Saturday, December 17, 2011
That Hideous Strength: Review
That Hideous Strength is the final book in the space trilogy written by C. S. Lewis. Only this time our space traveler, Ransom, is staying firmly at home on earth...where the battle between Good and Evil will rage in the middle of English village life. While Ransom (or the Director as he is now known) plays a major role, our story focuses on Jane and Mark Studdock--a recently married couple whose married life has already begun to sour. Soon Jane and Mark will be drawn into opposite sides of the battle without realizing quite what they're choosing. Before the very grim (and sometimes quite violent) action is over, we'll be introduced to Mr. Bultritude (I won't spoil it by telling you who/what he is), Merlin brought back from the grave, and a quite literal Talking Head. Lewis also gives us a quite delightful scene straight from the Tower of Babel.
This book was written in the years just prior to and during World War II. This would be apparent to anyone who knows anything about that time period. It is quite scary to see how easily the N.I.C.E. Organization (read the Nazi Party) insinuate themselves into every area of British life and take over everything from the government to education to the police. They talk a line of patter that quite effortlessly brings in those who "just want to belong." And that is at the heart of the matter--we all want to belong. We want to feel that we're part of something important and in the "inner circle." We're going to help make things happen; we're going to be in the know; we're one of the "cool kids." And that's how the evil forces can get control. They make it sound so good.
Once again, Lewis has written a good book. I found myself liking it better than Perelandra--it "drew me in" and made me want to keep on reading. But I still feel some of the beautiful language he used in Out of the Silent Planet is missing. Perhaps it's difficult to write quite so beautifully about the battle of Good and Evil. The action is a bit slow towards the beginning, but it picks up about half-way through and is superb once Merlin is brought in. I'm definitely glad that I've finally managed to read this series (chalk up another plant for the Victory Garden!). Three stars.
This book counts for several Challenges--particularly the Off the Shelf Challenge and featuring as this month's book for the Read Your Own Library Challenge (I'm at the Running Behind Level). It's nice to clear off books that have been looking at me reproachfully for oh, um, ....twenty years or so. In January I'm going to attack My Name is Legion by Roger Zelazny. That's another book that's been sitting on my shelf since my last major science fiction binge.