Comparing The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy

C. S. Lewis, his worlds, and his faith.

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Re: Comparing The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy

Postby Courtenay » Apr 15, 2020 1:32 pm

It's interesting to read other people's various responses to the Space Trilogy and how it compares to Narnia. I have to admit I've only read Out of the Silent Planet, just a few years ago, but I'm sorry to say I honestly didn't like it.

I'm not a huge fan of science fiction as such, so I wasn't too upset by the fact that, unsurprisingly, Lewis's 1930s descriptions of space travel and the other planets in our solar system are a LONG way from what we now know through modern science. What he's doing is fantasy more than sci-fi, really, and that's fine. I was also looking forward to seeing how he wove Christian ideas into the story, as he does with Narnia. But I ended up deeply disappointed by it. The story really did have its moments — especially Ransom living with the hrossa and gradually learning their culture and language (though he seemed strangely quick in picking up enough of the latter to discuss deep philosophical concepts without much hesitation!) — but overall, I just found it far too overdone somehow.

It's a little hard to explain, but it felt to me like Lewis was letting his imagination run beyond wild in dreaming up all kinds of bizarre and lurid landscapes and creatures — to the point where my mind was boggling just trying to picture them while scrambling to follow the story at the same time — and then, simultaneously, he loads all this even further with heavy theological and philosophical themes that I felt were neither very well disguised nor very well carried out. And the ending, in which Lewis claims to be writing this on behalf of the "real" Ransom as a veiled warning of impending danger on a cosmic scale that few will understand, came across as far more pretentious than portentous. 8-| Again, I realise this book was written over 80 years ago and maybe it seemed more original and daring and exciting in those days, but I somehow get the feeling it would have been more than a little overwrought even by the standards of its time.

Of course I was naturally comparing it to the Chronicles of Narnia all the way along, but honestly, if it wasn't for the name on the cover and my having read biographies of Lewis, I'd find it hard to believe they were written by the same author! Lewis also based the Narnia stories on Christian themes, but he does it there with so much more simplicity and clarity and lightness of touch than I found in Silent Planet, and in a way that makes those themes appealing rather than off-putting, at least to me.

I suppose Lewis's style and skill as a writer must have developed and matured a lot over the years, especially as he did a lot more writing and speaking on topics of faith for laypeople (particularly during WW2). But I had to conclude that the Chronicles of Narnia, even though they're aimed at children, are much more skilfully written and constructed than the first book of the Space Trilogy, at least. And as I was so roundly put off by the first one, I really have no desire to read the other two. But that's just my opinion and I don't begrudge others the right to absolutely love these books, if you do! ;)
"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed." (Prince Caspian)
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Re: Comparing The Chronicles of Narnia and The Space Trilogy

Postby Col Klink » Apr 29, 2020 12:55 pm

You know, Courtenay, it's kind of funny that you enjoyed the middle part of Out of the Silent Planet but disliked the climax and denouement. I remember it being the other way around for me when I read the book as a teenager. ;))

It's funny to compare my relationship with The Space Trilogy to my relationship with Lewis' Pilgrim's Regress. There isn't anything I remember being outright bad about the latter unlike the former. But the parts of the Trilogy which I did enjoy I've felt like rereading while I've never wanted to pick up The Pilgrim's Regress again. Weird, huh?
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