, religious

Work details

Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis (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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» See also 174 mentions

English (92)  Swedish (2)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (97)
Showing 1-5 of 92 (next | show all)
[SPOILERS] Predating the Narnia books by slightly more than a decade, Out of the Silent Planet was the first novel of the “Space” trilogy of works of “philosophical science fiction”, in which Lewis sets out an attempt to explain the problem of evil on Earth.

As such, the book can be read on several levels. As a straightforward science fiction tale, it is not unsuccessful, and Lewis as narrator is particularly interested in the development of the Martian (later to be “Old Solar”) language and the description of the landscapes and creatures of the fourth planet. He convincingly tells the tale of Ransom, a Cambridge philologist, who is kidnapped by two unscrupulous men in a space-ship, Weston and Devine, and shanghaied to the planet Mars. The duo wish to mine the gold of Mars, or Malacandra, and have misunderstood the suggestion that in exchange, the ruler of Mars requires a human sacrifice, for which they take Ransom. But Ransom escapes, and begins a journey among the races of Mars, before having to decide whether or not to return to Earth with his kidnappers.

Along the way, there’s a lot of philosophy and linguistics, which I do recall made the book drag for me as an early teen reader. There is enough action to move the story along, but irritatingly a few key sequences that could have done with more excitement and description are allowed to fall flat, almost as though Lewis was trying to write in his office when he realized that he left the gas on at home.

However, ultimately, readers will most likely not read this book or its two sequels for the traditional sort of space adventure yarn. They certainly won’t read it for the science, which could escape the test of reality in 1938, but is now comprehensively debunked in the 2010s. But Lewis’ strong suit is description, particularly his setting of the original scene in England, which is beautifully wrought. This is a different sort of animal both from the later Narnia books and from Lewis’ academic and philosopho-religious works. It is entertaining, interesting, and well-crafted, but may be a bit slow for some readers. ( )
  Bill_Bibliomane | Jul 31, 2015 |
In an atheistic world, or at least in what passes for a scientific one, space is just real estate that no one wants except, maybe, to pass through on the way to somewhere else, but C. S. Lewis doesn't live in that world (though passes through it) thus it is not surprising that his sci-fi looks more like theology than like engineering. Still, he remains a logical kind of guy and wants to explain things in a way that a rational hnau (or, say, man) would understand. I've barely begun Paradise Lost (it's on my "currently reading" shelf, which means I hope to get back to it someday) but know enough to realize that Earth, the Silent Planet, remains mute because it is in quarantine for its therein described fallen state and that the other non-fallen planets are eager to understand what is going on there (I think they are concerned for us.) Earth and its inhabitants are not so much evil, which is to say unredeemable, as bent, which means they can than presumably be unbent (perhaps by pfifltriggi) and join the non-silent plants someday.

Maybe you're better off not knowing all this going in (I didn't) or maybe it doesn't much matter but he unfolds it nicely and I didn't feel preached to enough of the time to give it 4 stars (but a little bit so it must fall short of 5.)

Having just before this read Jane Austen's Emma, I'll add that being preached to, which I complain about in the previous paragraph, at an earlier time in Earth's history, lacked the negative connotations I am attributing to it, but perhaps all that should go in a review of Emma (which I haven't written yet.)

I should mention, in the interests of putting my point of view in context, that the is the first C.S. Lewis book I've actually completed, having abandoned a few others (most recently, The Screwtape Letters) for reasons I no longer remember. In addition, I confess to some sympathy for the Abrahamic religions though think they all went astray at points. ( )
  Gimley_Farb | Jul 6, 2015 |
It may be useful to keep in mind that this was published in 1938. At that time Lewis had two (2) published works -- his major study The Allegory of Love and an earlier minor work, The Pilgrim's Regress. At that time, all of his apologetic work was in the future -- it began with his radio talks during the war -- and the Narnia books were not even thought of. It's worth noting that although glancing references are made to Christianity (mainly the background of the fall of the Oyarsa of Thulcandra), the discussion between Ransom and the Oyarsa of Mars regarding the Incarnation is dropped out of the book and merely hinted at. If you read this knowing what an average reader would have known in 1938 any religious element would have passed you by.

This has a serious theme of responding to a strain of Wellsian and Campbellian (Campbell had just started as the editor of Astounding at the time) human-triumphalist SF. What Lewis did in response to this was very clever: he picked up what he would later call the "mediaeval model" of the cosmos from the high middle ages (specifically Bernardus Silvestris), twisted a few words to add an extra hint in that direction (ousiarches -> Oyarses and eidola -> eldila), adjusted a bit for the absence of crystalline spheres keeping the planets on their courses, and dropped his Wellsian scientist into it, using an onlooker loosely based on his friend J.R.R. Tolkien as a point of view. Fireworks ensue: Lewis had a keen ear for shades of meaning and the core scene in the book, where Ransom translates for Weston, is both funny and devastating.

While doing this, he let his imagination free to imagine a world which was unfallen and dying, in the lesser gravity of Mars. The description of Mars, and the seroni and the hrossa, took over much of the book.

Lewis' prose is a cut above the normal SF prose of the period, and indeed of any period; the "otherness" of the cosmos is vividly imagined; and the work makes a serious point about man's place as a non-triumphal, non-conquering figure in the cosmos. (In Perelandra, several years later, he was much more explicitly Christian and he makes the effects of the Incarnation make mankind obviously pivotal in a different way; but that is not yet visible in OOTSP.) This is a deserved classic. ( )
  jsburbidge | Jan 15, 2015 |
I can only hope that the trilogy gets better. Far too much description for me and far too little in the way of character development and interaction. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 22, 2014 |
The first half is interesting if a little dated. The second half makes up for the dated sci-fi setting by a really interesting philosophical look at the spiritual realm of Earth from an otherwordly perspective. ( )
  iamjonlarson | Sep 29, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lewis, C. S.primary 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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The last drops of the thundershower had hardly ceased falling when the Pedestrian stuffed his map into his pocket, settled his pack more comfortably on his tired shoulders, and stepped out from the shelter of a large chestnut-tree into the middle of the road.
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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)

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