I finally finished Voyage to Venus, the (technically) 11th book on my list of the best science fiction books of all time! Lordy lord! I'm not going to lie, this was a tough one to get through simply because there was so much exposition and detail. That, coupled with the fact that not much happened, made for a long and arduous read.
Plot & Narration
Voyage to Venus: Perelandra is the second novel in C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy. It follows Elwin Ransom as he is sent on a mission to Venus after having visited Mars in the first book. In essence, it's an Adam and Eve story with definite biblical undertones. The story is narrated by Ransom's friend after the fact, relaying to the reader what Ransom told him about his adventures on Venus.
Themes & Symbols
Perelandra is something of a creation/Adam and Eve story. It's Ransom's job to make sure that the Lady of Venus doesn't "fall," so that Venus avoids Earth's fate (described in the first book). This is an interesting theme, and Lewis spends much of the novel exploring this idea and philosophy through his characters. It's also pretty much the only theme. Whereas in the first book we learned about the spaceship that takes Ransom to Mars and his introduction to alien races, Perelandra focuses on the faith theme and plot line throughout the whole novel.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Strength: Exploration of Faith
I won't lie, it's hard to think of a strength for this novel since I didn't enjoy it. But if I had to say something, I'd say that Lewis certainly explores the Adam and Eve story and the idea of faith in Perelandra. We are witness to not just Ransom's attempts to keep the Lady of Venus faithful, but also his own crisis of faith at being able to complete his task.
Strength: Character Development
In my review of Out of the Silent Planet, I listed character development as an overall weakness, though Ransom does develop a bit in that story. In Perelandra I'd say his character development is much more complete since we see him go through several crises of faith, so we really learn who he is.
Weakness: Too Much Detail and Exposition
Unfortunately, this book is so heavy on the exposition that it wasn't an enjoyable read at all. Granted, some descriptions are lovely:
"Darkness fell upon the waves as suddenly as if it had been poured out of a bottle."
But Lewis painstakingly describes every detail of the physical landscape as well as Ransom's mental state. It's all too much. In this way, Perelandra is similar to Lost Horizon. I found I could only read a few pages at a time because it was so boring and over the top.
This novel would have been a great read had Lewis cut out all the unnecessary exposition. But then again, that style of writing was popular during Lewis' time. I'd recommend Out of the Silent Planet but not Perelandra. If you want a taste of the Space Trilogy, the first novel is all you really need. (I'm saying this having not yet read the third and final book.)
Up next, That Hideous Strength.
Author: C. S. Lewis.
Publisher: The Bodley Head.
Quotations: Lewis, C. S. Voyage to Venus: Perelandra. Business and Leadership Publishing, 2014. Kindle Edition.