Bucket List Books: C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy
by Rachel Lynn Aldrich
Posted on Saturday, May 10, 2014, at 9:37 am
I like space and time travel stories as much as the next person. I grew up on Star Wars, watched Star Trek in hotel rooms while my parents explained the cultural significance, and am still in denial about how much I enjoy Doctor Who. But I have noticed a trend among space stories. In the case that they have any underlying philosophy at all, it is often atheistic, progressive, or even straight up evolutionary. The closest to “religious” is probably Star Wars, with its yin-and-yangish Force.
But what would it mean to write a Christian space story? The best answer to that question, in my opinion, is C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, which includes Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra,and That Hideous Strength.
From the beginning of Out of the Silent Planet, this series is incredibly unique, both from the space genre and from Lewis’ other works, of which it is probably one of the less well known. Like the best speculative fiction, the series starts with a basic question: What would it look like to have life on other planets in a Christian universe?
In Out of the Silent Planet, the protagonist visits a planet much older than earth, but one that has never experienced sin. The story explores the possible relationship a fallen earth would have with the other planets—the answer being, none at all. Lewis delves into the themes of harmony, life, and death. It’s a highly enjoyable story if you enjoy books that spend time developing cultures and peoples.
Perelandra is a reimagining of Genesis on another planet. The story we have all heard so many times takes on new faces and forms to emphasize the tragedy and triumph of humanity’s story. It is an excruciatingly gorgeous piece of literature. It explores questions of sin, innocence, and free will and asks the question: Could the fall have not happened?
In That Hideous Strength, Lewis does something few authors can get away with and, well, gets away with it completely. In his foreword, he explains that the book is his earlier work Abolition of Man in story form. With that in mind, I would suggest reading Abolition of Man first, a glorious experience in and of itself.
And, on that note, be sure to read the foreword. Apparently J.R.R. Tolkein was planning to write a time travel story that connected his work to the Space Trilogy. Although it was never finished, it’s certainly fun to think about.