When you think of the works of C.S. Lewis the first to come to mind of probably the Chronicles of Narnia. Second is probably Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, or one of his many other Christian books that explored a variety of topics and themes. After all, Lewis, became the everyman Apologist in his writing, something quite shocking considering his conversion to Christianity did not come about until Tolkien and Hugo Dyson spent a long evening in some deep theological conversation that, eventually, worked to convert Lewis’ heart and open him to the idea of Christianity being true. Prior to that he had been a devout atheist, and in his own mind a most unwilling of converts.
But there is another major work that C.S. Lewis wrote that does not seem to get the focus or recognition it deserves. Admittedly, I have not had the chance to read this trilogy, either, but I intend to correct that at some point in the not-so-distant future. Jamie at Books and Beverages runs a monthly book discussion on a book by Tolkien or Lewis, and it appears she has already done the first two books of the trilogy so, knowing that the third will be forthcoming eventually, it would be in my own interest to get around to reading the first two so that I can jump in when she eventually goes after the third one.
What interests me the most about this trilogy is not so much the idea of a Science Fiction series by C.S. Lewis, but rather how they came into existence in the first place. While reading the Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien last year, I learned that Tolkien and Lewis had a rather inspiring conversation. Lewis once said to him, “If they won’t write the kinds of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves.” Tolkien agreed to try “time-travel” and Lewis “space-travel,” well before the science fiction was the established genre it is today.
The result was that Tolkien started “The Lost Road”, a story about a father and son who eventually travel back in time to Númenor (back before Tolkien associated Númenor with the main part of his mythology) and was intended to be a new version of the Atlantis legend. But Tolkien abandoned this story after only a handful of chapters, which can be found in “The Lost Road and Other Writings”, the fifth volume in The History of Middle-Earth.
Lewis was far more successful in his venture, first writing and publishing “Out of the Silent Planet”, followed by “Perelandra” and then “That Hideous Strength”. These stories follow a philologist named Ransom (bear in mind that Tolkien was, himself, a philologist) who journeys to Mars, then Venus, and finally back to Earth. In the interest of not spoiling anything plot-wise for myself or others, here is the blurb taken from the Kindle omnibus edition of the three books:
This one-volume edition marks the 75th anniversary of Lewis’s classic science fiction trilogy featuring the adventures of Dr. Ransom on Mars, Venus, and Earth. It includes an exclusive foreword compiled from letters by J.R.R. Tolkien, who inspired Lewis to write the first volume and on whom the main character of Ransom was largely based. The Space Trilogy is a remarkable work of fantasy, demonstrating the powerful imagination of C. S. Lewis.
The Space Trilogy, Omnibus Edition includes:
Out of the Silent Planet
Dr. Ransom, a Cambridge academic, is abducted and taken on a spaceship to the red planet of Malacandra, which he knows as Mars. His captors are plotting to plunder the planet’s treasures and offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the creatures who live there.
Having escaped from Mars, Dr. Ransom is called to the paradise planet of Perelandra, or Venus. When his old enemy also arrives and is taken over by the forces of evil, Ransom finds himself in a desperate struggle to save the innocence of this Eden-like world.
That Hideous Strength
Investigating the truth about her prophetic dreams, Jane Studdock encounters the fabled Dr. Ransom, who is in great pain after his travels. A sinister society run by his old adversaries intends to harness the ancient powers of a resurrected Merlin in their ambition to subjugate the people of Earth.
Have you read any, or all, of the books in the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis? If so, what were your spoiler-free thoughts to those books? In our time, with the wealth of books being published every day, do you think that writers would be able to say “If they won’t write the kinds of books we want to read, we shall have to write them ourselves”?