Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review: "Of Other Worlds"

This book is a collection of essays and stories written by C.S. Lewis. Over all it is a mildly interesting read. The reader should know that it does not contain any works of Christian Apologetics.

The bulk of the essays deal with the way literary critics approach stories, particularly fantasy and science fiction. C.S. Lewis argues that judging stories where the point of interest is the plot by the standard of stories where characters are the center of interest is a mistake. Each essay takes this and advances along particular avenues based on the reason the essay was written.

One of the other essays is very short, and is Lewis's attempt to describe how he gets ideas for stories. Another of the essays is a response to Haldane's essay "Auld Hornie FRS". There is also an "essay" that is actually a transcript of a casual meeting between Lewis, Brian Aldis, and Kingsley Amis where they talked about writing fantasy / sci-fi stories.

A final essay describes things Lewis felt he learned from reading critical reviews of his fiction. In this essay he references honesty briefly; he saw that some reviewers felt they couldn't be honest. He then talks about the problem of reading the work hastily, or incompletely, and then assuming that the author wrote what you think he would. He goes on to talk about the serious risk of hypothesizing about how the work was written; the reviewer is usually wrong. Lewis describes reviews written that focus on the presumed psychology of the author. These, while not necessarily wrong, are generally beside the point. He also talks about the problems arising from the assumption that all stories are allegories focused on the current political events.

There are three short stories and the first chapter or two of a novel that Lewis was working on before he died. The best of the short stories is probably "Ministering Angels". In it the government is convinced to send volunteers to serve as prostitutes for the men stationed on Mars. The only volunteers they get are a professor convinced of the "new" ethic and a prostitute that wouldn't get picked up by any but the most desperate.