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That Hideous Strength (Scribner Classics) Hardcover – Special Edition, October 1, 1996
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The New Yorker If wit and wisdom, style and scholarship are requisites to passage through the pearly gates, Mr. Lewis will be among the angels.
Los Angeles Times Lewis, perhaps more than any other twentieth-century writer, forced those who listened to him and read his works to come to terms with their own philosophical presuppositions.
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11 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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C. S. Lewis is a great author, but this story is not what I hoped for. The author describes this book as a fairytale for adults. It is more harsh and gloomy than the first two books in the trilogy. It does tie together with the first two books, but I had to do much reading before I saw the connection.
Relative to the other two novels, this plot is downright labyrinthine, with a grand conspiracy to take over Britain and ultimately the world. On the surface this is a secular progressive movement, but below the surface are demonic elements (the dark eldila that we learn about in the previous books). Supernatural elements aside, the crazy plot with conspiracies within conspiracies reminds me of a Robert Ludlum novel (of course predating Ludlum by a few decades), and also (like classic Ludlum) the body count gets pretty high. Some of the occult elements of the conspiracy, and some of the serious-silliness also reminded me a bit of "Foucalt's Pendulum", although from a very different point of view from that novel. The whole plot is rather melodramatic, almost campy, and in parts Lewis's writing is rather cheeky, but this is also interspersed with more straightforward CS Lewis insights and thoughts into this, that, or the other thing (he's surprisingly insightful on marriage and relationships for a man who was a bachelor for most of his life). At times the plot suffers a bit under its own weight - there are some little strands that don't really go anywhere, and some characters that don't really matter, and some loose ends that don't quite get tied up. Lewis clearly likes his animal characters, but I found all the stuff with the bear and the other critters a bit silly and overdone. I also think the story could have been tighter as a standalone novel, without it being part of the "Space Trilogy" mythos, with the eldila and Oyeresu and Ransom and what not.
As with the first two parts of the trilogy, a central theme is the dangers of "Modernism" or "Progressivism". With the larger cast of characters (vs just Weston as the main antagonist in the first two), Lewis gets to skewer many more caricatures of Modern thought. His main target remains scientific Materialism, but the bad guys include all manner of "Progressive" sociological thought (circa 1940s). It is striking how much of it rings true today, like we're still having the same debates, and the materialists and progressives of today are not that far removed from those of Lewis's day. I also thought Mark Studdock was an interesting character; I think he symbolizes all of Lewis's fears and suspicions of young academics (Lewis was a fairly senior professor by the time he published this). Studdock is thoroughly Modern in every respect, and as a result is continuously buffeted and blown about, going one direction and then another, always on the outside trying to be on the inside of something, anything. There's a quote, I'm not sure about the real attribution, about not being so open-minded that your brain falls out, and I think this is what Lewis has in mind with his portrain of Studdock. As I've read through the Space Trilogy, I really get the feeling that a lot of the characters and philosophies that Lewis disdains are drawn directly from Lewis's experiences with his fellow academics. It really comes through in this book - you get the feeling that Lewis wrote large parts of this book while sitting through interminable faculty meetings at Oxford.
An interesting little tidbit is that Lewis borrows (or perhaps appropriates?) his friend Tolkien's concept of Numinor (Lewis's acknowledgment at the start of the book is amusing!) Now Lewis's book was published probably 6 or 8 years before The Lord of the Rings, and I suspect that the way Lewis ties in Numinor fairly literally with both our contemporary history as well as (for the purposes of this novel) a "historical" Arthurian Britain is probably not what Tolkien envisioned. It's a very minor part of the book (Numinor is mentioned by name only a couple of times) but I do wish Lewis would have skipped that, or just made up a different name for a mythical prehistorical age that fit the conception in this story.
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That Hideous Strength: The first 8 chapters should have been distilled into 1-2.Read more