Perelandra: The Garden of Eden on Venus

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsPerelandra by C.S. LewisPerelandra by C.S. Lewis

Perelandra (1943) is the second volume of C.S. Lewis’s SPACE TRILOGY and I liked it even better than Out of the Silent Planet, its predecessor. Cambridge professor Dr. Elwin Ransom is back on Earth and has told his friend Lewis about the adventures he had on the planet Mars and the supernatural beings he met there. When Ransom explains that there’s an epic battle between good and evil, that the planet Venus is about to play an important part, and that he’s been called to Venus to do some unknown task, Lewis begins to worry about his friend. Yet he decides to help him get to Venus anyway, so Ransom goes and eventually returns to tell his tale, which Lewis has transcribed for us.

Venus is gorgeous — a lush conglomerate of archipelagos where the land floats on top of the water, so that walking on it is like walking on a waterbed. The sky is full of stunning colors that Ransom has never seen before; exotic trees delight the eye and yield delicious fruit. Other than the strange but friendly animals, Ransom seems to be alone in this world — until he sees a beautiful naked woman waving from a neighboring island. When he finally meets her, he discovers that evil lurks in this seemingly perfect world.fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

If you were able to ignore the Christian allegory in Out of the Silent Planet, you won’t be able to do so in Perelandra — it’s a parallel version of humanity’s awakening in the Garden of Eden and Eve’s temptation to sin. Evil is trying to gain a foothold and Ransom suddenly realizes what it would mean to bring “the knowledge of good and evil” into a sinless paradise. Ransom discovers that the Biblical admonition to resist temptation may be a spiritual truth on Earth, but at this time on Venus it’s a real physical battle and he has been sent to fight it, both with words and fists.

C.S. Lewis, a lover of words and mythology, writes beautifully about the alien paradise of Venus and the possibility that what is myth in one world might be truth in another. He also has much to say about good and evil, sin and obedience, madness and sanity, loneliness and companionship, science and the supernatural, predestination and free will, the nature of God and man, and humanity’s purpose in the universe. Some readers will accuse Lewis of preachiness, I’m sure, and that’s something that usually annoys me, but though Ransom’s introspections go on a little too long, I found it impossible to resist the beauty, logic, and concision of his philosophizing.

I listened to Geoffrey Howard narrate Blackstone Audio’s version of Perelandra which is just under 8 hours long. Mr. Howard narrates rather than performs the story, which I think is suitable. I’ll certainly be listening to him read the concluding volume: That Hideous Strength.

 

Published in 1943. Just as readers have been transfixed by the stories, characters, and deeper meanings of Lewis’s timeless tales in The Chronicles of Narnia, most find this same allure in his classic Space Trilogy. In these fantasy stories for adults, we encounter, once again, magical creatures, a world of wonders, epic battles, and revelations of transcendent truths. Perelandra, the second novel in Lewis’s science fiction trilogy, tells of Dr. Ransom’s voyage to the paradise planet of Perelandra, or Venus, which turns out to be a beautiful Eden-like world. He is horrified to find that his old enemy, Dr. Weston, has also arrived and is putting him in grave peril once more. As the mad Weston’s body is taken over by the forces of evil, Ransom engages in a desperate struggle to save the innocence of Perelandra!

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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