Perelandra is the second book in C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy. The book tells the story of the second adventure of Professor Elwin Ransom as he travels to the planet Venus (called Perelandra in the story). Where the first book in the trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, focused a great deal of energy on philology and providing reasons why religion is good and necessary, the second book takes on the story of Adam and Eve. Here are some thoughts I had about the story. As always, they are spoiler-free.
Beautiful Writing – I love the way Lewis writes. His word choice and the way he can paint a picture in your head are marvelous. He does get a bit carried away with his descriptions, so know going into the story that you will be reading a lot about the landscape of Venus. But it does make sense. If you are going to tell a story about a place very different from earth, it’s going to take some explanation. Just maybe not as much explanation as Lewis uses.
Theologic Focus – This is a book for people with a strong knowledge of Christianity. It would be difficult, and likely boring, for someone without a decent knowledge of the Bible to read this book. Lewis’ story-writing philosophy was that the moral or lesson comes first, then the story. In other words, authors should shape their stories to fit with the lesson they want to teach. The danger in that, is that a book may become preachy or drown out the story. This definitely happened in certain parts of the book, and is likely one of the primary reasons the Space Trilogy is nearly unknown while most people have heard of Narnia.
What if? – My favorite aspect of the story was the way it asked what if questions of Christianity. While I don’t agree with all of Lewis’ conclusions, I loved the way he talked about gaining knowledge in the story as “growing older.” The parts of the book where the readers along with the characters “grew older” were my favorite parts.
Overall, I would give the book two out of five stars. I listened to the audiobook, and even at 1.5 times the actual speed, the book dragged a lot. It’s heady, intellectual stuff with lots of description in between. But you read the story for the little pockets of gold, not the packaging. So, I recommend this book to readers who already have a firm understanding of Christianity and who like Lewis’ writing. I would not recommend it to a young reader or to anyone who is not excited to read it in the first place.
I’m going to read the final book in the trilogy, so don’t worry. It wasn’t tough enough to break me. Have you read Perelandra or tried to read it? What did you think of it?