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That Hideous Strength

by C.S. Lewis
Series: The Space Trilogy #3
384 pages, Science Fiction
Reviewed by Jeanne

An excellent close to the Space Trilogy with amazing characters, but with violent content.

Plot

Devine of Out of the Silent Planet is back as the powerful Lord Feverstone, along with new characters Jane and Mark. The latter two have been married for awhile, have no kids, and have drifted far apart in their relationship; not only that, but Jane has begun to have disturbing dreams...that come true. Mark, through the suggestions of Lord Feverstone, becomes entangled in the new, scientific organization called the N.I.C.E.

With the appearances of Ransom, Arthurian Merlin, and Wither - Director of the N.I.C.E -, Jane and Mark find themselves caught up in the age-old war between the forces of the Light eldil and the Dark eldil.

Morality

Jane and Mark are very "scientific" and "modern" and have little interest in things like morality: this is one of the key parts of the tale. Besides these two conflicted characters, the good characters are good and the bad characters are bad.

Spiritual Content

It seems that Jane abandoned the Christianity of her youth, whereas Mark never had any. Several paintings of scenes from the Scripture are referenced, and at one point one of the N.I.C.E members wants Mark to trample on a symbol of the Cross.

As in the other two Space Trilogy tales, Maleldil is obviously God and the eldil are what we call angels; the Oyerseu are the archangels of the planets (Perelandra, Malacandra, etc.).

Merlin seems to want to use magic to awaken the spirits (dryads, etc.) of the trees and land, but Ransom rebukes him by saying that that is not the way they are to fight.

Besides this, there is also talk of how the men who, in the Bible, did not die but were rather taken away by God residing now in Perelandra; King Arthur is also with them. Evolution is accepted.

Violence

A good bit. The description of the Head of the N.I.C.E is graphic and enough to make the stomach a little upset. Animals imprisoned and tortured by members of the N.I.C.E break out and trample people - this scene is also fairly graphic.

Besides this, there are a couple murders and an execution. A man's head is cut off and another man stabbed; yet another man is shot. Jane is tortured (though neither horrifically or graphically) by the N.I.C.E police.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Wine is drunk, and perhaps drunk a little too much. The head of the N.I.C.E police, Miss Hardcastle, has a tendency to drink too much. Pubs and taverns are mentioned, and many characters smoke.

Sexual Content

It is implied that Jane and Mark don't have relations, and also that Jane has chosen not to get pregnant. At one point, Jane fears that she's falling in love with Ransom (which she isn't). On Sulva, the Moon, the "cold marriages" happen - where husbands and wives do not sleep with their mates, but with objects shaped like them.

When Perelandra (Venus) comes to rest over the house where Ransom is, the beasts begin to pair together. Nothing is described.

Several times, characters must strip in order to be sterilized before going into a certain room.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

"D*mn" is said fairly often, while Lord Feverstone takes God's name in vain a couple times. "Bloody" is also used as a swearword. Also the use of "sons of b******", but not in reference to swearing, but rather pointing out what might be a fact.

Conclusion

"That Hideous Strength" is a fast-paced, exciting close to the acclaimed "Space Trilogy". The characters are well-developed and the plot gripping, and so is Lewis' drawing together of the loose strings at the end. Lewis' ability to bring in new characters so late in the trilogy and yet make them as dear to the reader as Ransom himself is admirable indeed.

The reappearance of Perelandra and Malacandra, as well as the new appearance of some other archangels, was pleasing and excellently done.

However, unlike Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, in "That Hideous Strength" the narrative is violent and certainly not for younger readers. Also, there is some sexual content that should be understood by the reader before reading this book.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: 13+

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