Friday, September 2, 2011
Perelandra is the second book in the classic space trilogy by C. S. Lewis. The first part of the story, Out of the Silent Planet, takes place primarily on Mars. In this outing, Dr. Ransom--philologist and part-time space traveler is sent to Venus (Perelandra to everyone else in the universe). Venus is a lovely primeval planet. With garden-like floating islands on a tumultuous ocean. There are plants with fruit that taste exquisitely like nothing on earth. Everything tastes, feels, and looks much more intense than their earthly cousins. It is a classic retelling of the story of Adam and Eve. Only this time, Eve will have a human counselor sent to help her resist the temptations of the "Bent One." In this battle for the innocent mother and father of Venusian life, Ransom is sent to represent good, while Dr. Weston is taken over by the agent of evil. Ransom finds that he can't just use the Biblical tale of the Garden of Eden to guide him...he must find a new way to fight evil on this new planet. The fate of Venus, and possibly Earth, lies in the balance.
It is not necessary to have read Out of the Silent Planet in order to understand the story in Perelandra. It will provide some background information, but the reader can manage well enough without it. I must say, however, that I enjoyed the first book much more. The basic retelling is good enough and the concept is a very nice one, but I feel like Lewis is far more heavy-handed and pedantic in his Christian imagery. And I say this being a Christian myself. There are long passages of somewhat convoluted thought processes--either on the part of Ransom or the Lady (Eve) of Perelandra--and an entire speech by the possessed Weston that is way over the top. I missed the simplicity and beautiful language of Out of the Silent Planet. I plan to read the final book of the trilogy, That Hideous Strength, and can only hope that Lewis returns to the writing style of the first book. Two and a half stars.