That Hideous Strength

Monday, July 30, 2012

That Hideous Strength
by C.S. Lewis

This is the final book in Lewis’ Space Trilogy; it follows Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, but deviates from the first two because it is set on Earth.

A young married couple, Jane and Mark are at the heart of the novel. Mark is offered a job at a strange organization called N.I.C.E. (National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments), whose goals are vague and never quite explained to him. At the same time Jane begins to have troubling dreams. Without intending to, the pair ends up on opposite sides in a battle for power in England and eventually the entire world.

Jane decides to see a counselor, Miss Ironwood, about her nightmares and finds out they aren’t dreams, but premonitions. Meanwhile Mark is being asked to do small things that challenge his belief system and each tiny step in the wrong direction takes him farther from his wife.

In a strange way it reminded me (a tiny bit) of The Dark is Rising series. Both use aspects of the Arthurian legend and set their stories in the 20th century. Both have forces of good and evil fighting against each other in a vague but continuous battle. But where The Dark is Rising pulls you in with great characters, Hideous Strength holds you at arms length with ideas and a cast of dislikeable individuals.
I wanted to finish Lewis’ space trilogy, so I’m glad I read this one, but I don’t think that it’s up to the same standard of the previous books. The pacing is off, the characters fall flat and the final showdown was weak.


Sandy Nawrot said...

Eeek. That cover alone, man...

Jeanne said...

To be fair, the Cooper is a children's book and Lewis was writing for adults.

JReiss said...

Oh poor poor Hideous Strength. Such potential. Another in the list of "pretend-the-last-one-doesn't-exist": the Godfather movies, Gilmore Girls final season, and Lewis' space trilogy.

Kudos to you for finishing the trilogy though.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - Ugh, I wish sci-fi covers weren't all so awful!

Jeanne - Very true and those are very different audience. I just couldn't help seeing the similarities and they just highlighted the weaknesses in Hideous Strength.

JReiss - Godfather and Gilmore Girls, so true!

Jenners said...

I read the first two whne I was way way way too young to understand or appreciate them. I read them after reading the Narnia books but I was very confused by it. I never got to this one.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Jenners - I don't think I would have gotten anything out the those books when I was young. I read the first two in the series after college, but I can't say you missed much with this one.