C.S. Lewis is best known for his Narnia books, and also as one of the most powerful writers of Christian commentary of the 20th century. But he also wrote a beloved space-opera trilogy, beginning with Out of the Silent Planet. And one author argues that this book deserves to be mentioned among the great SF novels.

Over at the Inebriate Me blog at Patheos, Catholic blogger Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry has a reexmination of Lewis' space trilogy, in which he heaps praise on the first book. "Out of the Silent Planet: this is clearly a masterpiece, and in my view it can only be as a result of prejudice that it's not mentioned in the same breath as other towering SF classics as Foundation and Dune," he argues.

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In case you think Gobry is just being a raving Lewis fan, he doesn't much like the Narnia books. And he is pretty scathing about the second book in Lewis' Space Trilogy, Perelandra. He calls that book "a letdown" and adds, "If I hadn't read the first book this one would have confirmed my prejudice of Lewis as a middlebrow auteur of thinly-disguised propaganda."

And then he goes on to examine the third book, That Hideous Strength, which he praises while noting that it's definitely not science fiction. "Almost everything out-of-the-ordinary that happens does so because of magic or other supernatural forces, and not whiz-bang technology," writes Gobry. He adds:

The overall impression is that Lewis's heart was never into science-fiction. He decided to get into it for some reason–maybe he perceived the same lack as I did, maybe he wanted a challenge, maybe he lost a bet–and poured all his ideas and energy into the first book (and it is a testament to his talent that it worked so well) and found out that he was completely out of steam by the end, unable to write another page of science-fiction. But, being British, he kept calm and carried on, and wrote an allegory for book #2 and a fantasy tale for book #3.

Nonetheless, Gobry recommends Out of the Silent Planet as an outstanding science fiction novel, rather than as the start of a trilogy. What do you think — does Silent Planet deserve more renown? [Patheos]

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