It’s been eight years since I last read the trilogy (back in May of 1995, when I was a “senior” pastor of a rural Illinois congregation). The first time I read the trilogy was in junior high after I’d received it as a gift from my parents. The first time I read it, I thought “blech!” I’d liked the Narnia stories a lot, but “honed” as my appetite had been on the likes of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Star Wars, Lewis’ Space trilogy didn’t do much for me. (And Perelandra? C’mon! How boring. No action.) My reading in 1995 was much more appreciative, though I felt the last book in the series (That Hideous Strength) the best of the bunch.
This time around, my appreciation for the books grows yet a bit more.
Although Lewis’ account suffers from the pre-lunar landing science of his day–the first six chapters’ “science” are barely palatable–his gift for scene/mood and “yarn spinning” are already evident. In just six chapters, the pace has gone from the leisurely stroll of a walking journey, through a kidnapping, to hurtling through space in a spherical ship, to finally making the descent to Malacandra (which we later will learn is the planet Mars).
I’ve thankfully forgotten enough of the details since my last reading that the plot beckons me on. Yet I’ve retained just enough glimmers of memory to note the incidences of foreshadowing. Note, for instance, Ransom’s ruminations that out in space the “truth” of the zodiac seems much more plausible. If I’m not misremembering, this zodiacal “truth” will lead us to the angelic watchers assigned to the various planets. Note also the couple of references to Ransom’s being “called for” and Weston and Devine’s discussion about an entity wanting “him,” meaning Ransom.
The opening of the book with the walking tour is interesting. Though it’s been a few years ago, I read in Humphrey Carpenter’s biography of Tolkien that Lewis and Tolkien went on some walking tours (one of which is highlighted in the Tolkien biography). The description was much as is laid out in the first chapter. Sort of reminds me of my wife and I when we went tent camping from Chicago to Acadia National Forest in Maine in September of 2000; though we went by car, of course.
Sparking my philosophical interest was the early tension set between Weston’s scientific program versus Ransom’s “individualism.” I noted with agreement the criticism made of this program’s advancement over against and by way of exploitation of the masses and their traditions (even, one may note, the scientific mass and its traditions). Of course, Weston’s program was for the “betterment of humankind,” but surely also at its expense. It seems to me that this is the main temptation–and the concomitant demonic devolution–of all “causes,” no matter how just or well-intentioned. This is the temptation for all activisim: the objectification and exploitation of the very ones it seeks to aid.
But lest I go too far in my soapbox polemics, I’ll end this weekly Lewis post.
Check out these Lewis links: