My C. S. Lewis Book Club read the Space Trilogy over the summer, one book per month. (Well, it took me until late October to actually finish the third book, but at least I started it in August.) The 3 stories follow the adventures of an English professor, Dr. Ransom, who travels through space and time to bring the power of God back to earth.
The Space Trilogy is a 3-book allegory about the love of God.
At least, that’s the simple synopsis. All books vary in voice and style, with the third reading dramatically differently from the other 2 (hence, the reason it took me 3 months. I found it a difficult read.) Lewis tackles a number of topics and theological questions in all 3 books–redemption, sacrifice, government control, propaganda, origin of the species, love, creation, sin & the fall, angels & demons, mythology, eternity.
Below is an amateur analysis of each book in the trilogy. I recommend the first two, but the last is only for the strong- minded.
Out of the Silent Planet–Dr. Ransom is captured and taken to Malacandra (Mars) by an evil university associate Dr. Devine and Dr. Weston, a physicist. The captors’ intention is to return to Mars, where they’ve been, for the purpose of exploiting the planet to steal their gold. They believe that they need to offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the sorn, Mars’ dominant race. Ransom, because he is good and kind, learns the local language and interacts with the eldili, space’s version of spirits. As Ransom understands Mars’ social and spiritual layers, including a fall by the great spirit to earth and his deception of all he encounters. Thulcandra (earth) has been cut off from all the planets in terms of spiritual connectivity and communcation. Ransom makes decisions of forgiveness, salvation, and submission. The theme is perhaps hope for mankind via hope in the eternal. This is an allegory of the incarnation.
Perelandra—Ransom returns to space after a call from Oryarsa, the supreme eldili, but this time to Perelandra (Venus). This adventure mirrors creation and the fall, from the book of Genesis. The Venus creature Tinidril (Eve) grows wiser at Maelidil (God)’s words, until Weston, who arrives after Ransom, begins deceiving and wooing her toward his own purposes. A saga unfolds as Ransom repeatedly fights against a demon-possessed Weston, now called Un-man. The truth (real wisdom, not experience) is the ultimate goal for finding peace–and in Ransom’s case, for saving Paradise and uniting Eve with her true Adam, called Tor.
That Hideous Strength-–Knowledge and power are the themes which which drive this heavily-allegorical WW2-era novel symbolizing the Tower of Babel and the book of Revelation in man’s arrogant struggle to become his own god. Several entwined, and at times, confusing motifs occur throughout the book. Mark and Jane Studdock, a university couple, are recruited to opposing sides of the government take-over. Satanic influence and possession control the evil side (their acronym is N.I.C.E.), which includes worship to a severed head and multiple murders, while Ransom assists the old establishment by recruiting an awakened Merlin to overthrow the enemy. Themes from mythology, the Bible, Nazism, and science (like artificial intelligence and genetic engineering) combine for a complicated plot-line. The drama ends with Ransom leaving this world for a preferred existence in the world beyond.
My simple conclusion is that I always appreciate a good allegory, I’m still not fond of science fiction, and the third book of any trilogy is usually not the best one. But I love Lewis. He seems to grow more intelligent with every month I read him, making me feel less intelligent. But maybe–hopefully–these thoughts are merely a reflection of my increased mental capacity: the more that my mind expands, the more aware I become of my inabilities to reason and prove difficult concepts.
Maybe that’s what Lewis intended. Can time and space be truly measured or explained? Can eternity be grasped? Or should we stand in awe and reverence of the unexplainable and just worship?