You’ll doubtless recognise the name from the Narnia series. I was browsing the library shelves for a book and found this. It’s apparently the first in a trilogy of some sort, and was surprisingly interesting.
The first thing to note is that Lewis is an unabashed snob. You’d probably call him “a man of an age”, and that age is 1930′s Great Britain, the Glory of the Empire, and all that. It comes thru very strongly in his attitudes to class and working roles for example. Also in the complete absence of women from this story!
Anyhow, the wikipedia entry for Lewis is pretty interesting. Quite a character.
Out of the Silent Planet is most interesting because Lewis manages to do what many scifi writers can’t, and creates a world that actually feels ‘fantastic’. All too often I find that the alien landscapes authors write about are simply inversions or expansions of a human terrain, a kind of extrapolation of what the writer has already experienced. Lewis however, turns the Martian landscape into a vast and textured space in which his main character is introduced to a utopian tripartite society of aliens.
So despite all the pomposity and dated characterisations, Lewis managed to hold my interest in this rather short story and I chewed thru it in two days!! That said, it contained some interesting commentary on colonial attitudes, the seemingly irrepressible want of humanity to drive into the stars.
For example, what if other peoples just don’t want us to expand into the stars? What if they think we should be happy with our wee planet until it expires, because that is our fate? Big question that.
A recommended read.