Perelandra by C.S. Lewis

Title: Perelandra (Space Trilogy, Book 2)
Author: C.S. Lewis
Publisher: various (originally The Bodley Head)
Released: 1943
Source: my personal library


The second book in C. S. Lewis’s acclaimed Space Trilogy, which also includes Out of the Silent Planet and That Hideous Strength, Perelandra continues the adventures of the extraordinary Dr. Ransom. Pitted against the most destructive of human weaknesses, temptation, the great man must battle evil on a new planet — Perelandra — when it is invaded by a dark force. Will Perelandra succumb to this malevolent being, who strives to create a new world order and who must destroy an old and beautiful civilization to do so? Or will it throw off the yoke of corruption and achieve a spiritual perfection as yet unknown to man? The outcome of Dr. Ransom’s mighty struggle alone will determine the fate of this peace-loving planet.

C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy:
Book 1 – Out of the Silent Planet

* Note: I’m going to try to be somewhat vague, but this review may still contain spoilers. *

Book 2 in the Space Trilogy, Perelandra, continues the adventures of protagonist Elwin Ransom. This book has such a different tone than the first in the series. I felt the theological overtones of Out of the Silent Planet were fairly subtle. Ransom was meeting members of the races on Mars, learning their language, exploring their culture. The language barrier was huge, and for much of the book I felt I was stumbling along with Ransom, learning words which had unfamiliar sounds and expressing major concepts in metaphors. In Perelandra, which takes place on Venus, the struggle to communicate has eased up immensely. Actually, Ransom has to simplify much of what he says because the “Eve” figure is so innocent, never having encountered sin or evil. This is basically a retelling and expansion of the Garden of Eden. Perelandra is paradise, described in stunning (and lengthy!) detail. Bubble trees, singing winds, silver flowers, mermaids, an ocean “dotted with islands in every direction, rising and falling with the swell.” It is Ransom’s mission to try to stop the Fall from occurring on this planet, complete with a debate and then a battle between good and evil. As Ransom begins to recognize evil, there were moments I found truly chilling.

Christianity is completely unveiled in Perelandra; there are numerous references, and the characters’ debates and discussions often get heavy. There was so much to think about! I could reread this book endless times and find new threads of thought and insight.

Out of the Silent Planet was good, but I didn’t have that “ready to devour the rest of the series” feeling after finishing it. I enjoyed Perelandra much more, and I’m looking forward to reading the third and final book.

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