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28 of 50

  1. Alexander, Lloyd — The Black Cauldron
  2. Anthony, Piers — Letters to Jenny
  3. Cooper, Susan — Over Sea, Under Stone
  4. Proulx, Annie — Close Range: Wyoming Stories
  5. Kincaid, Jamaica — Lucy
  6. Christie, Agatha — The Unexpected Guest
  7. Dick, Philip K. — Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  8. Cooper, Susan — The Dark Is Rising
  9. Cooper, Susan — Greenwitch
  10. Shaffer, Peter — Amadeus
  11. Anonymous — Go Ask Alice
  12. Cooper, Susan — The Grey King
  13. Martin, Steve — Shopgirl
  14. Cooper, Susan — Silver on the Tree
  15. Gaiman, Neil — Stardust
  16. Gaiman, Neil — Coraline
  17. Le Guin, Ursula — A Wizard of Earthsea
  18. Le Guin, Ursula — The Tombs of Atuan
  19. Le Guin, Ursula — The Farthest Shore
  20. Le Guin, Ursula — Tehanu
  21. Merton, Thomas — The Seven Storey Mountain: An Autobiography of Faith
  22. Alexander, Lloyd — The Castle of Llyr
  23. Zelazny, Roger — Lord of Light
  24. Card, Orson Scott — Ender's Game
  25. Clarke, Arthur C. — Childhood's End
  26. Grahame, Kenneth — The Wind in the Willows
  27. Dahl, Roald — James and the Giant Peach
  28. Lewis, C.S. — Out of the Silent Planet

I did something different, something I don't usually do. I started to read another book and … stopped. About 35 pages into Walker Percy's The Moviegoer I had to set it aside. It's not that it's not interesting or that I don't still want to read it. It simply requires a level of concentration I'm not able to give right now. Since most of my reading is done in small spurts during moments of imposed inactivity, and given that I'm easily distracted, books that require long periods of intense concentration aren't right for me at present. Percy's writing style requires much focus in order to follow what he's saying. I'll come back to him soon enough, though, when I'm in the proper mindframe.

Thus, I turned to my trusted friend Jack and the first of his science fiction trilogy. Out of the Silent Planet had been sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time, competing for attention with Heinlein, Le Guin, Gaiman, and Greene; but my eyes kept coming back to Lewis. I could resist his call no longer!

I was a bit wary as I started reading. So many "critics" have panned The Cosmic Trilogy for being too heavy-handed with its Christian theme. Though I may be a devout Christian, I no more want to read propaganda disguised as fiction as anyone else. However, I find this criticism to be off base. Anyone who thinks this book is overly informed by Christian theology really must have quite a shallow understanding of Christianity. There is a very basic idea of a hierarchy of creatures, with one sublime entity at the top of the order; there is the idea of one of top creatures having "fallen" and waged war on Heaven. However, the idea of a hierarchy of beings with a god or a pantheon of gods reigning over all, as well as the idea of a fallen "angel" or demigod, is not unique to Christianity and is, indeed, a trait shared by many mythologies. Additionally, space here is labelled "Heaven," but "Heaven" bears little resemblance to the Christian ideas of heaven; indeed, the characters in the story are simply reverting to the ancient habit, one that predated Christianity, of referring to space as "the heavens." There are few, if any, distinctly Christian elements in this story. Frankly, there's far more Christianity expressed in the Narnia books and in the writings of many "secular" authors than in this book.

As I read Out of the Silent Planet, I couldn't help but notice the similarity in narrative style to that of H.G. Wells. As Wells is acknowledged a few times throughout the book, I can't help but conclude that this was intended. Lewis, of course, writes more lucidly than Wells. The plot is not the strongest element in the narrative, but rather the descriptive and analytical. Whereas I often found Wells tedious, I found Lewis very engaging. The flora, fauna, geology, and cultural life of Malacandra spring to life under Lewis' skillful pen, with just enough rudimentary plot to keep things moving forward.

I very much enjoyed Out of the Silent Planet. It overflows with the same vivid imagination that makes the Narnia books so compelling. I'm very much looking forward to Perelandra and That Hideous Strength.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
rsc
Jun. 27th, 2006 03:47 pm (UTC)
Of course my perspective is very different from yours, but my fairly vague recollection from reading them many years ago is that the Christianity in Out of the Silent Planet did not come across as heavy-handed, but it became increasingly more so in the other two books.
ayelle
Jun. 27th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
My main reason for never getting through them -- I picked each one up, tried to start, gave up, quite a few times when I was young and reading Narnia and wanted more Lewis -- was the hatred of technology and human advancement. I mean, I know that's a central theme in half of all fantasy books, including Tolkien, and I'm used to that -- but personally I feel that attitude makes for poor science fiction.
spwebdesign
Jun. 27th, 2006 04:35 pm (UTC)
Really? I never noticed any such hatred of technology or human advancement in this book. That would, indeed, make for poor science fiction.
ayelle
Jun. 27th, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC)
Possible it's not so much there in that one. I actually much more remember looking at the other two. I don't think I realized they were related.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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