Out of the Silent Planet – Chapter Three

SUMMARY

Ransom awakens again on what turns out to be a spaceship, looking out the window at what he at first takes to be the moon – though it looks strange and bright. He finds himself lying in bed in a very strange room. One wall is hot and the rest of the room seems to be getting its heat from that wall. He makes several guesses as to his location, beginning with thinking he is at Weston’s home next to his furnace. As he gets out of bed he realizes he is in an oddly shaped room where the walls seem to spread out sideways from the floor, so that the ceiling is much greater in area than the floor, and yet the walls come off the floor at ninety degree angles.

He also notices that he has an “extraordinary lightness of body” and that he has difficulty keeping his feet on the floor; it is very easy for him to pop up and hit his head. He began to suspect that maybe he was dead and what seemed to be himself was only a ghost form of himself. The room also had a “silent vibration with a strangely life-like and unmechanical quality about it.” He deduced that he was in a vehicle moving, but not what kind of vehicle it was.

Puzzled he looked back at the “moon” and recalled that there had been nothing close to the full moon he was seeing. Maybe there had been a slight crescent, but certainly not a full moon that night. “The thing wasn’t the moon at all; and he felt his hair move on his scalp.”

At that point Weston enters the room. Ransom, relieved to see another person in this strange place, spoke, sobbing, asking about the “moon.” And Weston replies simply – its not the moon, its the earth.

SCI-FI ASPECT

The Ship

He we have a description of one room of a spaceship by a man who finds himself within that room and having very little understanding of it. This is a pretty interesting way to introduce interplanetary space travel.

In his room there is a window in the ceiling, which would somehow be against the outside of the ship. So the floor of his room would be close to the inside of the ship. The walls of his room would be adjacent, of course, to the walls of the other rooms. The ship is small enough and round enough that the ceiling is notably larger than the floor. The floor must be curved to some degree as all the walls are at right angles to it and yet stretch apart from each other as they extend upward.

The ship also has a vibration or a hum but not a mechanical type vibration. Lewis describes the ship very interestingly, starting with the way Ransom feels, then what he can see, and finally noting the sound. I like the way he takes his time with the description and allows it to unfold organically, as it would to a man who had awakened in a – shall we say – alien environment.

There is more description of the ship yet to come. It will give a better idea of the ship as a whole and not just one little room.

Gravity

His rising was disastrous and raised graver apprehensions in his mind about the effects of being drugged. Although he had been conscious of no unusual muscular effort, he found himself leaping from the bed with an energy which brought his head into sharp contact wit the skylight and flung him down again in a heap on the floor.

Of course if you know he’s traveling on a spaceship, this is obviously the effect of the odd gravitational forces, but Ransom initially attributes it to the effects of the drugs.

Interesting that Lewis described it this way. This was many years prior to any space travel, so all of this was imagined in his head. He didn’t get it exactly right. We see that Ransom can keep his feet on the floor, though it takes much effort. But during space flight things will just sort of float. Now, this isn’t true solely because there is a lack of gravity. There is gravity in space – that’s what holds the moon in earth’s orbit and earth in the sun’s orbit. It has more to do with all of the momentum of the observable environment – the ship and everything in it including the traveler – going in the same direction at the same speed.

So the only way Ransom’s feet could stay on the floor is by artificial gravity which can be accomplished in a few different ways. Magnets can be used – magnetic boots can substitute magnetic forces between the wearer’s feet and the floor in place of the more natural gravity. I don’t think this is what is going on because there is no mention of boots. Acceleration can be used, as was done in the film Interstellar. Parts of the ship move around in a circle so as to move everything in an outward direction, mimicking gravity at least at that point. That doesn’t seem to be what is going on either because the outer part of the ship where the window is would need to be on the floor, not the ceiling.

Its possible that a ship could be so big that it “produces” enough gravity to keep one pulled toward the center, therefore generating its own gravitational forces. It is true that all mass generates gravitational forces, but a spaceship would have to be of such and immense size that this would be unfeasible. At this point, we cannot say that Lewis is not depending on this idea. I can’t remember if he addresses gravity at all. But if this turns out to be the source of his gravity, then we will have to say he failed on that one.

Or, theoretically, a gravity inducing device could be used. This could be the case. I cannot recall. We’ll have to wait and see in the next few chapter.

MISCELLANY

soccer ball
Is that the moon?

I was taken by the comparison of the “moon” to a football. Being American, I thought – an oblong brown moon? That is a strange moon indeed. But Lewis’ football would be our soccer ball. And the popular alternating white pentagon black hexagon pattern that we often associate with a soccer ball now was not the common type at that time.

Also interesting was Ransom’s response to seeing Weston. Weston had been involved in drugging him and getting him there. And yet we see Ransom relieved to see another human being – even Weston – because the strangeness of the place where he had awoken.

PROPOSED CHAPTER TITLE

Orientation

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