I suspect it would have been better for us to read Mere Christianity before the space trilogy, but not having read it i can’t say, and i do think it is preferable to read the trilogy all at once rather than breaking it up. We discussed in class on Friday not only whether to move on to Perelandra or to read Mere Christianity next but also whether to read the whole (220 pages) of Perelandra over the weekend or to just read the first half. I understand that one can in fact discuss a partial story, but it seems to me that one loses so much not having the full thing. It was bad enough reading just LWW and having people ask questions that we answered using the rest of the Narnia books. In Out of the Silent Planet it takes a while to get to the social philosophy, and one doesn’t reach the allegorical theology until almost the end, so i was very interested to move on and get the rest of it. As it turned out, in Perelandra almost all the philosophy is in the first half -- though yet again, Lewis’ interminable description of the planetary topology drove me up a wall. Most of the book was really interesting, though -- philosophy and interesting commentary on the Christian understanding of the universe.
When the Incarnation is being explained, i nearly wept. Partly i think it’s just that i’ve been on edge recently, but i like to think that it’s also that that story is so damn powerful - and Lewis does some really interesting stuff with the traditional Christian narrative in this book. And then when the Temptation begins it is so depressing, because we all know the First Story, and this time it’s different, but it’s still depressing to see it start, and continue. Lewis escapes the trap that so many authors fall into of making the Bad Guy appealing. One understands and is sympathetic to his arguments, and they hold far more weight in our own world where the existence of God isn’t a given as it is in the world of Ransom and the Lady, but
He had full opportunity to learn the falsity of the maxim that the Prince of Darkness is a gentleman. Again and again he felt that a suave and subtle Mephistopheles with red cloak and rapier and a feather in his cap, or even a sombre tragic Satan out of Paradise Lost, would have been a welcome release from the thing he was actually doomed to watch. [...] It showed plenty of subtlety and intelligence when talking to the Lady; but Ransom soon perceived that it regarded intelligence simply and solely as a weapon, which it had no more wish to employ in its off-duty hours than a soldier has to do bayonet practice when he is on leave. Thought was for it a device necessary to certain ends, but thought itself did not interest it. It assumed reason as externally and inorganically as it had assumed Weston’s body. (page 128, my edition)The final book in the trilogy nears 400 pages, and i’m really rather happy to end the story with Perelandra. (And yet, the revised syllabus does in fact have us spending a week on That Hideous Strength. Le sigh.)