©1946 Clive Staples Lewis; (P)2000 Blackstone Audiobooks
"Well-written, fast-paced satirical fantasy." (Time)
"Biting wit, superlatively nonsensical excitement, challenging implications." (New York Times)
Maybe you're all for human cloning and pushing the scientific exploitation of man as resource. You won't like this book. Lewis paints the future bleak where man is just another hunk of meat to use for some purpose. Where ever you are on the argument, you might want to read this as a pretty good exposition of the negatives that could be inherent in perceiving man as just another pile of stuff to bend to the will of... Well, that's it, isn't it. Who, exactly, gets to call the shots? Lewis achieves better narrative drive in this, the last volume of the Space Trilogy. It really does work as a pretty good thriller.
There is no frigate like a book ~ E. Dickinson
This is my favorite enstalment of C.S. Lewis' space trilogy. Are you an adult and loved the Chronicles of Narnia? Do not miss out on the space trilogy! Without spoiling the story I'll just tell you that the story includes angels, Merlin, a seer, ancient magic, and evil scientists. Do not let the book's slow start fool you, it is a great thriller in Lewis' best style. A lot of my friends find the first few chapters very boring-- it is only fair to warn you. Still, I can not rate this book more highly. It is one of my favorite all-time books (I read a lot of British liturature.)
The reader has a wonderful voice. This audio edition is great!
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at FanLit. Come visit us!
"Nature is the ladder we have climbed up by. Now we kick her away."
That Hideous Strength is the final volume of C.S. Lewis’s SPACE TRILOGY. This story, which could be categorized as science fiction, dystopian fiction, Arthurian legend, and Christian allegory, is different enough from the previous books, Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, that you don’t need to have read them, but it may help to vaguely familiarize yourself with their plots. Generally, in the previous stories, Dr. Elwin Ransom has been to both Mars and Venus and discovered that the planets are governed by heavenly beings and that Earth’s governor is a fallen angel. These forces are at war and the fate of the universe is at stake.
In That Hideous Strength, Ransom is back on Earth and is preparing a group of people who can fight the forces of evil. This evil is manifesting as a corporation called the National Institute of Coordinated Experimentation (N.I.C.E.) which is trying to purchase some wooded property owned by Bracton College at the University of Edgestow in England. To do this, they’ve had to exert their influence over some of the “progressive” faculty by getting them to buy into their subtle message of saving the human race through (but not obviously yet) sterilization, selective breeding, re-education, and biochemical conditioning. The end-goal, though they only talk about this in the inner circle, is a future in which the working class is no longer needed to support the brains that run the world. NICE wants the talents of the progressive faculty on their side as they generate propaganda, but they also want to recruit some more ancient magic — they plan to dig up the body of Merlin, which they believe may be buried on the college’s property.
Dr. Mark Studdock, a sociologist and a new Bracton faculty member who doesn’t feel like he quite fits in yet, is tempted to join NICE when they offer him a high-status job. At first Mark is suspicious of the group and their recruitment methods and he’s bothered by the vague job description, but their insistence that they need him, their appeal to his vanity, and his low self esteem combine to make their offer seem attractive. Having left Bracton to join the NICE administration, Mark is unaware of the police tactics that NICE is using to make the college town comply with their new order. Meanwhile, also back at Bracton, Mark’s new wife, Jane, is having ominous visions. Thinking she may be going crazy, she seeks help and ends up among the group, lead by Dr. Ransom, which is fighting NICE.
One thing that C.S. Lewis does so well in this novel is to portray the slippery slope of Mark’s gradual slide into evil which is caused by a lack of his own moral compass. Though he doesn’t realize it at first, he is foremost a people-pleaser. He wants to increase his status in the eyes of both his colleagues and his wife, and though he’s not actually concerned about his character for himself, he wants others to admire him. Wanting to seem both successful (financially and professionally) and of good character, and without any moral grounding of his own, he has no idea how to behave in this situation and eventually succumbs to the pressure. When he becomes better acquainted with NICE’s tactics and plans, the cognitive dissonance he feels leads him to wholly embrace the evil. It doesn’t help that Mark discovers that even when he tries to be good, there is no natural law that the universe must reward him for it.
In contrast, characters who have a stronger sense of self, like Jane, have more concrete ideas about right and wrong and are not as easily influenced or corrupted. Yet Lewis doesn’t condemn Mark while wholly commending Jane. Instead, Mark’s inferiority complex seems heartbreaking, and Lewis makes Jane, an educated feminist, deal with her hatred of masculinity. Other good characters are forced to examine their own self-righteousness.
Another thing that is beautifully done in That Hideous Strength is Lewis’ melding of the ancient and new, especially in England’s history — the dark ages with its ancient forest magic, mythical creatures, and irrational superstition, and the new age of rationalism, science and technology. Lewis also speaks eloquently about the difference between organized religion and real spiritual experience. There are also some lovely literary allusions in That Hideous Strength; no fantasy literature lover is likely to miss Lewis’ reference to the work of his friend J.R.R. Tolkien.
That Hideous Strength is a deeply philosophical novel which, except for the mention of corsets, doesn’t feel dated though it was published in 1945. Some readers may not appreciate all the philosophizing, but I am always fascinated by C.S. Lewis’ ideas, finding them logical, enlightening, and superbly said. Some of these ideas can be found in his non-fiction works The Abolition of Man, Mere Christianity, God in the Dock, and probably others that I haven’t read. That Hideous Strength — in fact the entire SPACE TRILOGY — is a profoundly thoughtful and beautiful work of science fiction. I recommend Blackstone Audio’s version narrated by Geoffrey Howard.
This book was my least favorite in the series. It is still pretty good, but darker than the others, and a little weird. The narrator does a nice job. This series is not as fun as the Narnia series, but has more theology and Christian philosophy.
I loved the story and the reading was done with impressive skill. Would certainly recommend along with Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, the first two books in the series.
This reading kept me short of sleep for several nights. After work I would come home and listen until I nodded off, and then take the print version to bed with me!
In 1943 the Narnia author C.S. Lewis wrote this gods-on-earth fantasy for adults, including more dimensions of characterization, plus Arthurian mythology and social analysis. 70 years ago fictional writing styles were more leisurely than today. The reader's delivery in the descriptive sections doesn't slow them down, instead it keeps the story clothed in atmospherics. I'm sure Lewis would feel pleased with Geoffrey Howard's presentation.
Professional librarian type, amateur historian.
Don't start with this if you haven't heard or read the 1st 2 in this trilogy. Yes, it is slow, but in the end it is rewarding, wrapping up the whole story. Even after listening to this I've come back to many of the themes of the book when listening to fiction and non-fiction (most particularly Confessions of an Economic Hitman). Not as good as some of Lewis' other works but well worth the listen if you've gotten yourself hooked with his other scifi works.
I you have never read any of Lewis' stuff, you owe it to yourself to check this incredible book out. I really like sci-fi and this story is classic sci-fi from a Christian worldview. Lewis is a masterful writer. I listened to all three books in this series on audiobook and it's amazing! Wow, 5 stars just does not do this book justice!
"flawed genius, but still genius"
If Star Wars, Xmen, Spiderman and the Alien movies are anything to go by, it hard to make a decent ?part 3?.
With this book C S Lewis takes the bold step of focusing on brand new characters and reducing Ransom, the hero of the previous books, to a mentor figure. If that wasn?t enough, it focuses on a secret society on earth and mixes in elements of Arthurian legend. It?s certainly a departure from intergalactic adventures of the previous two books and it feels disappointingly out of step with them.
Taken on it?s own merits it is certainly a gripping and contemporary story of ?the nanny state? gone mad. But it?s far from flawless. Lewis? literary mates and harshest critics the Inkings slated it for being to long and self indulgent (as it is set in the academic world which Lewis lived in). I think time has proved the Inklings right, if only in this case.
If you?ve listened to the previous books there is no way you should miss out on this one, but do be prepared for a massive change of pace.
If you are new to Lewis or his ?space trilogy? then listen to ?Out of the Silent Planet? immediately. You will be glad you did!
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