Good Reads: C.S. Lewis’ Cosmic Trilogy

It is my opinion that his science fiction trilogy deserves at least as much attention and praise as his famous Narnia series.

I’m taking a short break from my “Science Fiction Problems” series to talk about… science fiction. Well, it’s something like a break, at least- I’d like to talk about one of my favorite science fiction series, which I hope I can convince every one of you to pick up. The series in question is C.S. Lewis’ Cosmic Trilogy.

C.S. Lewis space trilogy

These are the covers for the copies I have and they're the best illustrations I've seen yet.

C.S. Lewis is a favorite among our writers here at Lantern Hollow Press and we’ve already talked a great deal about him and several of his works, but what comes to mind most often when people hear his name is his Narnia series, especially since their recent movie adaptations. However, The Lion, The Witch, And the Wardrobe was not my first exposure to Lewis or his allegorical ways, and it is my opinion that his science fiction trilogy deserves at least as much attention and praise as his famous Narnia series.

That Hideous Strength bear Mr. Bultitude

Yes, there is a bear involved with the story. No, the title does not refer to Mr. Bultitude's prodigious bear-strength

I had read his good friend J.R.R. Tolkein’s work way back in middle school English when I picked up The Hobbit as my summer reading assignment, but I didn’t read anything by C.S. Lewis until my first semester at Tennessee Tech University in a British Literature class, where we read and discussed his space trilogy, beginning with Out of the Silent Planet. I had never been much of a fiction reader, usually picking my reading assignments based on which looked like it had the fewest pages or on the availability of Sparknotes (gasp!)*, and the thought of the writer of “That Story With the Jesus-Lion in it” somehow hobbling together a science fiction story seemed absurd to me… yet I was immediately sucked in as soon as I grudgingly began what I though would be an arduous read.

I loved the unwilling, misplaced protagonist Ransom and his seemingly useless expertise in linguistics (which I learned

C.S. Lewis Out of the Silent Planet Hross

A bit different from my own imagining, but I really like this rendering of the Hrossa

Lewis had a great deal of respect for), and Lewis’ descriptions of the bizarre landscape and citizens of Malacandra. I loved the unique and charmingly innocent aliens and was surprised to learn from my sagely professor that Lewis’ anthropomorphic creatures were some of the first of their kind in science fiction, designed to counter the trend of nihilism and dehumanization that had begun to run amok in the genre, much to Lewis and Tolkein’s disapproval.

Out of the Silent Planet spherical space ship

This is pretty much exactly what I imagined the spherical spaceship looks like

We moved on to the second book, Perelandra, where Ransom tried desparately to convince the new Eve of the evil that courted her, and I marveled at Ransom’s struggle to defeat the rationalizations the enemy proposed to the naive young girl. By the time we read the third book in the trilogy, That Hideous Strength, I needed no convincing; I wanted to see where Lewis would take the story, and I was not disappointed. Lewis used the depiction of darkness of the human heart and its inevitable defeat, the evil of the “bent” creation, and the power of Maleldil (the series’ name for God) to illustrate Christian themes in ways I had never seen or heard of in science fiction, and by the end of that semester I was confounded that the Space Trilogy was so unknown.

I highly recommend C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy to anyone who enjoys science fiction, but especially to those who don’t care for it- the series is exceptionally accessible and has a broad appeal to anyone who enjoys good fiction, and is an excellent primer for science fiction and C.S. Lewis both. I truly enjoyed these books, and hope that I’ve convinced you to pick them up- you won’t regret it.

*A habit I developed in public high school but dropped quickly that first semester of college, mostly because I so thoroughly enjoyed the books we were assigned in that course

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About erikthereddest

I'm a Masters student in English, and I love technology and Science Fiction. I am refining and enhancing my (admittedly novice) writing talents under the sage advice of my friends here at Lantern Hollow Press, and with the great many books I am reading from the best authors I can find.

Posted on January 5, 2011, in Authors, Books, C. S. Lewis, Creatures, Erik Marsh, Fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien, Science Fiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. My love of fantasy over science fiction makes it difficult for me to support holding the trilogy up to the Narnia books on principle, but I freely admit that I cried more at the end of Perelandra than I did when reading any of the Narnia books, no matter how much I enjoyed so many of those.

  2. Amen, Erik! Narnia is Lewis’s greatest work, but those who neglect the Trilogy do so to their own impoverishment. It (unlike Narnia) is less read now than a generation ago. Thanks for trying to help reverse that unfortunate trend.

  1. Pingback: Meditations with C. S. Lewis: Seeing Evil | Lantern Hollow Press

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