o JR Tolkien and CS Lewis are in a bar, grousing about the sorry state of literature.
Sounds like a joke, right? It actually happened. So the two literary giants were discussing fiction’s flop and they both decide to write science fiction books. They ended up agreeing that they would each produce a work to reverse this decline (or at least cash in on it): Tolkien would write a time travel story, Lewis a space travel one. Tolkien never got beyond a rough draft and some tinkerings, but Lewis took his across the finish line.
So in this book, a strolling professor on a countryside sabbatical comes across two men trying to drag a boy into a mysterious shed. He intercepts, it’s all a misunderstanding, and frankly he knows one of the fellows from Cambridge some time ago (never really liked him, but dash it all, we’re brother-academics). So he shares a drink with the guy (apparently, academics are too stupid to see an obvious mickey in the works). The next think he knows, he’s on a interplanetary space ship heading for Mars. Putting his ear to the door as all heroes do, he learns he is to be sacrificed to something called an Sorn, a scary thing.
So, as soon as they touch down and the aliens show up, he bolts.
This begins Dr. Elwin Random’s great journey, meeting the three races of Mars (the Hross, the Sorn and the Pfifltriggs). And even though he doesn’t quite understand this to be Mars (it’s obvious to us, of course) he eventually learns its geographies and biologies, interacting with the races, learning their phylosophies, and even going on a fun river hunt. Eventually, the two other humans drive him (with rifle fire and sad collateral damage) on a quest to meet the Oyarsa, a nearly invisible spirit being whose earlier invitation Random ignored.
Along the way, Random has a chance to discuss the various natures of races with the inhabitants he meets. I guess these things are cyclic, because in this story (written in 1905), humans are seen as pretty scummy. More than once, Random pleads with his benifactors to kill both the other two humans and himself, as quickly as possibly.
I won’t go any further into the story than this. It was really a pretty interesting road trip, over the plains of Mars and along its canals. For the adventure-lovers of you, there is all sorts of scenery porn. For the philosophy-fans, there are reflection on the defects of humans and the nature of possible gods. There was also (pleasing astronomy-geeks such as myself) a bit where Mars, originally in opposition, has slid back in its orbital track vis-à-vis the Earth, and now their return journey (chancy as it was) is doubly so giving the distance and the proximity to the sun.
I found this on Dumb.Com, in the radio sections. It was read for radio in eight acts, and made for fun listening while doing brain-dead work stuff. Figured I’d share it since it was originally a book. You can find the audio stuff HERE, for free! Enjoy!