C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra: Reshaping the Image of the Cosmos. Edited by Judith Wolfe and Brendan Wolfe. 2013, 184 pp., Cloth, $45.00. ISBN 978-1-60635-183-3.
Perelandra is not the first C.S. Lewis book for which his readers reach, yet Lewis himself considered it to be one of his best works. His belief that science fiction cannot function without a spiritual dimension is beautifully reflected in his Space Trilogy, within which he molds a fascinating world of floating islands.
In C. S. Lewis’s Perelandra: Reshaping the Image of the Cosmos, Judith Wolfe and Brendan Wolfe attempt to ignite a fresh interest and appreciation of this trilogy. As main editors of the volume, they have done a remarkable job compiling a number of essays from renowned authors and Lewis scholars including Michael Ward, Walter Hooper, Monika B. Hilder and others.
As the title of the book suggests, Perelandra is an endeavor to reshape the image of the Cosmos. However, in order to reshape something, one needs to be aware of the current shape. Following this logic, the editors, through a variety of essays, provide a rich and diverse discussion about the important aspects of our own modern idea of the Cosmos. The flow of authors and essays is compiled with discernment and intentionality; the design aids the reader’s understanding of Lewis’s desire to perceive the “modern view of the cosmos as merely a shadowy image of the Perelandran,” as Judith Wolfe remarks in the introduction.
The trilogy is an invitation from Lewis to traverse through space, to voyage in one’s imagination into another dimension and to realize the idea of another world–the idea of otherness. Lewis, with his commitment to both Christian and literary traditions, sets out to retell the events of Genesis 2—3. What Judith Wolfe finds fascinating about this rendering of the creation account is Lewis’s clever framework for his story, which allows for a synthesis of cosmology, mythology and Christianity, all the while reimagining each of them. This specific reconfiguration becomes a guiding theme for the first set of essays, beginning with Hooper’s insights about Lewis’s understanding and use of sources and their function in Perelandra.
The second part of the volume shifts focus to examine the relationship of morality and meaning. One cannot enter Lewis’s world of Perelandra and not be confronted with a particular narrative and theological purpose, namely the question of how evil could enter a wholly good world. Lewis provokes this discussion via his central image of the floating world, which is a depiction of temptation. This discussion continues with essays by Meriel Patrick and Tami van Opstal, among others, who explore the structure of truth, religious knowledge and the notion of human freedom in this peculiar world of floating islands.
This imaginative compilation of essays and first book-length study of Perelandra is a seminal volume for those who have not yet read this particular work of C.S. Lewis and would like an ample introduction to this fantastic world he created. In a similar fashion, for those who have already encountered and loved Perelandra, this work is full of both insightful analyses and interesting anecdotes which will enhance appreciation for the work.
Review by Sonia Blank.