My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Out of the Silent Planet is the first in the Space Trilogy. It is a wonderful piece of science fiction, with the description of Mars being outstanding, even if modern discoveries about our neighbour have changed our views. At the time it was written, Lewis could have been as accurate as any other in his view of the red planet.
The central character, Ransom, is entirely believable in his reactions and limitations. He represents “everyman”, with his limited views and desires, essentially good – but only because of his normality. The two villains, Weston and Devine represent the two aspects of Humanity that most of us either despise or are at least suspicious of. Weston is the intellectual, the “brains” who will stop at nothing to see his ambitions satisfied, driven by scientific knowledge that has no emotional element whatsoever. Devine is the “exploiter”, driven purely by greed – for money and power, wanting only to enjoy all that he desires – no matter the cost to others.
The denizens of Mars are also believable. The three intelligent species may be seen as representative of human “races”, but here showing how their differences are accepted, even admired, and that harmony can, and should, exist between them. Then there are the “higher beings”, the eldila, who might appear to inhabit Mars, but whose existence is far vaster than that, allowing them to inhabit the cosmos, wherein the planets are but specks. These eldila are entirely different to all other species, except in one important aspect – they are creations of Maleldil, the supreme being.
Out of the Silent Planet can be read as a simple science fiction novel. However, it takes little effort to identify the true nature of the tale. Earth, the “silent planet”, is isolated – a world under siege, a trap for rebel eldila. We can easily identify the eldila with angels, and Earth’s are the fallen ones, led by the governing eldil (Oyarsa) of Earth, who is clearly Satan. While this might sound unappetising to some readers, I believe that the book, and its sequels, are well worth reading. The allegorical nature of the trilogy is no more burdensome than it is in the Narnia Chronicles.