Alternate realities were used to show how the world could differ if humans would make different choices. Above all, these stories offered hope for a human future, carried forward by literary and film works like Space Patrol, the Star Trek franchise, Babylon Five, and Stargate. Even the hilarious 3rd Rock from the Sun is full of hope for mankind.
Lewis offers a different brand of hope. It is not only the hope of good overcoming evil and man curing social ills with guidance from other beings, but it is the hope of heaven. Ransom agrees to help find Harry and goes to the mansion to discover an old university associate, Devine, and the abrasive physicist, Dr. Weston. Harry is there, but Devine and Weston manipulate Ransom into drinking drugged wine. Next morning, Ransom is lying on a cot in a flying metal soccer ball, wondering about the source of the heavenly light shining through the skylights.
Piper describes a light everywhere, shining brighter the closer he walked to the gate, overwhelming but irresistible. When he reached the gate after 90 minutes, he returned to his body to find a fellow pastor praying over him. As I read about the light of Sol and of space--Deep Heaven in the book--a chill shot through me in recall of Piper’s heaven. It was stunning that authors 70 years apart created similar images and/or metaphor.
While landing on colorful Malacandra (Mars), Ransom finds Devine and Weston plotting to offer him up as a sacrifice to a towering, pale sentient race known as "sorn" in appeasement so they may steal more sun’s-blood (gold) undeterred. Ransom escapes and meets the "hrossa," a dark otter-like people and the sentient pfifltriggi (frog-beings). These three races live in peace--why can't humans? Ransom's name foreshadows his intended sacrifice by kidnappers for gold. He also asks the Malacandrians to kill him if it will save Mars from his kidnappers future human space travelers.
Ransom lives among the hrossa, learns their language, and finds that all Malacandrians speak it. Their word for "evil" is "bent" and there are bent men and bent spirits in this novel. Each race also has its own language for use at home. It is unusual that a character learns the language of aliens, and not the other way round, and in this, Lewis may be offering a way for human races to come together.
He may also be offering a description of the heavenly language of men and angels from the Bible. Ransom discerns the eldili: light-beings and most likely angels, since they bring messages to sentients. The eldili belong to Maledil (God).The leader of the eldili on the planet is the Oyarsa of Malacandra, who must be a metaphor for an archangel rather than for Jesus. It is explained by this Good Oyarsa that the Bent Oyarsa was banished to Earth with his bent eldili.
Near the novel's end, Devine and Weston confront the Good Oyarsa, while Ransom interprets. Weston is so wordy and inarticulate at once in the Malacandrian language, that Oyarsa asks if Ransom's kidnappers are wounded in the brain. He asks again as Weston hops up and down warbling "Pretty, pretty, pretty," describing beads he wants to trade for Martian valuables, like beads to the Indians for New York. It is uproariously funny-- Imagine the Archangel Michael asking about current politicians, "Do they have brain damage. Can we bring them a doctor?"
Anyone who likes science fiction and its beginnings and the history of space travel will enjoy this book. Believers and nonbelievers alike will be enchanted by its imagery and metaphor. Ransom does return home and he prepares for more space travel. It is all fascinating.