The Novels (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
The first novel in Lewis’ series of “interplanetary romances,” Out of the Silent Planet, introduces Ransom, an English philologist who finds himself kidnaped and forcibly taken to the planet Malacandra, or Mars, by the evil physicist, Dr. Weston, and Dick Devine, a rich eccentric who had attended school with Ransom. During the voyage to Malacandra, Ransom overhears that they intend to deliver him to the sorns—who, he assumes, are like the horrible monsters in H. G. Wells’s science-fiction tales.
When a sea monster attacks the trio’s campsite, Ransom escapes. As he encounters representatives from each of the three species on Malacandra, he begins to learn the language and history of the planet. The sorns, he discovers, are a wise, peaceable race whom he can trust and from whom he can learn much. Most important is what Ransom learns about Maleldil the Younger, righteous ruler of the universe and the head of the eldila, the angel-like creatures of light who serve him. He finds that each planet has its own special eldil, or Oyarsa, who rules it—every planet except Earth, or Thulcandra, the silent planet, whose Oyarsa is “bent.”
The novel reaches its climax when Ransom is called into the presence of the Oyarsa of Malacandra, who explains, to Ransom’s surprise, that it was, in fact, the Oyarsa himself who had engineered Ransom’s voyage in order to prepare him for service to Maleldil. He is being called to battle...
(The entire section is 926 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Lewis’s science-fiction trilogy is sometimes called the Ransom Trilogy, after the central figure of Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. Elwin Ransom, a middle-aged linguistics professor at the University of Cambridge, grows in the course of the novels from a lonely independence to find relationships with others, maturing into a leader against hostile nonhuman forces. Lewis transforms a conventional science-fiction pattern by making his villains demoniac powers and his protagonists Christians literally on the side of the angels. While science fiction has frequently dealt with issues of religion, Lewis lays aside the typical dualistic “good against evil” plot for an explicitly Christian worldview. All three of the novels attempt to make believable the presence of a spiritual reality transcending the everyday life.
Out of the Silent Planet opens as Ransom, on a walking tour of England, falls in with two acquaintances, one an old friend from his prep school. His friend Devine and the scientist Weston kidnap Ransom, carrying him to Mars, or Malacandra, in Weston’s spaceship. Late in the voyage, Ransom learns that the others were commanded to bring another human back as the condition of their return. When they land, Ransom escapes. The novel is so far entirely conventional: mad scientist, greedy assistant, innocent victim, threatening aliens.
Here, however, Lewis diverges from convention. Ransom finds Mars...
(The entire section is 997 words.)