“Perelandra,” by C.S. Lewis.
Simon and Schuster, New York, 1944, 190 pages, Grades 11 and higher.
Science fiction is the genre of literature that creates a story using scientific inventions. For example, in science fiction, writers will utilize space travel to other planets and development of robots.
In true science fiction, elements of fantasy are not used by writers. Whereas in fantasy, we can see people drink potions and then vanish, these conventions are not used in science fiction. This type of literature is based on scientific possibilities. Sometimes writers will merge the two genres and create fascinating stories using the literary elements of both. C.S. Lewis has done this in “Perelandra,” the second book in his famed Space Trilogy. The central character, Dr. Ransome, finds himself on the Planet Perelandra and must face and conquer the forces of evil to save the planet and its inhabitants from a malicious future. Lewis interchangeably uses both the names Perelandra and Venus in the novel.
Dr. Ransome, a philologist specializing in the study of the origins of language and its uses in culture, is called upon to journey to Venus to fight a dark force invading the planet. He really isn’t desirous to go because of the danger and uncertainty of the journey. Nevertheless, he is strapped into a space capsule and rocketed to Perelandra.
Upon arriving, he is confused about his location and keeps wanting to find solid land. He also finds himself naked, but isn’t unduly concerned about it. He floats in the ocean and encounters various fish and flora in the water. Ransome then meets a beautiful green woman floating on ocean vegetation. She is also nude and is very innocent. They enjoy each other’s company and have no sexual temptations toward one another. The Green Lady is the Queen of the planet and has never encountered evil. She has been told by Maleldil (the Second Person of the God Head) not to occupy dry land.
But malevolence arrives when another scientist, Dr. Weston lands in a space ship and tries to convince the Green Lady to abandon the loving advice of Maleldil and become her own person. It is quickly apparent that Weston has become possessed. His whole goal is to convince the Green Lady to disobey Maleldil. The Queen does not know what evil is. Ransome hears these temptations and doesn’t know what to do. He realizes that the Tempter is beginning to convince the Green Lady to abandon Maleldil and live independently. With this, Ransome pits himself for combat with the diabolical evil consuming Dr. Weston. Great tragedy is about to happen. What does Dr. Ransome do to stop the catastrophe?
Does the Green Lady fall for the temptations of Dr. Weston? What strategies can Ransome use to defeat forces with greater powers than he will ever possess? How does grace support Ransome in his mortal battle with Dr. Weston for the soul of the Green Lady? Finally, how does C.S. Lewis demonstrate that the light can overcome the darkness? To find out the answers to these and other questions, go to the library and check out this outstanding novel, “Perelandra.”
The three books in the Space Trilogy are “Out of the Silent Planet,” “Perelandra” and “That Hideous Strength.” They do not have to be read in order, but Lewis refers to characters and events from the previous novel. “Perelandra” is centered in a Garden of Eden setting on Venus. Through the use of science fiction and fantasy, Lewis presents the temptations in the Garden of Eden in a literary form. We see the Green Lady being tempted as Eve was in the Book of Genesis. Only the exhausted Dr. Ransome can stop the impending disaster. Though the novel is complicated, it reaches the heights of great literature. I hope you get a chance to read the book.