Customer Review

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but philosophically flawed, 19 Nov. 2011
This review is from: That Hideous Strength (The Cosmic Trilogy) (Paperback)
Much more interesting than the previous two volumes in CSL's "Space Trilogy", mainly because its set on Earth with a large cast of human characters. The previous books had only two or three human characters, all the aliens being stereotypes. The working class characters in THS are patronising stereotypes but there's not many of them. CSL was an academic and can therefore write convincingly about a small university in the 1940s. And somewhere in this book there's an interesting, inventive fantasy fiction book struggling to get out. The idea of every country having two "personalities", with Logres as the hidden manifestation of Britain, like a Platonic ideal, is intereting but is hardly developed. Likewise the brief references to other words and ancient lore- he even throws in a reference to Numenor which appears in his friend Tolkein's books. Merlin is by far the most interesting character, all the others do very little. I kept turning the pages, but I feel this book has huge flaws.

Firstly, the lead characters, Jane and Mark, ddi not engage my interest. Mark is "a man of straw" as CSL tells us at some length, while Jane is a dreary little snob who despite having neither job nor children still thinks she needs a daily cleaning woman. Merlin, who is portrayed as morally suspect, is by far the most interesting character, but he doesn't appear till more than halfway through.

Secondly, CSL ignores the common advice re creative writing, "show don't tell". CSL insists on telling us stuff in the authorial voice instead of showing us through narrative and dialogue. For instance, he expounds at length on how Mark lacks moral fibre due to having studied sociology instead of classics or science.

Thirdly, although CSL writes as a Christian, he makes his God look very ineffectual. In volume two, Ransom was bitten in the foot by a Satanically posessed academic. In this voume, we find him In this volume, some years later, we find him still in severe chronic pain from the unhealed injury! surely a tiny miracle wouldn't be too much to ask, for a man who's already saved a planet from damnation? Failing that, a course of antibiotics.

Fourthly, as in volume two (Voyage to Venus), the Devil's agents are eventually defeated by means which, although quite exciting, are entirely un-Christian. Merlin is regarded as so morally dubious that his own salvation is in doubt, yet Ransom's dreary crew rely on him to defeat the enemy while they basically just sit around. At the end of the book one of them actually points this out to Ransom, and recieves a most unsatisfactory answer.

Fifthly, CSL uses Jane and Mark's relationship to expound his Christian teaching that the woman should submit to her husband's authority. (We might suppose that Feminism started in the 1960s, but for CSL the rot had evidently started long before!) Now, I've read several of John Norman's works, in which male superiority is expounded in even more uncompromising terms. But even John Norman would not expect any woman to submit to a "man of straw" like Mark. CSL, through his mouthpiece Ransom, suggests explicitly that obedience to authority is a good in itself. In the aftermath of the Nazi era there's really no excuse for preaching that idea.

In conclusion, I feel that while attempting to expound his religion, CSL succeeds only in exposing its weaknesses. Is this really the best they could do?
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Dec 2011 20:29:21 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Dec 2011 20:04:42 GMT
LindaT says:
Of all the reviews I've read on this book, I think that this one resonates with me the most. I'm an avid reader of C. S. Lewis, and as a lifelong Christian, I have devoured his books. In fact PERELANDRA from this trilogy is one of my favourites.

But you're right -- this book does is not the best example of his writing, from the "straw man" that is Mark Studdock to the lack of "show, don't tell," along with your other points which you have described as well or better than I can.

One thing about Lewis' attitude towards women -- later on he married Joy Gresham, who was every bit his intellectual equal. In fact, his book A GRIEF OBSERVED shows him to be more of an egalitarian than even he realized.

Posted on 27 Jun 2012 21:53:04 BDT
I wonder if you are forgetting that the book was written and published in the 1940s and castigating Lewis for having 1940s attitudes rather than 21st century ones. Your suggestion of a "course of antibiotics" for Ransom supports this. Penicillin only became available in quantity in 1944 for the allied troops invading Normandy. Writing in 1945 Lewis might not have heard of Penicillin, let alone the term "antibiotic". I don't know when the word came into general use but John Wyndham uses the word "mycetes" rather than antibiotic as late as 1957 (in The Midwich Cuckoos).

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jun 2012 17:24:50 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Jul 2012 13:51:12 BDT
LindaT says:
I agree. As someone who was born a year and three months after VJ day (the absolutely official end of World War II) I can attest that attitudes and medical knowledge was different then. By the time I was old enough to receive shots, penecillin seemed to be in good supply (much to my chagrin, as I wasn't too fond of shots in those days). (Or even in these days, for that matter!) :) Also, there has been a lot more innovation in medical treatments).

Understanding a book for the time in which it was written helps to enrich the reading experience.

By the way, even during the late '40's (when I was born) and the '50's (when I went to elementary school and entered into early secondary) there were a lot of shifts already visible concerning medical reasearch.

And during this time, the shift was already visible in the US about attitudes towards women.

I appreciate this insightful comment, because even though I knew that medical science was not as advanced then as it is now, I didn't realize that penicillin wasn't as available as I thought it was.

Posted on 26 Jul 2012 13:32:32 BDT
Antibiotics might cure an infection caused by microbes. But would antibiotics cure one induced by macrobes?

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Dec 2012 14:37:55 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 8 Dec 2012 14:39:02 GMT]

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Dec 2012 18:42:32 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 22 Apr 2013 21:19:43 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Dec 2012 03:53:08 GMT
LindaT says:
All I can say to Aquilonian is that if I've been able to bring some amusement into his or her life, that's super.

I enjoy British humor -- especially their artful mastery of understatement, which, while I admire it, I have trouble writing it.

And incidentally, my first comment was SUPPORTIVE of this review.
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