Book Review – “Out of the Silent Planet” – Rating: 3/5

By Kiara Bean, Correspondent

For the longest time, humans have been thinking whether it would be possible to live on the planet Mars. There are many different programs, companies, and initiatives focused on exploring space and the potential of living on other planets. Authors writing science fiction often express these wishes by describing otherworldly planets and creatures, and intergalactic travels in their books.

C.S. Lewis, the renowned children’s author known for the “Chronicles of Narnia” series, also decided to take on the science fiction world in one of his creations. “Out of the Silent Planet,” the first book in the “The Space Trilogy,” was published in 1938 in the United Kingdom. Five years later, it was published in the US. Lewis is known for incorporating a strong moral code and philosophical theology into his books. In “Out of the Silent Planet,” he raises important philosophical questions about what is actually beyond Earth’s atmosphere, what a person’s place in the universe is, and how a person is shaped by their thoughts, beliefs, and environment.

The main character Elwin Ransom, simply called Ransom throughout the book, is a professor of philology at the University of Cambridge who one day meets his old college acquaintance Devine. Devine and his friend Weston drug Ransom and take him prisoner on a spacecraft bound for a planet called Malacandra. When Ransom wakes up and finds himself on the spacecraft, he overhears his captors talking about turning him over to the “sorns” as a sacrifice. Ransom panics and hatches a plan to escape his captors and find his way back to Earth.

In his book, Lewis provides readers with vivid details of the planet Malacandra, its inhabitants, and the surroundings. He gives a description of not only his characters and their actions, but also their deeply personal thoughts, explaining their motivations and their perspective on Malacandra, its inhabitants, and each person’s place in the universe. Lewis draws parallels between the people of Earth and the creatures of Malacandra to show that they are not very different, even if at times the extraterrestrials seem more evolved in some respects. 

Lewis even creates a whole new language to describe his creatures, their culture, and their planet. Each group of creatures on Malacandra has their own unique culture and way of looking at the universe, and Lewis shows these differences through the creatures’ interactions with Ransom as he wanders through Malacandra in his quest to get back to Earth.

It was very interesting to read about Lewis’s interpretation of the universe throughout his book. However, some descriptions and “thought monologues” dragged on for too many pages. The first half of the book was pretty slow, with Ransom just complaining onboard the spacecraft. Once he got off, there was still a long period of Ransom just wandering around the new planet before the story picked up. If the reader gets through the first half of the book, I promise there is a lot to look forward to. I loved the ending, which I will not reveal here since I do not want to spoil the book for you. Because of the slow start to the book, I can only give it a 3/5 rating. 

Whether readers are looking for a science fiction novel, a philosophical work, or just a get away from Earth, Lewis offers a thought-provoking piece in “Out of the Silent Planet.” If you thirst after an exciting action novel, stay away from this book. But if you like long philosophical discussions, descriptions of the universe, and the idea of life on another planet, be sure to read “Out of the Silent Planet” by C.S. Lewis.