Planet Narnia by Michael Ward (Book Review) ~ BitterSweetLife

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Planet Narnia by Michael Ward (Book Review)

In the last several years, I've read my share of books that annotate and elucidate C.S. Lewis' work, and this cryptic title from previously-unknown Lewis scholar Michael Ward wins the "best of" trophy hands down.

Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis is fraught with overtones of medieval mystery and hidden meanings, and if you love the writing of Lewis, it reads like a page-turner. It's a testament to Michael Ward's audacity that he presents his findings in such a headlong way, and evidence of his persuasive scholarship that only a chapter or two in, you find yourself nodding in surprised agreement.

What has Ward done? I don't want to spoil Planet Narnia's air of mystery by spilling its secrets in a bullet list--but Ward effectively "cracks the code" of the Narnia books and gives high level insights into the entire corpus of C.S. Lewis' writing. This is an accomplishment, for Lewis-lovers, on par with a physicist unearthing the Unifying Theory of the universe.

We discover what made Lewis tick, at a deep imaginative level, and learn the rhyme and reason at work behind the scenes in Narnia. Lewis' stories--as have often been suggested--are enigmas on the level of authorial inspiration and over-arching theme (What holds the books together?), but Ward has pieced together the clues and discovered the "deep magic" of Lewis' creative ethos.

Michael Ward's gift for uncovering themes, tracing threads, and piecing together clues is unsurpassed. As a scholar, he's brilliant. But the brilliance extends to his writing as well, which contains a brightness, a lyrical buoyancy, and an incisive poeticism.

*** I award this one an enthusiastic three stars--don't miss it. Planet Narnia is a paradigm-shaping book and a high water mark in C.S. Lewis scholarship. I can't recommend it highly enough to the person looking for jaw-dropping insight into Lewis' writing.

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Potent Praise said...

Iron man was great!

Trekin4JC said...

I appreciate your review. I might check that book out now. I love all C.S. Lewis books and I have read The Chronicles of Narnia at least 25 time. So when I see ten books out on The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe -- I think "just read the book itself."

But from the sounds of it -- it would appear this book is different from the masses of people trying to tell people what they could easily learn from reading the books themselves. Although I see something new and insightful in every reading. I highly recommend reading them multiple times.

Ariel said...

Trekin, thanks for the note. I'd say that if you've read the Narnia books 25 times (wow), you owe it to yourself to check out Planet Narnia. The insight that Ward adds the experience is astronomical. This is coming from a guy who's read Lewis' books multiple times, although not 25! And I'd agree, Ward's book is qualitatively different from the average "guide to" Narnia book.


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife