Title: That Hideous Strength
(Space Trilogy – Book 3)
Author: C. S. Lewis
Rating: 3 of 5
This final book in the Space Trilogy feels very different from the other two. It reads very much like one of the mystical “spiritual warfare” novels written by Lewis’s friend and fellow-Inkling Charles Williams (War in Heaven, Many Dimensions, etc.).
The book takes place entirely on earth as earth’s bent oyarsa (aka Satan) and his minions seek to further corrupt the earth through a bizarre fusion of naturalistic thinking (man is just a machine) and good old-fashioned spiritism (communication with supernatural entities) implemented by the state-funded “National Institute of Coordinated Experiments” (N.I.C.E.). The protagonists are an unhappy young couple who end up on opposite sides of the conflict between the N.I.C.E. and the remnant of Logres (King Arthur’s Britain – Ransom, the protagonist of the first two books is tied to this as a major secondary character). By the end the story is a weirder than usual hodgepodge of Arthurian legend, Greek mythology, Numinor (spelled differently, but clearly meant to be the same as Tolkien’s Numenor), and Christian mysticism.
When I was younger I liked this book quite a bit because it had the most action in it of the three, but on this re-reading it just didn’t measure up to the other two in terms of coherence. Lewis still explores some interesting philosophical points relating to humanity’s attempt at self-improvement and sociological tinkering (probably the best aspect of the book), peer-pressure and craving for acceptance, roles within a marriage, mythology as a reflection of deeper truths, a righteous “faithful remnant” throughout history, etc.. However, a lot of it is wrapped in so much mysticism, symbolism, and non-Christian thought that I did not find it nearly as profitable as the first two books.
Overall: worth reading because it rounds out the story and some aspects of the N.I.C.E. are great satire, but far below the quality of the first two books.