In his first novel, Lewis delved into the genre of science-fiction. Out of the Silent Planet is the first in a trilogy about space travel and intrigue. The protagonist is a professor of philology, Dr. Ransom, who takes a summer walking-tour of the English countryside. During Ransom’s travels, he happens upon a solitary house where a teenage boy is being held against his will. Through a series of turnabouts, Ransom frees the boy but ends up being held captive in the boy’s place.
The captors, Weston and Devine, take Dr. Ransom to another planet, Malacandra, which we later learn is actually Mars. Ransom discovers their plot to surrender him to a group of natives on Malacandra called sorns. The sorns are thought to be frightening creatures whose leader has requested a human sacrifice the next time Weston and Devine visited Malacandra. When Ransom learns of his fate, he flees into the unknown landscape of this foreign planet.
Ransom later joins a tribe of gentle beings called hrossa. He learns their language and their customs while familiarizing himself with the planetary nature that Malacandra abides by. While here, many contrasts are made, which distinguish Mars from the Silent Planet, heretofore known as Earth. Ransom observes how the different species on Malacandra coexist in peaceful harmony with one another; the violence and greed that marks human life on Earth is incomprehensible until Weston and Devine arrive.
Like the popular Narnia series, there are numerous parallels between certain aspects of this story and Christianity. Most notably, the protagonist’s name is Dr. Ransom, and Jesus said that he “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Likewise, in this fictional story, Dr. Ransom saves a boy’s life by becoming the intended sacrifice on another planet. The allusion made here is unmistakable.
Many other themes arise in this literary work as well, but they are further explored in the following sequels. Thus, for next month, I’ll be reading Perelandra. Needless to say, Dr. Ransom eventually returns to Earth unharmed, where more adventures are sure to ensue.
What struck you most about this story?