C.S. Lewis, 1938
Meet Elwin Ransom, an unassuming Englishman who’s hijacked and ends up on a spaceship headed for another planet. His voyage, and the events that take place at his destination, make for very entertaining reading. I can’t resist classic science fiction, especially when it’s written by C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series and contemporary/colleague of J.R.R. Tolkien.
I first read this series in the late 1990’s after buying the entire Space Trilogy* used at Barnes & Noble, where I worked at the time. It was exactly what was needed, as I was dealing with some stuff and needed desperately to occupy my mind with something very far removed from reality. Fast-forward 25 years; I’ve just discovered that all three books in the Space Trilogy are included free with my Audible membership so I’ve spent the last few days getting reacquainted with Out of the Silent Planet.
The trappings of sci-fi from 80 years ago are charmingly qaint – think of that old silent film in which, I believe, a rocket is shot to the moon with a great big rubber band or catapult. That’s true of this book as well, but Lewis infuses the story with substance and symbolism. The symbolism may escape you – I’m sure some of it went right over my head – but you will still enjoy this short novel, written with skill by a master. I do see that one theme – that of Earth and its inhabitants being isolated and unconnected with other planets and beings in the universe – is similar to the Earth’s being “shadowed” in A Wrinkle in Time.
The audiobook, produced in 2000, is narrated by Geoffrey Howard. I found myself thinking, as I listened, that Howard would have made an excellent replacement for Ralph Cosham, narrator of the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. I googled Howard; as it turns out, he and Cosham were one and the same. The world lost a golden voice with his passing. Even so, I have to say I recommend the print version over the audio; there are so many similar ‘foreign’ words and names that they get confused in audio format.
I escaped so easily into this book when I first read it that if I’d been rating at that time I would’ve given it five stars. The view from a distance of twentty-plus years shows me four stars – still a high rating.
*The other two titles in the Space Trilogy are, in order, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.