Imagine that, in a world of purple forests, deep blue water and eldila, a reader could get a perceptive glimpse into the heart and motivation of people and their choices. C.S. Lewis’ classic Out of the Silent Planet does that in taking us on an imaginative voyage with Professor Ransom to Malacandra, the red planet.
Ransom, while on a backpacking trip, is kidnapped and stuffed into a spaceship, whisked away to Malacandra (our word: Mars) by two men intent on handing him over as a sacrifice to the gods of that planet. The two men then plan to ravage Malacandra. Ransom escapes once they land and is befriended by the creatures there who are surprisingly unspoiled and wise. While he first assumes that they mean him harm, they are mystified by the “bent” humans who will hurt each other and others for no apparent reason.
Eventually, Ransom learns the history of Earth, called Thulcandra (“the silent planet”) by the inhabitants of Malacandra, seeing from a different point of view the battle that raged on the spiritual level on Earth. What Ransom had accepted as normal on Earth was not understood by the creatures of Malacandra and soon he begins to question human greed, power struggles, and the like.
Lewis’ descriptions of a strange world are creative and imaginative. He even teaches us some of the language of Malacandra so that when he refers to hnau and sorns, we don’t blink an eye. We suffer with Ransom, feel his fears and exalt in his victories.
I just read Out of the Silent Planet to my children. Even at 16 and 12, they were begging for an extra chapter each day because the story captured their imaginations and their hearts. They mourned the loss of a hross and cheered when Weston, one of the “bent” men, evoked laughter when he meant to intimidate.
The reading level was not above even my 12-year-old but we enjoy a good read together on the couch and this one provided excellent opportunities not only to snuggle under the blanket but to discuss some of the ideas presented by Lewis.
I found Out of the Silent Planet an page-turning read that offered me some meaty ideas to think on. Check it out!