Reading Out of the Silent Planet in May

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Reading Out of the Silent Planet in May

1Majel-Susan
Edited: Jul 24, 2020, 5:29am

Since I'm currently dabbling in fantasy, I figured it's time for me to join The Green Dragon: yay!

My C.S. Lewis roll is bringing me round to his series and since my sister has given me some very good reviews on The Space Trilogy, I'm starting with Out of the Silent Planet next month. I feel as though The Space Trilogy has fallen in some obscurity, what with Lewis' far more famous Chronicles of Narnia, and I was wondering if anybody might be interested in joining me next month. :)

___

July update.
The links for the rest of the threads on the trilogy are here:
Perelandra: https://www.librarything.com/topic/320937
That Hideous Strength: https://www.librarything.com/topic/322107

2-pilgrim-
Apr 25, 2020, 2:51am

I will see if I can find my copies. They have been sitting on my TBR list for far too long!

3haydninvienna
Apr 25, 2020, 3:06am

>1 Majel-Susan: Welcome to the pub! I'd join you except that my copy of Out of the Silent Planet is inaccessible at the moment.

4hfglen
Apr 25, 2020, 6:20am

>1 Majel-Susan: Welcome to the pub, indeed! I read The Space Trilogy while still at school, some 55 years ago (to sniffy comments and looks from the English teacher -- longtime regulars here will know that my opinion of the English teacher I was saddled with for most of high school is still unprintable). I have never felt motivated to a re-read, and don't own a copy. Sorry.

5clamairy
Apr 25, 2020, 10:08am

>1 Majel-Susan: Welcome! I don't have time for a reread, but I will happily follow your commentary on your journey.

6MrsLee
Apr 25, 2020, 12:27pm

>1 Majel-Susan: Hi! I loved the C.S. Lewis space trilogy when I read it years ago. It has become all jumbled up in my head with other books I've read since then. I just might join you in May, although I make no promises because my reading has been very hit and miss the last two month. I do promise to read your thoughts and comments as you read though. :)

7Majel-Susan
Apr 25, 2020, 4:26pm

Thank you all for the welcomes!

>2 -pilgrim-: Please do join, if you can find a copy and some little time!

>5 clamairy:, >6 MrsLee: And thanks for the interest, too! I will write my thoughts as I go along.

8pgmcc
Apr 25, 2020, 5:45pm

>7 Majel-Susan: Out of the Silent Planet was the set text for my English course in my second year at secondary school. I subsequently read and enjoyed the other two books. Hugh read it a bit ahead of me. It was 51 years ago that I read it. Unlike Hugh I enjoyed it.

I will be interested in your comments.

Welcome to the Green Dragon.

9hfglen
Apr 26, 2020, 6:41am

>8 pgmcc: I enjoyed it too, Pete. Especially that the teacher couldn't accept that a mere colonial could get his head around it unaided >:-)

10-pilgrim-
Apr 26, 2020, 7:19am

>8 pgmcc:, >9 hfglen: Given the discussion that I had with Busifer last year, she must be frustrated that all three of us were lucky enough to have science fiction in our English literature curriculum. No Lewis for me, unfortunately, but I did have Wyndham as well as Orwell.)

11pgmcc
Apr 26, 2020, 12:17pm

>9 hfglen: & >10 -pilgrim-:

The set texts for my first two years English reading at grammar school were, 1 The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and 2 Out of the Silent Planet.

Touchstones on the blink again.

12Karlstar
Apr 26, 2020, 12:19pm

Welcome to the group! I haven't read those books in a long time, you are tempting me to pick them up again.

13haydninvienna
Apr 26, 2020, 1:04pm

>10 -pilgrim-: >11 pgmcc: I had Orwell and Tolkien, so there.

14hfglen
Edited: Apr 26, 2020, 1:51pm

>11 pgmcc: I should maybe explain to Peter that Lewis wasn't a school set-work for me; a local bookshop (long ago when we still had such things) had a rush of blood to the head and sent the school a couple of boxes of books to try to sell to the boys, in the hopes of getting them to read. The English teacher was in charge of the selling. One of the books on sale was an el cheapo paperback of the Lewis, and so I bought it, to considerable teacherly disapproval. Which only raised the desirability of Lewis and his works in my view.

ETA: We had Orwell as a set work a year or 3 later.

15-pilgrim-
Edited: Apr 27, 2020, 3:57am

>13 haydninvienna: Tolkien? You lucky boy! Although I was introduced to Tolkien by my junior school teacher, who read The Hobbit to a class of enthralled 9 year olds, and accompanied it with some amazing artwork (6 foot high poster) that she has done herself. When I queried that I didn't remember a volcano in the Misty Mountains, she explained that the picture actually related more to The Lord of the Rings - and the rest is history.

16-pilgrim-
Edited: Apr 27, 2020, 3:57am

>14 hfglen: Our school had a stockroom in the English department, as well as a reasonable library. We had one lesson a week called "private reading". We could bring any book we wanted for that, and were encouraged to make good use of those facilities - the only proviso was that we had to be prepared to discuss the book in detail with class and teacher, when asked.

I got Brave New World and some more Wyndhams out of that.

17Majel-Susan
Apr 26, 2020, 6:46pm

Ooh, all of this talk about school reminds me that my sister initially found Out of the Silent Planet because it was one of the options for an English assignment. I'd forgotten all about that!

18Busifer
Edited: Apr 27, 2020, 3:06am

>10 -pilgrim-: Not very much: I'm reconciled with the past. It can't be changed. Even though I wish the curriculum had looked different, back then.

My copy of Out of the silent planet is a very brittle paperback from 1949, that I rescued when my parents cleaned out the cellar storage 40 years ago. Given the condition I don't think my dad (it was his) ever read it: the back is unbroken and uncreased, and with the glue all dry by now it can only end one way. What you people here has said about it makes me interested in reading it, though, so odds are I'll try to find a reading copy of it.
Not right now, though. I've too much going on.

19-pilgrim-
Apr 27, 2020, 10:31am

>17 Majel-Susan: Were all the options SF? Or was it a genre that she could avoid, if she wanted?

Peter and I both went through an educational system that did not give any choice in what we studied in class.

For me, and I expect for him too, there was 1 novel, 1 Shakespeare play, and poetry each year,each analysed in detail.

>11 pgmcc: Did you only have 1 book per year in the early (non-examination) years?

20pgmcc
Apr 27, 2020, 12:16pm

>19 -pilgrim-:

That is correct. My recollection is that the book in third year, which was our Junior Certificate year, our year being the last year to do the Junior Certificate before its being abolished, was The Card by Arnold Bennett. This was much more mainstream and quite tedious by comparison to The Lost World and Out of the Silent Planet. I think the humour was too adult to be appreciated by fourteen year old boys.

I am afraid my English teachers developed a deep hatred of poetry in my heart. My first year English teacher was a lovely man but he did not have much poetry to cover with us and there were no state exams. I would not fault him in anything other than not being my English teacher after first year.

The English teachers I had for second, third, fourth and fifth years were appalling. They were similar in having overblown impressions of their own ability. Each of them would have been perfect in a book that contains stereotypical, old world teachers, such as Gormenghast, the second book in the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake. Dirty Dick, euphemistically called Filthy Richard, thought himself a wonderful poet. In one class he came in, sat on his desk at the front of the class, and recited a few lines of poetry. He then asked the class, "Who wrote that poem?"

When he received no response he encouraged, "Come on, now. Some of you will know."

As no one offered a suggestion he said, "I did!"

Not shied by his lack of fame in the class's combined knowledge of poetry he went on to recite the whole poem and describe to us how wonderful it was.

His approach to poetry was to have us learn poems by rote and recite them in class at the next lesson. This was not my forte and I suffered as a result.

I had two bouts of illness; one in first year and the other in second year. Each bout lasted two months. I identify these illnesses as the root cause of my two weaknesses at school; languages and learning by rote. I missed the early introductions to French, Spanish and Latin and never really caught up. I did manage to pass Spanish but never really achieved any progress with Latin of French.

I ramble, but it is -pilgrim-'s fault. She threw me back to my school days.

21-pilgrim-
Edited: Apr 28, 2020, 3:46am

>20 pgmcc: I had the same English teacher for all five years.

Unfortunately, she loved modern poetry, and loathed and despised anything with rhyme or metre.

Fortunately, I went to the sort of grammar school where debating was considered a useful skill and asking questions in class was encouraged. I honed my debating skills in practising how to attack that teacher's selections of poetry without her being able to accuse me of impudence.

Perhaps in rebellion against her, in my exam question on war poetry, I chose to analyse:
Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen
Charge of the Light Brigade by Sir Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The War Song of Dinas Vawr by Thomas Love Peacock!

I am sorry that you had such a rough start with languages Peter. I think in the UK we start language study too late as it is.

Don't worry, Majel-Susan; we may ramble, but we return to the original theme eventually.

22haydninvienna
Edited: Apr 27, 2020, 12:57pm

>21 -pilgrim-: The mountain sheep are sweeter
But the valley sheep are fatter;
Therefore we deemed it meeter
To carry off the latter ...

23-pilgrim-
Apr 27, 2020, 1:01pm

>22 haydninvienna: I thought you would recognise it! :)

24Majel-Susan
Apr 27, 2020, 11:14pm

>19 -pilgrim-: No, I believe they were not all SF options and I don't remember if Out of the Silent Planet was even the book my sister eventually chose to write on; she just enjoyed reading a lot back then.

In my high school program, I had about 8 books for analysis every year, and maybe only 3 of them were strictly assigned books; the rest of the books had to be chosen from a book list, but there were pretty good options, I'd say. I wasn't able to enjoy all the boys' adventure novels that used to be assigned in the younger grades, and it was only in high school that I really started to enjoy reading at all.

>20 pgmcc: Goodness! What an ego that teacher sounds like he had!

>21 -pilgrim-: Oh, no, I like rambling; it's interesting!

25Sakerfalcon
Edited: Apr 28, 2020, 5:29am

I will join in this group read as I have had a copy of Lewis' science fiction trilogy on my shelves for too many years to count!

While we were encouraged to read for pleasure at school we didn't get a choice of which books we studied. Watership Down was a highlight in my second year of high school; Joby was a low point. At GCSE the books included I'm the king of the castle and That was then, this is now. I strongly suspect an agenda of Getting The Boys to Read.

26haydninvienna
Edited: Apr 28, 2020, 6:40am

>23 -pilgrim-: I could of course get the omnibus Peacock off the shelf twenty feet away and quote some more of it, but the sample is all I remember and it's probably enough. I tend to skip over the poetry in Peacock anyway.

ETA second mention of Peacock this week--also in the thread on the Arthurian legend.

27-pilgrim-
Edited: Apr 28, 2020, 11:15am

>26 haydninvienna: I think your quote said it all: bad puns in pseudo-epic poetry. I loved it - and can still quote stanzas of the top of my head. (My actual purpose of the contrast in the exam was to show what Tennyson, who also used strong rlhythm, was getting right.)

>25 Sakerfalcon: An all girls' school protects you from that agenda. I enjoyed everything we studied until our O-level year, when we had Brighton Rock. Teen machismo + Catholic angst + rampant misogyny = utter torture for a class of teenage girls!

>24 Majel-Susan: In my high school program, I had about 8 books for analysis every year, and maybe only 3 of them were strictly assigned books; the rest of the books had to be chosen from a book list

How does this system work? How can a lesson analyse a text when only a portion of the class has read it?

28Sakerfalcon
Apr 28, 2020, 9:21am

>27 -pilgrim-: Aargh, yes, we did Brighton Rock too! Horrible, horrible book! We did get to go on a day trip to Brighton because of it though!

29-pilgrim-
Apr 28, 2020, 11:21am

>29 -pilgrim-: What I remember most from it was Pinky saying that physical intimacy with a woman was like "ordure on the hands".

Fortunately my father had a copy of The Power and the Glory on his shelves, otherwise I might have been put off Greene for life!

30pgmcc
Apr 28, 2020, 11:26am

>28 Sakerfalcon: I only got around to reading Brighton Rock a few years ago. I did not like it. Thankfully Greene's other books are much more rewarding.

31Majel-Susan
Apr 28, 2020, 1:00pm

>25 Sakerfalcon: Yay! Welcome!

>27 -pilgrim-: How does this system work? How can a lesson analyse a text when only a portion of the class has read it?

Hmm, good question; I never thought of that. Well, I guess that's a bit of a giveaway. I was homeschooled under an American curriculum, so the year was divided into four quarters, and in each quarter there was a different variety of three books that you could choose from; there might have been a couple of pointers offered for each of the book options, but for the most part, you were expected to be able to sit down and read on your own and make your own analyses based on the kind of essay topics that you were given, namely, character analysis, conflict, and theme based essays. Write your essays, send them in, get a grade.

32Majel-Susan
May 4, 2020, 8:29pm

Chapter 2
Ooh! Had a bad feeling the moment Devine seemed so keen on learning that Ransom had no family, friends, or relatives waiting to hear from him. As I read through to the last paragraph, I was picturing myself watching this on TV with my family and my mother going, "Tsk! You see what happens: you never know when people will spike your drink..."

33-pilgrim-
Edited: May 5, 2020, 5:46am

Sorry Majel-Susan. I couldn't find my copy; I think it may be in storage, where I can't access it until lockdown ends. I do intend to read it sometime soon, so I will not be following this thread further until then.

I hope you enjoy your read.

Meanwhile I am reading the novels of Lewis' fellow Inkling, Charles Williams. (If you would like to join me in this, let me know.)

34Sakerfalcon
May 5, 2020, 5:17am

>32 Majel-Susan: Gosh, you're already on Chapter 2! I need to get started!

35Majel-Susan
May 5, 2020, 6:29pm

>33 -pilgrim-: No problem. Thanks for the interest, at any rate!

I haven't heard of Charles Williams, but I looked him up and it unfortunately seems that my library doesn't carry any of his books.

>34 Sakerfalcon: No pressure! I have a number of reads ongoing simultaneously.

36haydninvienna
Edited: May 6, 2020, 12:53am

>35 Majel-Susan: The novels are out of copyright in Canada and they (and many of this other books) are available on the Faded Page website (https://www.fadedpage.com/csearch.php?author=Williams,%20Charles). They warn you of the possibility that the books may still be in copyright elsewhere, but Williams died in 1945 so his books should be out of copyright in the UK as well (life plus 70 years, I believe).

ETA Lewis is there as well, but his books would still be in copyright in the UK.

37Majel-Susan
Edited: May 6, 2020, 2:02am

>36 haydninvienna: Ooh, then I just might consider Descent into Hell for a read sometime.

And thanks for the site recommendation! It's a treasure find! Now I know where to go for those Lewis books that aren't in my e-library!

38-pilgrim-
Edited: May 6, 2020, 2:09am

>37 Majel-Susan: I tried reading Charles Williams before; without realising the way his books link, I started with The Greater Trumps. And found it very confusing!

This time, I am playing safe and started with War in Heaven, the first, which is working out much better.

Which have you read, haydninvienna?

39Majel-Susan
May 6, 2020, 2:34am

>38 -pilgrim-: How do his books link? Do you mean in theme or in characters or storyline?

40-pilgrim-
Edited: May 6, 2020, 2:53am

>39 Majel-Susan: So far, I have only noticed recurrence of a character. But since his personality and motivations were a major themes in the first book, I think Williams thereafter assumes that we understand what drives this character.

The themes I expect to be interrelated too.

Williams is not writing a series in the modern fashion: the ending of War in Heaven gives complete closure to all points raised. But when I was reading The Greater Trumps previously, I found myself puzzled at to why characters were doing what they were doing.

I think it is from the point of view of worldview and characterisation that the books tie together.

41haydninvienna
Edited: May 6, 2020, 4:53am

>38 -pilgrim-: The only one I can now be sure of is Many Dimensions. After that I think I discovered the poetry and never really went back to the novels. But now, after finding the Faded Page collection I linked to above, I ran down something that has haunted me for decades since I first read it:
The image of the Empire is the final form of something that had always haunted Williams and which he often referred to simply as ‘the city’. The word is significant. Williams was a Londoner of the Londoners; Johnson or Chesterton never exulted more than he in their citizenship. On many of us the prevailing impression made by the London streets is one of chaos; but Williams, looking on the same spectacle, saw chiefly an image—an imperfect, pathetic, heroic, and majestic image—of Order. Two passages from among many in his novels may be quoted. One is from War in Heaven (Chapter V) where he is describing the decline of what had once been a residential street. At least, one end of the street shows mere decline. But at the other end new life is beginning for there ‘a public house signalized the gathering of another code of decency and morals which might in time transform the intervening decay’. The proletarian courtesy and community of a public house (with all the mutual forbearance and observance of unwritten law which they imply) are a manifestation of ‘the city’. The other passage comes from The Greater Trumps. It comes from Chapter 4 and the reference to ‘the Emperor’ is explained by the fact that Henry and Nancy have just been studying the Tarot cards. They are in a car and have come to a traffic block:
‘A policeman’s hand held them up. Henry gestured towards it. “Behold the Emperor!” he said to Nancy. “You’re making fun of me,” she half protested. “Never less,” he said seriously. “Look at him” . . . She saw in that heavy official barring their way the Emperor of the Trumps, helmed, in a white cloak, stretching out one sceptred arm, as if Charlemagne or one like him stretched out his controlling sword over the tribes of Europe pouring from the forests. . . . The noise of all the pausing street came upon her as the roar of many peoples; the white cloak held them by a gesture: order and law were there.’
Such is Byzantium—Order, envisaged not as restraint nor even as a convenience but as a beauty and splendour. Perhaps no element in Williams’s imagination separates him so widely as this from other writers. The modern world has planners and orderers in plenty, but they are not often poets: it has poets not a few, but they seldom see beauty in policemen.

I have Arthurian Torso, from which the quotation comes, but it's a long way away at the moment. And of course I just had to read some of Taliessin Through Logres. I neither know nor care whether it's great poetry. The Suck Fairy has completely passed it by as far as I'm concerned.

The most recent book of Williams's that I've read is The Figure of Beatrice. I'm not sure that it did much to increase my very slight knowledge of Dante, but there's a lot in there about Williams's theology.

ETA incidentally, there's a summary of Williams's worldview in C S Lewis's preface to Essays Presented to Charles Williams, which is available (subject to the usual copyright restrictions) at https://www.fadedpage.com/books/20140803/html.php.

42Sakerfalcon
May 6, 2020, 5:55am

I started Out of the silent planet last night and enjoyed what I read very much. I like how Ransom plausibly gets drawn into the plans of Weston and Devine and finds himself in out of his depth. I don't want to give spoiler but so far the SFnal elements are science fantasy rather than SF. Which I don't mind at all!

43Majel-Susan
May 6, 2020, 11:31am

Ch 3-4
Fascinating to consider that Out of the Silent Planet was published in 1938, a good 23 years before Yuri Gagarin was the first man to enter space in 1961. I got so confused towards the end of Ch 3 when Ransom realises that the "moon" he is looking at can't possibly be the moon because it's just too large and it doesn't have the familiar pattern of the moon, and then Weston tells him, "No, it's the Earth."

The appearance of Earth from space is such common knowledge these days, but sometimes all it takes is a bit of a blast to the past to give a little perspective on how much we take knowledge for granted.

It's so funny to read about space travel before it was ever a thing in "reality." Makes me think about Tintin going to the moon in the comics. Gosh, I loved those books!

44hfglen
May 6, 2020, 11:50am

>43 Majel-Susan: "Tintin going to the moon in the comics".
In Durban Botanic Garden there is a kapok tree whose trunk swells from the ground to halfway up, then narrows into the crown (it has some "plant buttresses" at the base, too). One of the tour guides reports that when she gets the kids to draw the tree, they invariably draw Tintin's rocket. I also enjoyed Tintin books in my y00t, and often what became of them, or which move they vanished in.

45Majel-Susan
May 7, 2020, 12:32pm

>44 hfglen: Cute! If I were the tour guide, I probably could never get enough of Tintin-rocket-kapok trees!

46Majel-Susan
May 7, 2020, 12:33pm

Ch 5
Poor Ransom! If he thought it couldn't get worse, now he overhears that he is to become a human sacrifice and his imagination starts to play up what a sorn could possibly be.

He could face death, but not the sorns. He must escape escape when they got to Malacandra, if there were any possibility. Starvation, or even to be chased by sorns, would be better than being handed over. If escape were impossible, then it must be suicide. Ransom was a pious man. He hoped he would be forgiven. It was no more in his power, he thought, to decide otherwise than to grow a new limb.

I like this guy; he thinks like me! XD

47Majel-Susan
May 8, 2020, 12:47pm

Ch 6
All that unpleasantness and pain of landing, all just so that Ransom can be a human sacrifice... The irony.

I have to say, though, that C.S. Lewis really took me out of a serious moment into laughter with the line:

They had the experiences of a pregnant woman, but magnified almost beyond endurance.

I do love C.S. Lewis, but if I were a friend, I'd say to him, "Jack, what do you know about 'the experiences of a pregnant woman,' bachelor that you are! And even your characters, all of them men—'they had the experiences of a pregnant woman,' did they? And if that weren't enough, it has to be 'magnified beyond endurance.' Really?" I had a good laugh and loved it!

48-pilgrim-
Edited: May 9, 2020, 12:15pm

>47 Majel-Susan: Give the man some credit for being ahead of his time in recognising that the pain that many women voluntarily endure multiple times is the one of the worst known to Man!

49Majel-Susan
May 9, 2020, 11:13am

>48 -pilgrim-: You have a good point! xD

50Majel-Susan
Edited: May 9, 2020, 11:14am

Ch 7
Descriptions of Malacandra reminded me a little bit of Mars in Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, what with the thin, but breathable air and the blue water.

51Sakerfalcon
May 11, 2020, 7:53am

Malacandra sounds beautiful, and I'm enjoying exploring it with Ransom. It's more fantasy than SF, I feel, but Lewis did think about what effect the lower gravity would have on the form of flora and fauna.

52Majel-Susan
May 12, 2020, 6:18pm

Ch 8
I love how Ransom just did himself in with a large meal that was supposed to help him in his escape. And now he has resorted to talking to himself... Poor guy!

53Majel-Susan
May 12, 2020, 6:25pm

Ch 9-10
Time for hrossa! Poor Ransom was starting to feel so lonely among the hrossa without his fellow mankind until the pups came around to brighten things for him. I wanna hold some cubs too now!

54Majel-Susan
May 15, 2020, 7:59am

Ch 11
Hrossa culture and language is fascinating! And I like how Ransom initially approaches them in a pedantic way, as the wise man, only to be treated back as the backward savage in the village.

I remember a very tiny bit about what my sister told me about this book years ago, and I got the chills when Ransom learns that he comes from Thulcandra, the silent planet, and nobody knows why.

It seems that Malacandra is supposed to represent some kind of utopia, what with the harmony and equality in which the hrossa, the seroni, and the pfifltriggi all exist, and I found interesting how they all do and understand different things without any sense of either superiority or inferiority.

55Majel-Susan
May 15, 2020, 8:07am

Ch 12
Ransom's discussion with Hyoi about "love" was fascinating. A similar discussion on human sexuality, and the comparison between food and sex as natural vs distorted appetites, was echoed later in Mere Christianity, and it reminded me, in particular, of this rather amusing passage:
You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act-that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?


But this quote is more like the actual discussion between Ransom and Hyoi:
If a healthy young man indulged his sexual appetite whenever he felt inclined, and if each act produced a baby, then in ten years he might easily populate a small village. This appetite is in ludicrous and preposterous excess of its function.

56clamairy
Edited: May 15, 2020, 9:32am

>43 Majel-Susan: I loved Hergé's Tintin exploring the moon comics so much as a kid that I bought them for my son when I thought he was about the right age. He enjoyed them too, but NOT like I did.

57haydninvienna
May 15, 2020, 9:32am

>55 Majel-Susan: Just dropping in a note to let you know that I at least am still reading this thread. I remember that passage in Mere Christianity. I agree with Lewis that something had gone wrong, but it may not be what he suggests. You could probably gather up a collection of similar quotations elsewhere in Lewis's writings—I can think of a few others. But I also remember that somewhere he says (I think it was in the transcript of an oral interview) that when he wrote for modern (late 1950s to early 1960s) audiences, particularly American ones, what he used to do was produce whatever would have been strict orthodoxy in his mother's time and place, and simply write that, and this seemed to that audience to be outrageous paradoxical stuff. (All recollections without warranty—it's years since I read them and the books are in another country)

58Majel-Susan
Edited: May 15, 2020, 12:00pm

>56 clamairy: Tintin is such a timeless comic! My mother loved them when she was a kid, and I first read them because we had three battered copies on the shelf. The moment I read them it was love for me too! If I remember, they were Tintin in America, Red Rackham's Treasure, and Destination Moon.

59clamairy
May 15, 2020, 4:03pm

>58 Majel-Susan: We had Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon, both of which I must have read a dozen times at least. Pretty sure my son's copies are in one the boxes of kids books I moved with me.

60Majel-Susan
May 15, 2020, 5:28pm

>57 haydninvienna: I've noticed that Lewis does tend to re-echo his ideas across many of his writings, and no, I'm sure even he would agree, it might not be exactly what he suggests that has gone wrong in the process of human nature, but I did find that passage highly amusing. C.S. Lewis has such a delicate sense of humour! And I didn't know that he used to write based on old-time orthodoxy, but I guess that wouldn't be too surprising, since he seems to have studied Christianity broadly and he was known for subscribing to a very traditional idea of Christianity.

61Majel-Susan
May 15, 2020, 5:49pm

>59 clamairy: I remember that ever since I started collecting and reading the whole set of the Tintin comics, I've always wondered why my mother would choose Red Rackham's Treasure and Destination Moon. I mean, those are two wonderfully delightful books, possibly two of the best, but of all the twenty-some books, only four of them come as duos, and we only had one half of both of them on our shelves. XD

62clamairy
May 15, 2020, 9:18pm

>61 Majel-Susan: That is curious. :o) Did you realize at the time that you were missing anything? I can't remember if there was a 'to be continued' at the end of Destination Moon.

63Majel-Susan
Edited: May 16, 2020, 12:21am

>62 clamairy: Destination Moon does have a "to be continued," if I remember, but somehow I wasn't bothered by it then.

64Majel-Susan
May 16, 2020, 1:45pm

Ch 13
The tragedy of human beings:
I should have told you. We are all a bent race. We have come here to bring evil on Malacandra. We are only half hnau.

65Majel-Susan
May 17, 2020, 11:22pm

Ch 14-15
From being terrified of being sacrificed to sorns, to running for your life from sorns, to learning more about sorns but still being afraid, to seeking a sorn, to finally meeting a sorn... I have to say, something about that cycle just tickles my funny bone. Anyway, turns out that nothing is really as horrible and evil as your own fellow men.

66haydninvienna
May 18, 2020, 1:01am

>65 Majel-Susan: Long time since I read Out of the Silent Planet, but I remember being charmed by the description of the sorn and his description of cheese. Come to think of it, my wife and children say I have the same habit of lecturing as the sorn does:
The sorn rose with strange spidery movements and began going to and fro about the cave, attended by its thin goblin shadow. It brought him the usual vegetable foods of Malacandra, and strong drink, with the very welcome addition of a smooth brown substance which revealed itself to nose, eye and palate, in defiance of all probability, as cheese.

Ransom asked what it was.The sorn began to explain painfully how the female of some animals secreted a fluid for the nourishment of its young, and would have gone on to describe the whole process of milking and cheesemaking, if Ransom had not interrupted it.

Now I'll have to download the whole thing from Faded Page and read it again.

67Sakerfalcon
May 18, 2020, 5:04am

I finished reading Out of the silent planet this weekend, and really enjoyed it. Perhaps more so than if I'd have read it when I first acquired the book.

Chapter 19 really struck me - at first, when Ransom sees his fellow men again after a long period with the gross and sorts of Malacandra, and they appear alien to him. Then later, as he observes Weston and Devine's attempts to communicate with Oyarsa. This scene is both hilarious and extremely uncomfortable, satirising harshly the European treatment of "primitive" people that they "discover".

68-pilgrim-
Edited: May 19, 2020, 9:33am

I have finally got hold of a copy of Out of the Silent Planet (online loan copy, not my own!), so I am joining after Sakerfalcon has finished.

I am on Chapter 4 now, and am posting my thoughts whilst only having read this thread up to the point where it starts to have what are still spoilers for me. So apologies if I repeat someone else's comments.

  • I really do prefer this older style of writing, opening with a long evocative passage describing walking through the Cotswolds. It makes me want to be there with Ransom.

  • The method Lewis uses to get us invested in Random is really quite crafty: we learn about the man's moods, and temperament for several pages before we even learn his name. As to the specifics of background - the sort of thing that only a proportion of readers will identify with - that does not come out at all until he is talking to Devine.

  • It also demonstrates Lewis' attitude that what defines a person is how they think, rather than their social position in society.

  • I agree with Majel-Susan: why, Ransom, why? I cannot think of any circumstance where telling someone whom you barely know exactly how little you would be missed is a good idea!

  • Lewis and Tolkien both had major popular followings, in addition to the day jobs that they loved, and as a result felt continually pressed for time. I think that shows up in the way Ransom takes nearly a whole page up with extolling the delights of no one being able to find you, and having no schedule to stick to. I would imagine him gamboling through the countryside shouting, "Free! I'm free at last!"... except he has too much of a stiff upper lip to ever do such a thing.

  • Ransom's reaction to what he sees in the backyard is very true to life. It appears obviously criminal, but his brain keeps telling him that "there must be some reasonable explanation" because a) things like that happen in the news, not in "real life" b) it is psychologically impossible to believe evil of someone of one's own background and class.

    When people ask how abusers get away with things for so long - this is why. Ransom is a decent chap, but faced with a tearful boy being manhandled, he wants to believe the harmless explanation given by someone he knows from school.

  • We already have some distinction between the villains. I note the difference between their criteria for selecting a victim: Watson is "doing least harm, and possibly doing humanity a service" (in his eyes) whilst Devine's is "least likely to get us caught". He may have more self-control and better manners, but I expect him to be the more ruthless of the two.

  • The naked eugenicist argument put forward by Watson in discussing using the boy sent me off to check the date of first publication. 1938. That is, when eugenics ideas were widespread in certain scientific circles in Europe, and had not yet been debunked by the Nazi's implementation of the principle. (Nazi extermination or sterilisation of people they considered genetically inferior (Jews, Sinti, the mentally and congenitally physically handicapped) was, of course already well underway by this time, but that was not generally known.)

    It is horrifying to see how respectable a eugenics argument was in the 1930s. There were Eugenics Education Society and the American Eugenics Society, and university departments of eugenics, which received government funding.

    Lewis has shown us Henry's mother, near to tears because her boy is half an hour late. By showing how much he matters to his mother, Lewis is clearly showing that Henry matters as much as any other human being, even though he is "simple".

    It's nice to see Lewis sticking his nose in to oppose the eugenicists.
  • 69haydninvienna
    May 19, 2020, 8:10am

    Well, now you've done it. I've downloaded the book and started reading. And I found this:
    It seemed to Ransom that Weston went up a hill towards the doorway and disappeared suddenly downwards when he had passed it. When he followed—which he did with caution—he had the curious impression that he was walking up to the edge of a precipice: the new room beyond the doorway seemed to be built on its side so that its farther wall lay almost in the same plane as the floor of the room he was leaving. When, however, he ventured to put forward his foot, he found that the floor continued flush and as he entered the second room the walls suddenly righted themselves and the rounded ceiling was over his head. Looking back, he perceived that the bedroom in its turn was now heeling over—its roof a wall and one of its walls a roof.


    Reminded me of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the stewardess with the meal tray.



    70Majel-Susan
    Edited: May 19, 2020, 8:57am

    Yay! More company!

    >68 -pilgrim-: Ooh, I didn't know that eugenics was a popular theory back in the day! That is interesting! Yet another of those things which we take for granted these days.

    We already have some distinction between the villains. I note the difference between their criteria for selecting a victim: Watson is "doing least harm, and possibly doing humanity s service" (in his eyes) whilst Devine's is "least likely to get us caught". He may have more self-control and better manners, but I expect him to be the more ruthless of the two.

    Good point about this comparison, too!

    >69 haydninvienna: I've heard of 2001: A Space Odyssey for the longest time; maybe I should consider giving it a read sometime.

    71Majel-Susan
    May 19, 2020, 8:53am

    Ch 16
    I like how Augray describes how, if Ransom died on their advice, the hrossa would make "a poem about the gallant hman and how the sky grew black and the cold stars shone and he journeyed on and journeyed on; and they would have put in a fine speech for him to say as he were dying." That's just so cute!

    I'm also wondering what happened to the old forests of Malacandra. It's funny how Ransom hears a description of the creatures who used to live there and immediately jumps to the conclusion that they were birds, when, after all he has seen that is different and unexpected in Malacandra, I'm not at all sure that it's as simple as that.

    I'm also liking how uniquely different the sorns are from the hrossa, and how differently they think. Now all I need is to meet the pfifltriggi and Oyarsa. On the other hand, I wonder if I will get to meet Maleldil at all.

    72Sakerfalcon
    May 19, 2020, 9:02am

    >71 Majel-Susan: I loved the hrossa!

    73Majel-Susan
    May 19, 2020, 9:17am

    >72 Sakerfalcon: Right! They really were incredibly sweet, and the way they approach life was so calming!

    74haydninvienna
    May 19, 2020, 10:34am

    >70 Majel-Susan: I meant the film, although there is a book. By Arthur C Clarke, of course. What I had in mind was this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mUu8ue3gXc. Blew my young mind when I first saw it 50+ years ago, and still looks startling today.

    And being a fast reader, I've plowed my way through Out of the Silent Planet, and I have this to say: what a writer Lewis was! In one of my own threads I was referring to Laura Miller's book The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia. She discusses how other writers, in particular Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman, praised Lewis's ability to tell a story even though they disagreed with him fiercely in other ways. I envy him his ability to construct a complex sentence while still remaining perfectly clear. I remember reading (I think it was in one of the essays in Light on C S Lewis) that "no man ever had the gift of phrase like he did. He said of himself that 'I just write the first draft and fair-copy it.'". And what a visual imagination he must have had. The descriptions of the landscape of Malacandra are more telling now than they must have done when I first read the book more than 50 years ago; I now have 50 years of reading and writing to show me how hard this is. Sorry, I'm gushing. But the sheer quality of the writing makes the SF writers of the Golden Age look clumsy.

    I didn't realise till just now how short the book is. My Faded Page copy is only 208 pages long, including a few pages of announcements of new publications from the publishers, including Ulysses and A Glastonbury Romance. But as the saying goes, it changes lives. Changed mine: I've been reading Lewis on and off ever since, even though I disagree with him about a few things.

    752wonderY
    May 19, 2020, 10:45am

    Y'all keep nudging me to recover my copy. I know it's in the behind row in my science fiction bookshelf. I remember loving the first and second book, but never reading the third. May have to start all over again.

    76Majel-Susan
    Edited: May 19, 2020, 12:18pm

    >74 haydninvienna: Woah, that was fast. It's a short book, but you could probably hold speed reading championships with a pace like that! My sister is super-fast, too.

    Yes, and I also find that Lewis writes with really refreshing clarity.

    77haydninvienna
    May 19, 2020, 12:20pm

    >76 Majel-Susan: Helped by the fact that I found I could remember it in some detail, even given the long gap since my previous read. Must have made quite an impression.

    78Majel-Susan
    Edited: May 19, 2020, 12:21pm

    >75 2wonderY: Yes, do join us! I'm planning to read the rest of the trilogy after this, as well.

    79-pilgrim-
    Edited: May 20, 2020, 6:18am

    I read Chapter 4 last night (still posting blind here).

    The following exchange puzzled me:

    Weston is speaking:You cannot be so small-minded as to think that the rights and and the life of an individual or of a million individuals are of the slightest importance in comparison to this.'
    'I happen to disagree,' said Ransom. 'And have always disagreed, even about vivisection.


    What is Ransom doing in bringing vivisection into it?

    By "individuals" Weston is clearly referring to people. If, by referring to opposing the vivisection of animals, Ransom is applying the term "individuals" to animals as well, and asserting that they also have the same rights as people, that is a view that, although found nowadays, would have been extremely unusual for the era in which this was written.

    If he is simply asserting that he ascribes to liberal* values, then it seems unnecessarily broadening the argument, when the status of his own personal rights should be concerning him quite a lot.

    The best explanation I can formulate is that Lewis is being consciously political and seeing out an ethos of British liberal values, in contrast to Weston, who seems to be becoming a mouthpiece for totalitarianism.

    I have recently been reading Agent Jack, about a British agent who penetrated fascist circles in Britain during World War II. It was chilling to read how respectable support for the Nazi ideology was, even after we were at war - even if the cells that formed to assist the Germans provided more hot air than practical assistance

    *"Liberal" in this context has no connection with the American political grouping, or the values or policies associated with it. Ransom, and Lewis, are British, and the political context is policy towards the fascist ideologies growing in certain European countries.

    80Majel-Susan
    May 20, 2020, 1:24pm

    >79 -pilgrim-: Yep, I noticed that bit about vivisection, too. I take it as Ransom's way of saying that they can't budge him on his ethics, so don't even try. I doubt Ransom is referring to animals as individuals. Also, I think that's Lewis just inserting himself into the story; he wrote more than once how he could never get behind the idea of vivisection.

    81Majel-Susan
    May 20, 2020, 1:29pm

    Ch 17
    Even sorns can be fascinated by our funny little contraptions, like wristwatches that seem very interesting and very curious but in a redundant way.

    And finally! Pfifltriggi! They sound so cute, too! And ah! Ransom becomes the model of all three travellers from Thulcandra, much to Ransom's mortified horror. Kanakaberaka, Ransom's new friend, is clearly more of an "impressionistic" artist than one of realism.
    Beside it stood three figures for all of which Ransom had apparently been the model. He recoiled from them in disgust... these stock-like dummies, almost as thick as they were tall, and sprouting about the head and neck into something that looked like fungus...

    'No," said the pfifltriggi, 'I do not mean it to be too like. Too like, and they will not believe it - those who are born after.'

    Sorry, Ransom, but this is how Malacandrian posterity will remember you now.

    Also, every reference that Malacandra has to Thulcandra seems to indicate that Earth is not just any silent planet, but the Cursed and Silent Planet...

    82-pilgrim-
    May 20, 2020, 3:17pm

    >80 Majel-Susan: Yes, I am getting the impression that Ransom is, not Lewis-as-he-sees-himself, but Lewis, as he would like to be.

    83Majel-Susan
    May 22, 2020, 10:40am

    Ch 18
    This chapter was a fascinating lesson in the art of miscommunication, between Weston and Devine learning only so much Malacandrian language to understand that they must offer a human sacrifice to appease the sorns' tribal idol, and Oyarsa in turn wondering why two men from Thulcandra are so scared of him yet agree to bring another man to meet him, only for this third man after "apparently agreeing" to chicken nearly as soon as he lands and to make a bolt for it.

    On a more serious note, it appears that Malacandra has an undying fascination with the great mystery of what happened to Thulcandra, and I'm really not sure if this is a good thing or not... I mean, it seems to me that Thulcandra was banished from the heavens and kept so silent and apart from the rest of the planets to—I don't know, protect them from the corruption of this fallen Earth?

    They know so much, and they are in so much deeper a natural communication with Maleldil, and yet, so much of Maleldil's strange wars with the Bent One on Thulcandra remains a mystery to them. Well, obviously, mankind is deeply familiar with the story of their own downfall, and we as human beings have the tendency to believe that whatever is happening to us is the most important thing that is happening anywhere, but the fact that Malacandra knows so little about it just gives me a bad feeling. I mean, not that knowledge is a bad thing, but still...

    84Majel-Susan
    May 23, 2020, 12:40pm

    Ch 19
    This chapter was so funny! There's Ransom, who for months and months has been trying to represent Man in as worthy and as hnau a light as possible, and here comes along Weston going "Pouff! Bang!" at everybody, making an absolute buffoon of himself, and just downright embarrassing Ransom and even Devine. Even Oyarsa wasn't keeping a straight face anymore. It was hilarious, especially the scene where Weston couldn't stop addressing himself to the napping hross who later woke up and then walked off completely oblivious to the crown of beads on his head.

    >67 Sakerfalcon: This scene is both hilarious and extremely uncomfortable, satirising harshly the European treatment of "primitive" people that they "discover".

    Yes, that colonial attitude at its best! Weston has been on Malacandra for even longer than Ransom, but the crudeness of his language and his behaviour towards them really highlights how much he despises and looks down at them. It's ironic when I think on it, though, because one might say that Weston treats the Malacandrians that way because he doesn't see them as people, but the fact that he cites actual experience for his methods shows that this is more or less exactly the way he treats indigenous people when he meets a tribe on Earth. So basically, not of his "civilised" culture = not really a person.

    85haydninvienna
    May 23, 2020, 1:19pm

    >84 Majel-Susan: Lewis, although conservative (in the British sense) in his politics, seems not to have been a fan of colonial attitudes. His first given name of course was Clive, and I have a vague memory that in one of his letters he carefully explains that his given name has no connection with the "iniquitous" (his word) Anglo-Indian whose last name was Clive. (Vague memory, but I'm quite sure that he described Robert Clive as iniquitous.)

    I think Sakerfalcon's comment was pretty spot-on, although I lean more towards "extremely uncomfortable".

    86Majel-Susan
    Edited: May 23, 2020, 7:11pm

    Ch 20
    I hope Weston enjoyed his fourteen dippings in cold fresh Malacandrian water! XD

    I see that Ransom is the "traitor" of the human race. Sure, Weston.

    But seriously, I enjoyed Weston's rhetorics; they were eloquently spoken and fairly insightful as to his frame of mind, but I also appreciated how his philosophies were broken down and digested by Ransom into the bare bones of what Weston really means by what he says.

    Also adding to my earlier point on Weston's colonial attitude not just to the Malacandrians, but also to other indigenous cultures on Earth, when Weston says that he cares about Man and Oyarsa calls him out for being willing to sacrifice Ransom, who is also a man, to an evil fate, I'm fairly convinced that Weston doesn't actually mean all of humanity, just those who are actually people, that is, those who belong to his particular "civilised" culture.

    >85 haydninvienna: Reading Weston's "Might is Right" speech made me go back to -pilgrim-'s point in >68 -pilgrim-: about the prevalence of eugenics arguments in the pre-WWII period, and as you remark, Lewis seems fairly aware of how vulgar colonial attitudes tend to be. All of this just made me wonder how much of the approaching atrocities Lewis could see ready to unfold across Europe over the few years immediately preceding the actual start of the Second World War in 1939, just one year before the publication of Out of the Silent Planet.

    On a last note on this chapter, I like how if there is even the slimmest of hopes, Oyarsa chooses life at all costs for Weston and Devine, rather than opt to kill them at that instant.

    87MrsLee
    May 23, 2020, 7:57pm

    I thought I would finish this yesterday at work. It seemed as though it would be slow day since the only task I had on my calendar was to water the plants (and possibly watch them grow). However, there is some 'power' (bent eldil?) in my life which decides that all H*ll breaks loose when I bring a book to work in anticipation of a slow day to read. So, I didn't finish until today.

    It kept up the veil of forgetfulness to the very end, but I know I read the whole trilogy! Unlike others here though, I have no taste for the long descriptions of flora and fauna. Maybe it is the color scheme? I loathe pink and blue as a rule, except in very small portions of nature. Couldn't wrap my head about what shape things were supposed to be. Perhaps gravity is too ingrained in my brain, but they all seem to be bulbous on the top and that doesn't work for me, so I skim and forget it. It's okay, you can disembody me now if you want to.

    I did enjoy the moments of interaction with the races though. I'm not sure whether or not it was realistic how fast Ransom got over Hyoi's death though. I get that things rather spiraled, and I appreciate that Lewis wasn't milking my tears for all they were worth, but it seemed a bit unrealistic to me. Hyoi was Ransom's link to Malacandra. His first contact, the one who took him in, etc. I suppose shock could have been at play, or is it just the "stiff upper lip"?

    I rather like how Lewis doesn't even try to explain the exit or entry to Earth. Or the workings of the ship. I don't like it, but it kind of amuses me. It hadn't been done, he didn't know how it could be done, so why try? He was more focused on the place and the people and the deeper meanings.

    88haydninvienna
    Edited: May 24, 2020, 1:25am

    >87 MrsLee: Another bit of my vague reminiscences of things Lewis said or wrote: I'm pretty sure that somewhere he expresses the opinion that space flight ought not to be explained too much, and is better left unexplained, or even miraculous: something along the lines that in his first fantastic novel he carried his hero to Mars in a space ship but later "when I knew better, I had angels carry him to Venus". (It's really only a tiny spoiler for Perelandra but just in case ....) Presumably he approved, or would have approved, of John Carter simply finding himself on Mars. And I doubt if he would have claimed the slightest relevant technical knowledge, or the ability to imitate it, anyway.

    89Majel-Susan
    Edited: May 25, 2020, 5:51pm

    Ch 21
    I was a little sorry that Ransom decided to leave Malacandra, but I suppose it is as he says, "If I cannot live in Thulcandra, it is better for me not to live at all."

    Perhaps Devine might have enjoyed his Malacandrian experience better in company with Ransom than someone like Weston? He could have spent the last couple of months drinking and smoking, instead of... Who even wants to know how Devine and Weston have been passing their time getting on each other's nerves everyday? On the other hand, I'm sure Ransom enjoyed his time perfectly well without Devine.

    Even though it was a short-lived moment, I kinda appreciated seeing the three men working together to make it back to Earth. Ransom seemed fairly comfortable with the idea of being "unbodied" by Oyarsa, but as it turns out, the human will to live keeps a pretty tenacious hold as long as the body still lives.

    He awoke in almost complete darkness in the midst of a loud continuous noise... It was a prolonged drumming noise close above his head.

    When I was reading this paragraph, it was perfect timing for me, as that was precisely the sound drumming over my head from the roof. I thought, "Hmm... Rain!" and right then...
    'Oh God,' he sobbed. 'Oh God! It's rain.'


    As beautiful and peaceful as Malacandra was, it felt good to be back home on Earth.

    90Majel-Susan
    Edited: May 25, 2020, 5:53pm

    Ch 22 & Postscript
    Haha, Lewis appears as himself, as the ghostwriter! And "Ransom" is frustrated by Lewis' denseness! That was pretty funny.

    Also, as to the "very obvious question, 'Why didn't they close their shutters?'" and Ransom's protest, "I don't believe your theory that 'readers never notice that sort of thing.' I'm sure I should."—haha, I have to confess that I'm not one of those readers who noticed about the shutters!

    And so, I've finally finished with Out of the Silent Planet! Woo-hoo! Perelandra next!

    91MrsLee
    May 29, 2020, 5:39pm

    >90 Majel-Susan: So are you continuing with Perelandra? I have begun it, and find the world much more accessible than the first book.

    92Majel-Susan
    May 30, 2020, 2:44pm

    >91 MrsLee: Yes, I've started it, but I'm currently only two chapters through. Where are you at?

    93MrsLee
    May 30, 2020, 3:39pm

    >92 Majel-Susan: I'm at chapter 6. Slow day at work yesterday. :)

    94Majel-Susan
    May 30, 2020, 4:30pm

    >93 MrsLee: Chill days are good days!

    Since you're still here and reading Perelandra, would you be interested if I set up another thread for it? If so, then I will continue to make notes and post them as I go along. :)

    95MrsLee
    May 30, 2020, 5:20pm

    Sure, or we could continue here if you want. I can't read on a schedule right now, but I like to see what others think about when we are reading the same book.

    96Majel-Susan
    May 31, 2020, 6:18pm

    >95 MrsLee: Nah, I can't read on a schedule right now either; I've got exams coming up this June. :P

    To keep things tidy, I've set up another thread for Perelandra here:
    https://www.librarything.com/topic/320937

    97hfglen
    Jun 1, 2020, 3:50am

    >96 Majel-Susan: Good luck with the exams!

    98Majel-Susan
    Jun 1, 2020, 11:17am

    >97 hfglen: Thank you so much!!