Friday, December 3, 2010

review: Narnia Code


The Narnia Code:
Millions of readers have been captivated by C. S. Lewis’s famed Chronicles of Narnia, but why? What is it about these seven books that makes them so appealing? For more than half a century, scholars have attempted to find the organizing key—the “secret code”—to the beloved series, but it has remained a mystery. Until now.
In The Narnia Code, Michael Ward takes the reader through each of the seven Narnia books and reveals how each story embodies and expresses the characteristics of one of the seven planets of medieval cosmology—Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus and Saturn—planets which Lewis described as “spiritual symbols of permanent value.”
How does medieval cosmology relate to the Christian underpinnings of the series? How did it impact Lewis’s depiction of Aslan, the Christlike character at the heart of the books? And why did Lewis keep this planetary inspiration a secret? Originally a ground-breaking scholarly work called Planet Narnia, this more accessible adaptation will answer all the questions.

So, that’s what the back says.  And I have to admit I approached this book with a lot of skepticism, but also some enthusiasm because it’s Narnia.

Why was I skeptical, well let’s look at books that claim to have a secret code.  There’s the Bible Code, and that to my mind was a little silly, that you can get secret messages from the Bible using special numbers that only a few people know did not make sense to me, especially when it’s presented that you can get these secret messages from an English Bible using the chapter and verse notation added in some 1000 years after Christ.  I don’t think so.

Da Vinci Code, ummm, I predicted the ending in the first 50 pages, and it annoyed me to find as many plotholes and problems as I did in this hugely hyped book.

Left Behind series, which I’ll admit I got caught up in the hype when it first came out, but I have a valid excuse, I was in high school and college.  We’re all a little stupid then.  It was too drawn out, and the series was poorly written.

So, that’s my experience with books with secret meanings, but this one was different.  First, it did a good job of presenting it’s case, and actually has me pretty convinced of it’s veracity.  It also got me wanting to go back and reread the series to think about it some more.

Would I have bought this if I didn’t get a review copy?  I don’t know, because I tend to buy mainly fiction, but it would have been on my Christmas wish list.  But, I do have two friends in mind who this book would be perfect for.

Overall: two thumbs up.

Disclosure: Tyndale gave me a copy to review in exchange for this post. 

AND PS:  I know I will make people angry by saying I didn’t like DaVinci Code, but really it was poorly written, just like the Left Behind series was poorly written.  Oh, and I think the list published by some magazine or other with that book on their list is a ridiculous list.  Come on, you’ve got some books on there twice, and some of the other books on it are not great paragons of literature either (Harry Potter, really?  I love the books, but they’re not great literature) .

Edited to add: Yes, I agree Harry Potter will stand the test of time, but I do think they weren't edited as well as they could have been towards the end in the rush to get them out before Harry Potter mania went away.  So, yes I'll make my kids read Harry Potter, just like I'll make my kids read Narnia.  Both are good series.  But, they're not necessarily great works of literature, which is what that list was claiming to be.

You may proceed to write me hate mail now Smile
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