Monday, December 18, 2017

That Hideous Strength

C.S. Lewis
Completed 11/15/2017, reviewed 12/18/2017
2 stars

This book is the third in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy.  And it nearly put an end to my blogging career.  When I finished reading it, I didn’t even want to review it.  I found it that dull and uninteresting.  I put off the review for over a month.  I think I was somehow expecting something akin to Lord of the Rings when I began this trilogy, mostly because I knew Tolkien and Lewis were friends and critiqued each other’s works.  They couldn’t have been farther apart.  I was also expecting something great because in my Fantasy Lit class in college, we had the choice to read this book or Earthsea Trilogy.  I chose Earthsea, but I thought THS would be equally as good.  I was so disappointed.

The book is about Mark Studdock, a sociologist at an Oxford like school who is drawn to work at an organization called N.I.C.E., the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments.  Unbeknownst to Mark, its mission is to take over the planet.  Mark’s wife Jane has terrible visions of the near future.  She meets up with people who believe her visions are real and indictments of N.I.C.E.  These people are led by Elwin Ransom, the hero of the previous two books.  Their mission is to put an end to N.I.C.E.

The book is very British.  Manners play an important role as to why Mark can’t get out of N.I.C.E.  They are more sinister than that, but it just feels like he’s too polite to put his foot down when he has the chance.  It’s also very old-fashioned.  There’s one woman who works for the organization who is every negative Lesbian stereotype, right down to the cigar chomping.  It’s so bad, it’s offensive.  Even knowing that this book was written in the ‘40s, I couldn’t help but feel offended.

I read many reviews of this book looking for like-minded readers, but there weren’t many.  One thing many fans agree on is the prose.  I thought it was overbearing.  It was simply just a tool for converting his philosophical arguments into fiction.  It’s about natural law versus logical positivism.  I didn’t know this until after I began reading the reviews after finishing the book.  I think I might have gotten a little more if I knew that ahead of time.  It’s pretty clear though, that N.I.C.E. represents the more atheistic logical positivism and Jane and co. represent the more theological and spiritual natural law.  N.I.C.E is mean and destructive and pushes the good little people of England out of their country homes and into the terrible city.  Jane is wholesome and mystical and pastoral.    Ugh.  Make me barf.

I’m giving this book two stars out of five because it did have some moments.  I did rather like the appearance of Merlin.  On the whole, I’m not fond of Lewis from my experience with the Space Trilogy.  Maybe I’ll like Narnia, if I get around to reading it.  But I feel like I wasted several weeks reading books that propagate a moral argument thinly couched in near-science fiction, or I guess this was fantasy since Merlin showed up.  Life is more complex than any one philosophical statement and I believe anyone who thinks otherwise is terribly naïve.  

1 comment:

  1. I started the first part of this trilogy but didn't finish it. Like you, I found it stale and dull as well as very dated. Out of the Narnia books, I loved "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" when I was a child. Re-read it last year and am convinced it is a book that belongs to our childhood days. "The Magician's Nephew" is pretty good, but should be read after "Lion, Witch, Wardrobe". I've heard that "The Silver Chair" is okay, but the others aren't worth reading unless you are a child.