Saturday, March 28, 2009

That Hideous Strength

This is a very relevant book for our times. It’s also C.S. Lewis. Those two factors alone make it a more-or-less mandatory read – and one that is virtually guaranteed to be above average, at least. I do have to say, however, that I did not find it nearly so enjoyable to read as Lewis’ very best fiction (which would be Perelandra and Till We Have Faces, in my opinion).

While I embrace with satisfaction the overall trajectory of the narrative – cold, calculating rationalistic-materialism on the one hand effectively contrasted with enthralling, incarnate (and erotically charged) spirituality on the other – I do have to admit that I somehow found the ending rather anti-climactic. In addition, there are a number of elements here and there which I found quite puzzling and disjointed. (For just one example, what’s up with that one little segment of first person narrative in Chapter One which is never again taken up?) Perhaps some of this apparent lack of cohesion is by design, I don’t know. Lewis was a very clever one.

On the plus side, the book is chock-full of very interesting characters, some great individual scenes and is deliciously rich in irony. At times the satire (it took a while, but I eventually began to see why many reviewers describe the work as “satirical”) approaches laugh-out-loud intensity. So it really is a very good book. Probably the biggest thing working against it is that it follows right on the heels of Perelandra, which is positively sublime.


  1. The first in the series was actually my favorite, followed by this on, not to disrespect Perelandra.

    Other than the creepy way in which Ransom was deified, I really enjoyed this one. Though it could have been a bit more cohesive and a few mythological characters could have been left out (one in particular).

  2. I just finished re-reading THS. I loved it the second time, and enjoyed the first. The fact that he threw in Mr Bultitude just capped it. Who doesn't love a bumbling bear? But I would have to say that the electric, rainbow-hued imagery of Perelandra can't be matched, with Lewis' precise, not-one-superfluous-word, brilliant style.
    Scarily relevant, and startlingly revealing, I will own the whole series for multiple re-readings!