That Hideous Strength (The Cosmic Trilogy) Paperback – 5 Dec 2005
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‘An extravagant mingling of dream and realism… excellent and thrilling reading’ Daily Telegraph
From the Back Cover
The thrilling conclusion to C. S. Lewis's acclaimed Cosmic Trilogy, That Hideous Strength brings the battle between good and eveil to Earth in the tale of a terrifying conspiracy against humanity
Mark and Jane Studdock are a newly married couple about to be drawn into events very far out f the ordinary. The morning after a horrific nightmare about a decapitated head, Jane sees the same face in a newspaper – a brilliant French scientist guillotined for poisoning his wife. Jane has the growing feeling that she is being warned of something real and sinister. Mark, a Sociologist, has meanwhile been enticed to join the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments, which aims to harness human society. As he is drawn further into the sinister organisation, he discovers the truth of his wife's dreams, while she seeks help at a community called St Anne's, lead by the charismatic Dr Ransom.
This richly-imagined work combines C. S. Lewis's consumate storytelling with an exploration of some of his deepest concerns: the rise of scientific 'humanism' (as personified by H. G. Wells) and the growing thread to the ecology of the planet. But the tale is threaded with brightness and optimism as the memorably complex characters travel a painful but ultimately rewarding path towards self-knowledge.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product description
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...and whether or not that is true, his ability to puts words and music to some of the most vexing characters you may ever meet is extraordinary. I never get tired, for instance, of Lewis's depiction of Wither, and Frost is even more strange; both are characteristically mundane and quite terrifying. Close to central to the book' focus is the idea that any individual can unwisely decouple themselves from the warmth and happiness that accompanies the human experience in exchange for knowledge and power. In this case, obviously, you would say "forbidden knowledge and power", but by examining this in extremis, we can read this both as entertainment, and as admonition for lesser and more common problems in our own cosmos.
Well, to more detail. Lewis's story here is/was tremendously ahead of it's time - dreams of a hideous experiment, ostensibly concerning rehabilitation engineering (which is the proper term) whose consequences spill out far further into destructive metaphysics and politics, would work well in the 21st century in the hands of any of the contemporary directors (though I'm not sure they would interpret the main content of the book so very well), but regardless, there is here an acute pace and imminent feeling of decision and action that overbears nicely into the current frame; it's not really suitable for children but teenagers will lap it up.
Arthur? Merlin? Eldils? Words whispered to a pet bear? ...and that is another piece of marvellous descriptive prose; that part where Mr Bultitude's world view and whose pre-Adamite furry mind shows him to be quite a formidable character... The happiest of endings, where Mr Bultitude the bear finds a mate, everyone finds each other, and the angels dance?
Take your pick. I have no idea if Lewis honestly meant these things by allegory or something more literal; he always seems to write far beyond anything I ever experienced (or at least, so I think most of the time) but there are strange things in the world to be sure. And we are there, embedded into that world; as evidence for that, gaze into a mirror some time. We are all stranger than we know.
Although there are places where I winced a bit at Lewis's ideas of the proper relations between the sexes and the portrayal of the big, bad, lesbian Miss Hardcastle, Lewis's writing does give the story a mythic grandeur without being written in faux-medieval style, which is odd considering the medieval world view of Earth and the Heavens it comes from.
That Hideous Strenght was one of the first SF books I bought and is at least in part responsible for the five crammed bookcases which now house my collection.
Lewis has blended classical, Arthurian, medieval legend and allegory for the climax to the story of Ransome.
The book is suffused throughout with Lewis' Christian beliefs and philosophy but don't let that put you off - as an agnostic bordering on atheist myself I can assure you that it doesn't detract from the book.
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