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Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.
Having enjoyed this novel again and again for a generation, I believe that it is prophetic and even more relevant today than when it was written. Now that recent filmings of Lord of the Ring and the first Narnia book have delighted critics and the public alike, is it too much to hope for a high-quality cinematic version someday of _That Hideous Strength_? Lewis would be most pleased, I daresay, if any such adaptation were set in our own time, because we need its messsage now.
By the time Mark Studdock arrives at Belbury, he is a confirmed brown-nose with considerable experience in pursuing his life's ambition: joining the esoteric Inner Circle of whatever. It is striking, then, how much difficulty he has in the NICE even determining who is in this group. Feverstone, Filostrato, Hardcastle, and Straik, for instance, all confide to him that their own respective purviews are of the institute's essence, while various other departments are peripheral or merely for public consumption. By the end of the book, the chaos proclaims that none of these figures, nor anyone else, is effectively in charge.
In this respect, Lewis brilliantly anticipated insights that the late William Stringfellow would articulate in the 1960s and 70s: that institutions are among the contemporary world's most characteristic manifestations of the demonic "powers and principalities" mentioned in the Bible. They inevitably take on lives of their own and go off the rails. Eventually they justify any and all means towards the end of their own survival and hegemony. They enslave and "deplete the personhood of" every human being involved with them-- even (and perhaps especially) those who imagine that they are in control.Read more ›
C. S. Lewis wraps up his "Space Trilogy" right back on planet Earth where it is up to a cadre of ordinary folks, mythical beings, and brute beasts to thwart the forces of supreme wickedness. With the assistance of the Director--a man familiar to readers of the previous two books in the trilogy--this strange collection of characters is pitted against a vaguely-familiar, propaganda-driven totalitarian regime ironically called by the acronym NICE. This book is Lewis at his satirical best--an uppercut landed to the jaw of secular, anti-family, "post-christian" society. What is particularly striking about this book is who Lewis fingers as the advance-guard for the evil that sadly dominates on Earth, ever trying to extend its power: a bunch of place-seeking, ethics-free, jive-talking academics who have long left any pretense to reason and science behind. Instead, they are driven by a misguided altruism that manifests itself, ultimately, as complete misanthropy. In this regard, Lewis must be regarded as prescient. Anyone who has spent any time in American academia will immediately sympathize with the plight of the characters in the book who *dare* to stand up to the censorial, elitist, marxist/leninist, anti-religion, pro-death agenda so prevalent among the "progressive" leadership of the university. Lewis had these people's number fifty years ago. In short, this book is a fun read and though couched in humorous terms, is deadly serious at its core.
Many fans of Lewis' work rate this least of the Space Trilogy books; it lacks "Out of the Silent Planet"'s wonder and "Perelandra"'s lyricism. However, for a look at where a situationally-moral, rationalist, humanist society is bound to wind up, it is priceless.
The main characters are a young couple who got married out of love and are finding it hard going in "the real world". The wife, Jane, has an unusual ability to 'dream true' and when her dreams start applying to her own life, she finds it unsettling. Her husband, Mark, a young don (or professor) is no help; he's too wound up in college politics (and some very loathesome friends) and the possibility of a job with a new scientific foundation to pay much attention to her.
The story really begins moving when the foundation, called Belbury, begins moving in on everyday life. But, as always with Lewis, there is a moral opposite ready to stand against Belbury; in it, we find an old friend and several new ones.
This book is astonishingly accurate about where society is now -- as with some of Lewis' other observations (Screwtape's toast to the college comes to mind), it's hard to remember that Lewis wrote them nearly 50 years ago -- they're that close to current events and modern society.
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Silly heading, but nobody reads them anyway. I think. The third and last book in the trilogy (you did read the others, right?) and about as far from science fiction as you can possibly get . . . there's a definite shift, Lewis seems to be bringing in more fantasy and religious allegorical elements as the series continued, with the end result here. The tale is subtitled "A Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups" and that's what it boils down to. If you're like me, you'll have read this right after reading the other two books (which were great, by the way) and you'll be immediately confused. Instead of focusing on the nifty Dr Ransom, you get a young couple Mark and Jane. Jane's having weird dreams that keep coming true and Mark isn't really paying attention because he's trying to get into the political "circles" as the local university where he works. However, little does he know that evil is lurking there and the folks are plotting some very dark things. Herein comes the good guys and after being introduced to lots o' supporting characters, some of which are interesting, some less so, you finally meet the man himself: Ransom. The problem I have, and this has been said elsewhere, is that he's apparently the "Pendragon" (but also the Fisher King . . . weren't they two different people?) but there's absolutely no explanation as to how that happened. Lewis probably figured it wasn't important and not relevant to the story itself, heck, Ransom's discussion of how he inherited the mantle of the Pendragon is basically tossed off in one sentence. The first half of the book mostly focuses on the college and the dread blokes there, but when Ransom and company shows up finally, things get very trippy indeed.Read more ›
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