Saturday, July 07, 2007

C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy

I found my wife's old copy of Out of the Silent Planet,when I was looking for another book. So I read it, and purchased the other two books in his space trilogy, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength.

I will confess from the start that I am not a huge fan of Lewis's. I find him to be a somewhat uneven writer.

To be sure, I adore The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I about fell out of my chair laughing when I read the opening of the book:

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how his friends spoke to him for he had none. He didn't call his Father and Mother 'Father' and 'Mother,' but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and tee-totallers, and wore a special kinds of underclothes. In their house they were very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open.

"Eustace Clarence liked animals, especially beetles, if they were dead and pinned on a card. He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools."

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is very good as well, and I enjoyed Prince Caspian a lot also.

I must confess, however, that I thought the stories in the other books in the Narnia series a bit clunky and the characters a bit one dimensional.

In Lewis's space trilogy, without a doubt my favorite is the last, That Hideous Strength. I cared about Jane and Mark (more on that below), and thought the fantasy elements pretty well integrated with the rest of the story.

My least favorite of the trilogy was the second book, Perelandra. At about one-third through the story, if not earlier, the upshot of the story was pretty obvious, and I kept wishing that Lewis would speed up the tempo and get it over with. I thought the plot provided a pretty heavy-handed treatment of the themes.

I thought Out of the Silent Planet was a more than passable work of fantasy.

The relationship between husband and wife, and gender relationships more generally, receives sustained attention in That Hideous Strength. Lewis builds in echos of Ephesians 5, and raises the topic in other ways as well. I think it would be a fun book to read as part of an (open-minded) book-reading group of husbands and wives. So That Hideous Strength goes on a rather short list of fiction that treats the wisdom of modern gender relations as an open question. In that sense, this book goes next to Henry James' The Bostonians, which is also remarkable for portraying the seeming "naturalness" of male headship.


Blogger CPA said...

They're favorites of mine too, and I feel exactly the same:

Out of the Silent Planet: 4 stars
Perelandra: 3 stars or maybe even 2
That Hideous Strength: 5 stars
(the part in that Hideous Strength where the tramp is involved and the confusing of tongues: 6 to 7 stars!!)

July 25, 2007 5:24 PM  

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