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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Book Review: Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

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Tagline: An Allegory of Christianity for the Progressive and Nerdy

Normally I love detailed exposition of retro-futurist tech and alien environments but I didn’t enjoy it here. It is too mechanical, as the author seems to want to be as accurate as possible so the reader can establish the scene perfectly in their mind, which is going too far. Or maybe my brain has been turned to mush by Burroughs’ Barsoom series and Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber.

While the story itself is interesting, it’s similar to other space fiction of the time – basically they were all a variation on Dances with Wolves in space. It’s the broader themes it illustrates that are really engaging. As other members of GoodReads have noted, the exchange between the main character, his captors and the metaphysical being of Oyarsa is excellent: a comically hilarious and frustratingly accurate discourse on expansionist ideology. This scene is mostly about the application of Darwinism to the conquering of foreign peoples. Perhaps the Nazis or fascism in general were the source of inspiration, given its publication in the late 1930s, but I think it more closely resembles American settlement and expansion.

It’s encouraging that Lewis finds contempt for those that justify colonization under the guise of twisted Darwinism and Manifest-Destiny-like ideals. It’s equally encouraging to find that Lewis accepts the real theory of evolution in general. In fact it may be surprising to some how matter-of-factly he accepts it.

One thing I really appreciated was Lewis’ focus on language throughout, being a philologist himself. We learn some basic Malacandrian along with the protagonist, and it’s wonderfully immersive – the author even uses racial accents to distinguish between characters. It reminded me of the way Stephen King uses onomatopoeia, nicknames and rhymes throughout the Dark Tower series. I find this stuff key to making rich experiences.

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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Books

 

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