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Monday, August 21, 2006

Escape from the Twisted Planet

A friend suggested that I read Escape from the Twisted Planet (Waco, TX: Word Publishers, 1967) by Harold L. Myra. (published previously as No Man in Eden) This is, I guess, Christian Speculative Fiction.

So what was it about, and what's my opinion?

The book takes the fall even further than Out of the Silent Planet, and its sequels (also known as the Space Trilogy) by C. S. Lewis. Lewis supposed that the rest of the solar system hadn't fallen, but earth had. Myra supposes that the earth, and its surroundings, are made of anti-matter, as the result of the Fall, but the rest of the universe is matter. Lewis's protagonist, Ransom, goes to Mars, and meets unfallen beings, and Venus, and is present at the time when its Adam and Eve meet their temptation, and their tempter. Myra's main character goes to the rest of the universe, that made of matter, by a miracle (transforming David Koehler, his companions, and their vessel into matter) performed by Christ, but the book starts with unfallen humanoids from far away in space visiting the earth, presumably through a similar miracle.

The humanoids living in matter-space are all unfallen, and eternal. Each planet has an original pair, and their offspring people that planet, and, eventually, others nearby. (Myra doesn't answer the equivalent to "Where did Seth get his wife?," but the answer would supposedly be the same, namely a sister.)

A feature that Lewis doesn't write about, at least not to describe it, is hell. Koehler goes to what is evidently hell, somewhere in the physical universe. That, and other features, make this book, shall I say, more aggressively Christian than Lewis's works. David, who does not start the book as a Christian, becomes one through his encounters, and there is quite a bit of Bible study in the book, with quotes from what he is studying, or learning, or is reminded of. A personal relationship with Christ is emphasized often.

Lewis had demon-possessed humans on earth, and on Venus. Myra has them on earth, although not so explicitly as Lewis did. Both this book and Lewis' last one, That Hideous Strength, have a strained relationship between spouses, one believing and one, until the end, not so.

Myra's book includes a scientific project to go back in time and listen to the actual words of Jesus. I found this as not exactly necessary to the main ideas, and not very plausible. Another feature that is definitely different is that Koehler tries to tempt some of the unfallen beings in the matter galaxies. He does not succeed, and he doesn't keep on and on and on, as was the temptation "Eve" had in Lewis's Perelandra.

Koehler spent a lot of time traveling, for various reasons, in places away from earth -- too much time, it seems to me. Ransom spent some time in the bowels of Venus in Perelandra, but not as much time, although I thought Lewis may have left him there a little long.

Myra's book is less dated than Lewis's were. (Lewis wrote as if there were canals on Mars, with water in them.) As far as we know, it is possible that there are (to us) anti-matter galaxies out there.

is too aggressively Christian, in my opinion, to appeal to non-Christians. It is faith fiction on other worlds. I doubt that many non-Christians would read through it. Many have read the Space Trilogy, and, if I had to recommend Myra or Lewis, I would go with Lewis, for believers and non-believers alike. Myra's book does clearly expose the starkness of the choice of supernatural masters that is before us. It is worth a read, and I thank the friend for recommending it, but is isn't as good as the classic Space Trilogy (or as, say, George MacDonald's fantasy).


Julana said...

I'm not very comfortable with writers mixing the Bible with fantasy too much. I appreciate Lewis's restraint, in that way. He keeps many things at an almost allegorical level, so there is not a conflict. He doesn't superimpose on history.

elbogz said...

I agree, Julana. It’s easy to elevate fiction writing to that of the Gospels. I saw that somewhat with the Left Behind series. The same thing happened in my youth. There were books at that time which went into great detail about the biblical apocalypse. They were on the “good Christian” reading list. Youth groups would discuss them and we would talk about the tattoos, and the United Nations, as if what we read really was an accurate prediction of the future. I think it’s great to have fiction books that Christians enjoy, but when you make the fiction as an explanation of the bible, you can easily lead people down the wrong path

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, ladies, I agree with you. I couldn't bring myself to even start the Left Behind series.

Catez said...

Interesting Martin. I didn't read Lewis' whole trilogy but I did read and really enjoyed Perelandra.
I think a good metaphor will speak for itself and doesn't need literalism wrapped around it. Sounds like the author has some good imagery but then feels then need to explain it.