Review: Perelandra (No Spoilers)

Rating: ★★★★★

Overview: Dr. Ransom makes his second journey “through deep heaven” in this novel, and becomes embroiled in a conflict that could decide the fate of the entire planet of Perelandra.

Lewis’ second installment of his Space Trilogy has much more theological meat in it, and for that reason, is the clear favorite of most theologically inclined readers. Perelandra will make the first book seem simplistic in comparison.

Meat: Out of the Silent Planet imagines a race that has never known sin; Perelandra deals with the intrusion of temptation on such a race. The result is a wealth of insight on both the Fall of Man as a doctrine and resisting temptation as a practice. Unlike the other two books in the series, in Perelandra Ransom’s inner dialogue provides a voicebox for extended theological discussion.

Bones: In my opinion, this might be C. S. Lewis best theology, but it’s wrapped up in a science fiction package. Some of Ransom’s dialogues would fit just as well on the “Christian Living” or “Philosophy” shelf at Barnes and Noble, and that is both the strength and the great criticism of this book, in particular, within the Space Trilogy.

Quotes: “Whatever you do, he will make good of it. But not the good he had prepared for you if you had obeyed him.” (ch. 9)

“Maleldil can make good use of all that happens but the loss is real.” (ch. 12)

“The world is so much larger than I thought. I thought we went along paths–but it seems there are no paths. The going itself is the path.” (ch. 14)

“I think he made one law of that kind in order that there might be obedience. In all these other matters what you call obeying him is but doing what seems good in your own eyes also. Is love content with that?” (ch. 16)

“Why did no miracle come? Or rather, why no miracle on the right side? For the presence of the Enemy was in itself a kind of Miracle. Had Hell a prerogative to work wonders? Why did Heaven work none? Not for the first he found himself questioning Divine Justice. He could not understand why Maleldil should remain absent when the Enemy was there in person. But while he was thinking this, as suddenly and sharply as if the solid darkness about him had spoken with articulate voice, he knew that Maleldil was not absent. …

‘It’s all very well … a presence of that sort! But the Enemy is really here, really saying and doing things. Where is Maleldil’s representative?’ The answer which came back to him, quick as a fencer’s or tennis player’s riposte, out of the silence and the darkness, almost took his breath away. It seemed blasphemous. ‘Anyway, what can I do?’ babbled the voluble self. ‘I’ve done all I can. I’ve talked till I’m sick of it. It’s no good, I tell you.’ He tried to persuade himself that he, Ransom, could not possibly be Maleldil’s representative as the Un-man was the representative of Hell. The suggestion was, he argued, itself diabolical – a temptation to fatuous pride, to megalomania. He was horrified when the darkness simply flung back this argument in his face, almost impatiently….” (ch. 18)

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