C.S. Lewis 1943
After revisiting the first book in the Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, I decided to do the same with its sequel, Perelandra. I finished the free Audible version (included with membership) this morning.
I do not recommend reading this book as a standalone novel.
The premise: there are two native sentient beings on Perelandra (Venus), and Ransom is once again chosen to visit this planet to intervene in a cosmic battle for the souls of those beings as well as the future of the planet and its creatures. Weston, villain of Out of the Silent Planet, is present as well – or, his body is. This battle echoes the Genesis story of The Fall. Lewis is a Christian apologist and the story reflects that, but I’m recounting my experience of the book, with no respect to Christian theology. I believe readers who are traditional Christians will find additional depths of meaning, particularly in the last chapter.
Perelandra also has mermen, mermaids, floating islands, sweet fruits, bubble-trees, and friendly seahorses as well as other fantastical creatures, on land and sea. The sky has a golden glow but the sun is not visible; nor are there stars at night. It is the Yin to Malacandra’s Yang (Malacandra is also known as Mars – see Out of the Silent Planet) although Lewis doesn’t characterize it as such; he frames the energies of the planets as feminine (Perelandra) and masculine (Malacandra).
I didn’t find this book as engaging as Planet the first time I read it, and that has not changed, but I could chalk that up to listening instead of reading. Lewis himself is much more present in this book as a first-person narrator; he visits his colleague Ransom and, after agreeing to attend his return to Earth, helps Ransom depart for Perelandra. Lewis is then present for Ransom’s return, and recounts Ransom’s experiences on that planet. At this point the novel reads like a 3rd person narrative, but Lewis occasionally pops in as a character to remind us that he is still telling the story as it was originally related to him. As such, the reader expects that Lewis will again speak in his own voice at the end of his recounting of Ransom’s narrative. He does not, so the end feels quite abrupt. I’m sure there’s a story behind that, but it just feels like Lewis is over it.
Some possibly true backtsory: Ransom may be based on J.R.R. Tolkien, who was Lewis’ friend and colleague.
As always, narrator Geoffrey Howard (the late Ralph Cosham) provides a pleasant and well-modulated listening experience.