Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What would it be like to visit another planet created by God that had experienced no fall and knew nothing of sin? Perelandra is a marvelous tale that tries to imagine this. Lewis explores what it is like to be tempted but not sin. Weston, the devil character, has moved from being a humanist progressivist in the first book of the series, to more of a nihilist in this one. Satan appears to possess him off and on, to tempt the first lady of the planet, while Ransom tries to help her resist him. This is the heart of the book. Lewis is incorporating some Screwtape Letters themes here. Part of temptation is imagining sinning without consequence.
Ransom was sent to Perelandra to ward off evil, and he succeeds in his mission. The final scene of angels, mankind and creatures all gathered together is glorious – one of Lewis’ best passages anywhere. Lewis asserts standard Medieval hierarchy throughout, and especially here at the end. The lady of the planet is greater than he is, the king greater than her. At the end Ransom kneels before them and says,
“Do not move away, do not raise me up. I have never before seen a man or a woman. I have lived all my life among shadows and broken images. Oh, my Father and my Mother, my Lord and my Lady, do not move, do not answer me yet. My own father and mother I have never seen. Take me for your son. We have been alone in my world for a great time.”
The book is full of landscape description, which I found tedious reading aloud to my kids. I saw an interview with Michael Ward explaining this. Giving the distinct atmosphere of the place is part of what makes the literary work. It still seemed Lewis doesn’t do scenery as well – kind of clunky. But it’s worth it for all the insight Lewis gives into the nature of evil, humanity, ransom, and creation.
View all my reviews