Out of the Silent Planet

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Ever come out of reading a famous book and thinking, "Well, that wasn't at all what I expected."? That was my reaction here, and not in a good way.

It's a book I'm "supposed" to like, I think. Although I'm not particularly religious, I remember reading and liking Lewis's Christian apologetics. (Sorry, Clive, they didn't take.) I'm not big on fantasy, so I've avoided his Narnia books. But I heard … somewhere … that this book was the first entry in a "hard" science fiction trilogy. Got that impression anyway. I was expecting something Heinleinish, got instead Narnia-lite.

Poor Professor Ransom is on a walking tour of England, and in desperate need of a place to spend the night. Instead he's abducted by a "mad scientist" and his accomplice and taken on a spaceship joyride to Mars, which the inhabitants call "Malacandra". Where he learns that he's about to be offered up to the natives as a human sacrifice.

Ransom escapes from his captors and starts on a fantastical trek across the Malacandrian landscape, meeting the friendly inhabitants, learning their language, and (gradually) discovering the relataionships between the various Malacandrian species and their head honcho, Oyarsa, Ransom is grateful for the hospitality, but there's the small matter of the other two Terrans, who plan to take over the planet by violence.

You, reader, are expected to learn a lot of Malacandran lingo yourself: Hross, pfifltriggi, hnau, Handramit, … You might want to grab a glossary off the Wikipedia page.

At one point, one bad guy warns the other that "these devils can spllt the atom". Interesting; the book was written in the 1930s, and the potential for nuclear fission seems to have been well-known at that point.

Last Modified 2024-01-11 2:57 PM EDT