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by C.S. Lewis
Published by John Lane, 1943
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Suggested by: Ross Pavlac
In this title, Ransom travels again, this time to Venus, to witness the temptation of Venus' parallel of Eve. (Perelandra has also been published under the title, Voyage to Venus.) Dr. Weston also makes the voyage, to act as the tempter. While Lewis' conception of Venus is even more fanciful than his description of Mars (and, alas, inaccurate, for Lewis' depiction of Venus would make it the tourist attraction in the solar system), the science fictional elements are not quite so much to the fore in this story, and theology plays a more central role. Not that this book is a tract in the guise of a story, but Ransom's interaction with the other characters gives rise to much dialogue on the nature of God, good, evil, and temptation. (Perelandra is about half again as long as Out of the Silent Planet.) I will not spoil the story by giving away any of the points, but it does illustrate many of the arguments Lewis makes in his essays.
Elwin Ransom, the protagonist from Out of the Silent Planet, is back, only this time, instead of going to Malacandra (Mars), he's going to Perelandra (Venus.) (In fact, some editions have been published under the title Voyage to Venus.) The devil has a plan to use Ransom's antagonist from Out of the Silent Planet to corrupt the inhabitants of Perelandra, as he has corrupted the inhabitants of Thulcandra, or the silent planet (Earth.) Ransom is the man chosen to foil that plan.
Unusually, Lewis inserts himself as a character, and Ransom doesn't even appear until the end of the first chapter. (According to some people, the character of Ransom was modelled after J.R.R. Tolkien, and Tolkien responded in kind by modelling Treebeard the Ent after Lewis.) This is a much more theological work than Out of the Silent Planet. In fact, the first chapter reads very much like a sort of flip side of The Screwtape Letters, which came out the year before. Once the action moves to Perelandra, the resonance with Lewis' non-fiction becomes stronger. Much of the dialogue reflects truths which Lewis points out in his essays. So much so that you might consider Perelandra almost as an extended illustration. For me, at any rate, the climactic battle (which one might assume to be the most exciting part of the book) is actually less interesting than the moral and spiritual conflict which precedes it.
One of the most interesting parts of the story is the way Lewis portrays the Green Lady. Despite their having a language in common, the gulf between them yawns greater, in some ways, than did the gulf between him and the hrossa. Thus it is that Lewis illustrates his thesis that Earth, far from being normative, is the odd planet out in the universe. Greg Slade
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