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on 24 August 2017
An amazing book; I read it nearly every year! As well as being an exciting read, it is also very prophetic.
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on 1 October 2017
Excellent read by and excellent author.
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on 8 October 2017
My least favourite of the trilogy.
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VINE VOICEon 16 April 2008
This book is curious, at the very least because at the time it was published there was a mild fuss over the possibility that Lewis was referring to parallel organizations and individuals quite close to hand. I am aware of at least two communities of Christians who bear an astonishing resemblance to those in the book; and this intrigues me greatly. Were those communities real distant cousins of St Annes?

...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.
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on 7 July 2017
Jane Studdock's nightmares turn out to be true dreams and she may be a key player in a struggle between Earth's evil planetary angel and the heavens.

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.
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on 21 March 2012
The Perennialist metaphysician and authority upon the Religio Perennis, Professor James Cutsinger is reported as having summed up this novel, (referencing Rene Guenon's masterwork), as '"The Reign of Quantity" in fictional form.' 'That Hideous Strength'...the very title is cited from a verse by Sir David Lindsay depicting the rearing bulk of the Tower of Babel, that monstrous edifice of 'Nimrodian' or 'luciferian' hubris and arrogance which symbolizes the unlawful and deviated ambition and lust for power through which man, profaning the creation via an inversion of the spiritual order, corrupts himself and falls thereby into degeneration and spiritual evil. The pervasive influence of the mystical thrillers of Charles Williams is more than apparent throughout this novel but C.S Lewis weaves an altogether original and intriguing tale, a fable portraying the darker powers at play behind the surface of the contemporary world and manifesting behind the advance of the liberal-progressive tendency pushing for modernisation in a small university in an English town in the 1940s: the hapless and gullible protagonist is a young sociology lecturer whose wife possesses, despite the objections of her rationalist prejudices, the gift of visionary seership, and who both fall into the toils of the sinister organisation behind the development of the enclosed wood at the heart of the old university, wherein lies the ancient tomb of Merlin, the wizard-sage of the 'Matter of Britain'. Lewis' was a master story-teller and accordingly the narrative is rich and multifarious, including some deeply eerie and disturbing episodes, such as those centred on the head of Alcasan, as well as masterly depictions of interaction with demonic, psychic and spiritual potencies in the battle between the contending sides, the NICE (National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments),esconced in their centre at Belbury, dark adepts of scientism and malign representatives of the Counter-Initiation animated by the loathsome power of the 'Macrobes', whose designs for man and the world have such a horrifyingly familar ring to we who dwell in the dark age of late modernity - in contrast we encounter the spiritual initiates of the company of St Annes, and the figure of 'The Pendragon' behind whom are the influence of the Eldils. The characters such as 'Fairy' Hardcastle, Straik and the director Withers whose bland, circumlocutory banalities (now so familiar to use in the empty verbiage of 'management science', psycho-social manipulation and politically-correct media rhetoric) veil an altogether more baleful import, are vividly painted - throughout Lewis embeds many brilliant insights, profound observations and discourses: the final paragraphs of chapter 9 'The Saracen's Head' are one example among many, unfolding a brilliant critique of the real agenda lurking behind the materialistic and relativistic world-view of modernity and 'promethean' scientism and of the dangers inherent in this point of the historical cyle when 'there was now at last a real chance for fallen Man to shake off that limitation of his powers which mercy had imposed upon him as a protection from the full results of his fall.' Lewis asks 'What should they find incredible since they believed no longer in a rational universe? What should they regard as too obscene, since they held that all morality was a mere subjective by-product of the physical and economic situations of men? The time was ripe. From the point of view which is accepted in Hell, the whole history of our earth had led up to this moment.' Very acutely Lewis highlights how the crass materialistic assumptions of modern science eventually bite their own tail in sustained flirtations with the subtle planes of inferior psychism, finally aligning with the demonic forces of black magic to manifest the old deception of the serpent 'ye shall be as gods' incarcerated within the confines of horizontality, to reveal a truly infernal vision of where mankind is being lured, cajoled and led, in accord with a ruthless plan whose lineaments are disturbingly recognizable to the inhabitants of the 21st century and which gives 'That Hideous Strength' an authentically prophetic and cautionary ring. A combination of supernatural horror, cosmic science-fiction, Celto-druidic mythologizing and philosophical-spiritual exploration, as a novel 'That Hideous Strength' accomplishes what all great literary art aims to realise in that it illuminates our understanding of the human situation and the 'spirit of the age' with incisive power, highlighting contemporary man's perilous position and plight, the sinister conspiracy which disguises itself behind the facade of the cherished illusions of our age, belying the infra-human goal toward which the vague utopianism of secular humanism strives to draw us. Furthermore Lewis is a superb writer of masterly characterization and immersive prose - the numinous descent of the planetary archangels from the celestial spheres described in the chapter 'The Descent of the Gods' is a uniquely beautiful episode and who can forget Mr Bultitude, one of the seven bears of Logres? C.S Lewis had a solid grasp of the sacred order of the mediaeval world-conception which informs all his novels and which imbues them with a satisfying depth of authenticity, especially in the context of his evaluations and critiques of contemporary mores. The resolution of this dark fable certainly realises the genuine sense of eucatastrophe as defined by JRR Tolkien, that other great Traditionalist of our age. It may well be that, as Professor Cutsinger has speculated, 'That Hideous Strength' 'reflects an appreciative reading of "The Reign of Quantity" ' (which Lewis' pupil the late Martin Lings drew his attention to) - this absorbing novel of ideas which CSL subtitled 'A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups' certainly conveys great truths, astonishing the reader throughout with its depiction of the fallen egoic quest for power, the spiritual war for the soul of Logres and for the very soul of man...
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on 9 March 2000
This book is often unfairly maligned as being the 'weakest' of the three books in the science fiction trilogy. In my humble opinion it is the best. Superlatives will have to suffice: a plethora of superbly sketched characters; a bizarre plot deftly handled with the separate elements woven together nicely at the end; moments of true horror and terror; I could go on and on but - read this book! The influence of Charles Williams' thrillers on 'That Hideous Strength' have been noted before now. In my opinion they are eclipsed by this, a definate curates' egg in English Literature.
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on 8 January 2009
Lewis, like his friend and fellow philologist Tolkien, dealt in the creation of realistic myth. This well paced novel culminates his Space Trilogy, commencing with Out of the Silent Planet and continuing with Perelandra, based on the theme of natural and beneficial order versus the illusion of unchecked, destructive "human progress."

While one may take objection to many of Lewis's ideas on religion - I myself do - the unseen world of the eldils, or angels - both good and bad - that he constructs is so grandiose and fascinating that I for one forgive him all offences.

The story opens quietly in a small English town, where a modern young woman - modern for 1945 that is - endures the frustrations of marriage to an underpaid fellow of a minor university. From this innocent beginning, the pair become entrapped by the machinery of a satanic group bent on world domination.

Step by step they are enticed into a satanic plan for world domination, yet, while the plot snares them with all the devilish menace that a reader could wish for, its grasp on their lives is achieved by everyday, believable manipulations: the threatened loss of employment, the flattery of recognition, the temptation of money, power and fame. Eventually the Satanists overreach themselves, and the novel culminates in an imaginative battle of good and evil, with both spiritual and brute physical forces on either side.

The writer George Orwell argues that the inevitable triumph of good over evil weakens the novel, but I don't agree. To me, its charm lies not in its ending but in the skill with which the story is told. It says much for this story, that though science has overtaken it during passage of half a century and more, its lives as though written today.

I particularly enjoy Lewis's construction of opposed hierarchies, and the subtlety with which both good and bad characters are drawn. But how remarkable it is that we are often drawn more to the bad characters! My favourite amongst these is Wither, an ancient villain, whose massive but crumbling intellect hides behind a façade of amiable vagueness as he schemes his way towards ultimate power.

Ending on this note, is it not strange and intriguing that a strong Christian apologist like professor Lewis should need to spice his calm beliefs with garnishes of magic, naturism and warlike demigods?

Graham Worthington, author, Wake of the Raven
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on 12 August 2001
C S Lewis was one of the finest writers of fantasy before the term was coined; in the wake of his friend J R R Tolkien's "The Hobbit" the field expanded from Wellsian Martians and Morlocks to encompass parallel and imagined worlds rather than grim futures. This book, the third in the trilogy about Ransome and Weston, takes the Pendragon myth as its central theme, and explores the impact on a nightmarish Orwellian "modern" Britain of the return of Merlin. While Lewis's (1945) views can appear reactionary, his love for England and its open arms and acceptance of other cultures and influences (barring totalitarianism of either wing) is evident throughout. More humourous, more adult, less bible-bashing than Narnia. A truly wonderful book.
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on 13 October 2000
I turn to this novel again and again. Lewis put everything he loved into it -- references to J R R Tolkien's mythology, allusions to the theories of Owen Barfield and the poetry of Charles Williams; love of British countryside and weather; economic insights that have won praise from Wendell Berry - - many more examples could be given.
And it's a thrilling story, with psychic dreams, an Orwellian science fiction theme, and a satisfactorily Jacobean climax.
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