C.S. Lewis, the Apostle to the Skeptics. The man who admitted that god was god and became “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England.” With his space trilogy, he became the Christian spaceman…
In contrast to our planet, Lewis evoked the richly imagined, unfallen world of Malacandra, where several distinct orders of intelligent beings with souls live in harmony and obedience to their Creator, “whose service is perfect freedom.”
Ransom, the space traveling hero, is brought into the presence of Oyarsa, or ruling angel, of Malacandra. From him Ransom learns the truth about the history and condition of his own planet. The machinations of two rogues, Weston and Devine, representing materialism and ruthless greed, are frustrated and are all sent back to earth in the ship that had brought them, Ransom under special protection from the malice of his co-travelers.
In the next book Ransom, now voluntarily co-operating with the great angels in the service of god, is sent on a special mission to the planet Perelandra (Venus). Here is an analogue of the Garden of Eden story. Yet, as Lewis insists, it is different, for it is subsequent, and God does not to things twice in the same way.
A new Eve is confronted with temptation. In this exotically beautiful world of rippling, floating islands on vast warm seas, the forbidden act is to stay overnight on the fixed lands before an appointed time has come.
There is a subtle tempter, embodied in the person of Professor Weston, who has come there as the voluntary servant of the corrupt Oyarsa of Earth but is later, as we shall see, wholly possessed by him. The newness of this garden story is that two voices from the world that had known the tragedy of what John Milton called “man’s first disobedience” intervene in the decision which the woman of Perelandra must make. In short, where there had been one intervention, the serpent’s, in Eve’s fall, there is now a counterintervention to argue against the seduction.
In this story Lewis deepens our understanding of the nature of man’s fall. We are given a poet’s vision of what man was intended to be. The tempting of the first woman of Perelandra entails an extraordinarily intricate, far-reaching debate at the deepest level of moral theology.
Perelandra intensifies and extends all the qualities of the first in the series, Out of the Silent Planet. Intellectually, it is much more exacting. Imaginatively and decriptively it is a more soaring flight, reaching its final climax in a partial vision of the Great Dance, a kind of Te Deum, a praise of all the works of the Lord. It affirms that “All is gift.” To any responsive reader it gives a unique experience, a purgation through exaltation and awe rather than the familiar Aristotelian one through pity and terror. It is the apex of the trilogy.