CS Lewis The Space Trilogy
Science fiction has long been a popular form of literature, capturing the imagingation of numerous generations. Within the science fiction genre though there are a number of sub-genres, including Christian Science Fiction. I have to say I have never been a big fan of Christian Science Fiction, just as I have never been a big fan of literature that emphasises a particular political belief. At the same time though there have been some notable authors that take up Christian Science Fiction themes. The Christian Science Fiction sub-genre is characterised by the presence of strong Christian themes, this expression of Christianity though can come about in explicit commentary or more subtly with an analogy.
- CS Lewis
There is only one Christian author that I think I can recommend, and that is CS Lewis. He is not the most subtle of Christian writers, if you think of Aslan in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', but he is by far the most entertaining than most in my opinion. Lewis is now most famous for his Narnia works, but prior to this series, Lewis had written a science fiction trilogy.
- The Space Trilogy
The Space Trilogy, also known as the Cosmic or Ransom Trilogy, started in 1938 with the writing of Out of the Silent Planet. The novel introduces the reader to Dr. Elwin Ransom, a professor of language usage. Doped and taken from his hiking holiday, Ransom becomes a passenger on a space flight to the planet of Malacandra (Mars). On landing on the planet, Ransom manages to escape from his captors, Devine (an old school friend of Ransom) and Professor Weston. Ransom has the good fortune to meet the good inhabitants of Malacandra, and eventually gets to talk with their leader, Oyarsa. Oyarsa is the head Eldil' or angel, who has been appointed by Maleldil the Young (God, the Son), Maleldil resides with the Old One (God, the Father).
Ransom finds that there is a chief angel of Earth (also known as Thulcandra), and despite communication occurring between angels on all planets, there is no communication with earth, as the chief angel there had rebelled against goodness. The Oyarsa though force Ransom to leave Malacandra for Earth after the other humans impact upon the planet harming the inhabitants.
The second of the Trilogy, written in 1943, is probably the best individual book and is called Perelandra' or Voyage to Venus'. Perelandra, though is not as stable as Malacandra, and is faced with temptation. Set several years after the initial adventure, Ransom is given the mission of preventing this temptation and is transported to Perelandra, Professor Weston follows Ransom in his spaceship, and it soon becomes apparent that Weston has been possessed by the evil angel from Earth. The storyline is like that of the Garden of Eden, as Weston tries to convince the Woman' to give into temptation. Ransom of course tries to prevent Weston accomplishing his mission, and when words make no impression a fight occurs. Ransom is finally victorious, though he has suffered a bite to his heel which will never heal.
The final installation is set on Earth, The Hideous Strength', focuses less on Dr. Ransom and more on a young couple, Mike and Jane Studdock. Focusing more on mythology, the character Merlin appearing alongside Ransom as Arthur, there is still the same underlying battle against evil. Mike Studdock, becomes involved with the evil group, N.I.C.E (National Institute of Co-Ordinated Experiments), where the fallen angels Eldil', attempt to alter human nature. Jane Studdock, though falls in with good group, led by Ransom. Husband and wife though are both saved, and with the help of the angels from other planets, good triumphs over evil.
The third installation is my least favourite, as in addition to the Christian elements of the book, the novel also turns into a piece of political work. Lewis ideas of anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism clearly come through.
Of course travel into outer space, is science fiction, but the storyline easily becomes blurred with fantasy fiction. Lewis doesn't take any great care looking at scientific accuracy or any technological aspects of space travel. This is of no great surprise though, as Lewis was a scholar rather than a scientist, much more interested in history and mythology than the workings of a possible spaceship. There are some interesting descriptions of aliens, with the Eldil' being inter-dimensional beings but again the work quickly develops into fantasy more along the lines of Tolkein's Ring Trilogy' than modern day science fiction.
There are many obvious similarities between Lewis' work and that of his friend and rival, JRR Tolkein. The Space Trilogy in fact was written at the same time as the Lord of the Rings' trilogy, in response to a bet between the two authors, to write a trilogy outside of their normal writing style and genres. It has often been speculated that Ransom is a characterisation of Tolkein.
It isn't a book I would recommend for everyone, and is perhaps too complex for many children. Whilst not essential, knowledge of mythology from the Roman or Greek classics, certainly make for an easier read. People may be able to ignore the overtly Christian elements, and whether you do or don't, the trilogy is still a good read.