23 March 2013

CS Lewis's Space Trilogy

Okay, so back in the saddle with thoughts on CS Lewis's The Space Trilogy...where to begin.

Well, to start with, I read the first book, Out of the Silent Planet, some weeks before I managed to read Perelandra and That Hideous Strength, owing to the wait time at the library.  Why Perelandra alone had such a long wait time I do not know, but there we are.

I would have to say that, for my own sensibilities, the books seemed to get rather less and less enjoyable as they progressed: Out of the Silent Planet was the most enjoyable one to me.

Suffice it to say, I share JRR Tolkien's disdain for allegory, and of course there is no escaping it in CS Lewis's works; that said I found the allegory more agreeable in Out of the Silent Planet, which told the tale of Dr. Ransom's wanderings on Mars.  I suppose part of that might be because it told more of a tale of adventure, one which had greater precedents that I could relate to: HG Wells (whom the author himself acknowledges), Ray Bradbury (technically an antecedent, but I read The Martian Chronicles long before I read Lewis), and others.  I think there is perhaps something romantic about the notion of visiting Mars and meeting its inhabitants; and the fact that the Christian mythology presented was less blatant probably also made me able to digest it more easily.

Perelandra was not terribly difficult for me to read, either; it retained some of that sense of adventure, and I certainly enjoyed the world that Lewis created to represent Venus; nonetheless, it was, I suppose, less enjoyable to me because it spent so much time talking.  I'm not opposed to philosophical debate, but I was rather disappointed that the book descended from an exciting trip to Venus to a rehashing of the story of original sin, this time with green people.  Like, literally green, though they were also environmentally conscious.

Most troublesome of all, though, was That Hideous Strength.  I can't remember wanting to put a book down so much since Gravity's Rainbow - which I did, in fact, eventually give up on - but I finished That Hideous Strength eventually.  I don't remember ever reading a book where so much of nothing happened.  I know that's an oversimplification; and, indeed, I suppose my reaction is the same as the "skeptic" character, MacPhee, which Lewis himself included, who frequently asked why they were sitting around doing nothing, to which the answer was, they were waiting and obeying.

I think this is the greatest problem I have with That Hideous Strength: the philosophy inherent in it, that one should sit around and wait for divine intervention in the struggle against evil, instead of opposing it head-on.  Waiting faithfully on deliverance from heaven is, at least in my worldview, tantamount to doing nothing.  On the one hand I understand that Lewis wanted to show that the strength of the evil represented in the book was too much to be opposed by mere mortals; but on the other hand, I don't think that's a legitimate excuse not to even try.  Indeed, it seemed a juxtaposition of the banality of evil represented by the antagonists: in their goodness, the protagonists proved just as banal.

In a literary sense I suppose I understand where Lewis was going with all this; after all, in Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, the agency of man was in fact useful for opposing evil, and his point was, I think, to show that sometimes one has to rely on divine providence; but the sitting around waiting for it to happen just rubbed me the wrong way.

All in all, the Space Trilogy proved an interesting read, if not my favorite; and it was certainly refreshing to see such different viewpoints from my own.


Books: Still reading The Wilderness Warrior, which is quick thick, so I suspect that will be a long project.

Bottles: Nothing new.  Got some wine club wines but haven't opened them yet.

Writing: Still working on query letters.

Guitar: Same projects: "The Blue" and hopefully, soon, "Marooned."