Dr. Ransom was just your average academic on a walking holiday through the English  countryside when he was abducted by a former colleague and another scientist and taken via spaceship to a different planet.

“His mind, like so many minds of his generation, was richly furnished with bogies. He had read his H. G. Wells and others.”

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Once on Malacandra, Ransom escapes and runs into the strange creatures that inhabit the planet. Luckily for story purposes, Ransom’s particular academic expertise is in languages and he quickly picks up the alien language.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

C.S Lewis is better known for his fantasy writing in the Narnia series. However, not only does he indicate his debt to science-fiction legend H.G. Wells, he also writes a pretty splendid science fiction romp as well.

Out of the Silent Planet was nominated in 2014 for the 1939 Retro-Hugo for Best Novel.

Rating (4 stars)

For something written over 50 years ago, Out of the Silent Planet is an incredibly compelling story.

When I read early science fiction stories, I often remind myself that plot devices and techniques that seem overused were probably unique once.

But despite being published in 1938, much of Out of the Silent Planet feels fresh and imaginative.

The planet of Malacandra comes to life and the inhabitants and their way of life is well developed. If you’ve ever read The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, the way the hrossa  interact with Ransom reminds me of Mary’s interactions with the mulefa.

The only reason I dropped the book from 5 to 4 stars was due to blatant moralizing. I’m all for using alien races to comment on humanity’s flaws, but I think a more modern reader expects a bit more subtlety.

Still, I can definitely see this novel being a sensation in 1939. Even now, it is well worth the read.