Review: ‘The Cosmic Trilogy’ by C. S. Lewis

Today is International Mother Earth Day and in celebration of that, I thought I would return to an old trilogy that many are not aware of, from a writer that most possibly don’t know much about.

In case you weren’t aware, C. S. Lewis went to Oxford University, and was a member of the Inklings group with good friend J. R. R. Tolkien (see the upcoming film ‘Tolkien’).

Better known for his ‘Narnia’ series (more on that here), C. S. Lewis also wrote more than 20 other novels, of which the ‘Cosmic Trilogy’ are probably my favourites. Also called the ‘Space Trilogy’ or ‘Ransom Trilogy’ (the main character’s surname is Ransom), they deal with what Lewis apparently perceived as dehumanising trends in contemporary SF.

The first, ‘Out of the Silent Planet’, was supposedly written following a conversation about these trends with Tolkien . Lewis agreed to write a “space travel” story and Tolkien a “time travel” one; Tolkien never completed ‘The Lost Road’, which linked Middle-earth with the modern world and which would have put a whole new spin on things for LOTR fans worldwide. Lewis’s main character, Linguistics professor Elwin Ransom, is even (allegedly) based in part on Tolkien.

‘Perelandra’, the second in the trilogy, introduces us to a new Garden of Eden on Venus, including a new Adam and Eve and a new tempting serpent. It’s a speculative tale based on what might have happened if the original Adam had evaded the Fall and defeated the serpent.

The last in the trilogy, ‘That Hideous Strength’, shows blind / blinkered science threatening traditional human values. A familiar – and perfectly understandable – trope!

Though the actual science is lacking at times (perhaps unsurprisingly), the mix of mythology, speculation, space travel, and aliens, makes the trilogy distinctly H. G. Wells-like in its presentation, and very much part of the classic SF family. In fact, those aliens have even been referenced in both Larry Niven’s ‘Rainbow Mars’ and ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’.

If you’ve never read them, I highly recommend giving them a go.

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