Reviews & Overviews by Rod Cameron

        
That Hideous Strength by C.S.Lewis
What is the difference between a 1930s Bentley and a modern Jaguar? They are both expensive vehicles. They both get you from A to B, and are petrol driven. Arguably, the Bentley is both less comfortable and less practical, and the Jag has more 'toys'. But they are both regarded as 'Classics'. Bearing this in mind, what can I say about the C.S.Lewis' classic That Hideous Strength which was recently republished on the Voyager imprint? It was written by the author of the Narnia series (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), in 1945 and has a typical style for the period - a story set in a university college, heavy on descriptive text and university politics. It is very similar in some ways to JRRTolkein's dense text. In fact, Lewis makes a passing reference to the man and Middle Earth in the preface. Styles have changed since then...

The story is actually still very relevant today - a "Green" book written probably before the founders of the Green Party were even conceived. It concerns a struggle between the "Greens" and a the "Scientists". The Greens are led by Professor Ransom, hero of the previous two books in the "Cosmic Trilogy" series - Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. The Scientists, in the form of the National Institute for Co­ordinated Experiments (NICE), set out to run rough shod over the local people and environment around Edgestow, an imaginary Oxbridge lookalike town set in rural England. The hero, Mark Studdock is a naļve innocent employed by NICE, who has cause to regret it. Meanwhile his young wife Jane drifts towards a "community" called St. Anne's. The eventual climax is straight out of the realms of a good modern day fantasy.

So, did I enjoy it? Yes in a masochistic sort of way. I was a little concerned about not having read the first two books in over 30 years (how long! doesn't time fly?), but the story does largely stand on its own. I suspect that I didn't read That Hideous Strength at the time because it was, and still is a difficult read, and I probably gave up. But it would be a shame to ignore other works by C.S.Lewis just because they are a challenge. Particularly as some of his ideas are very topical. Well worth the effort.

Publisher: Voyager Classics
Date: 2000 (1945)
Pages: 428
Price: £7.99
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0 00 712202 0
Reviewed by: Rod Cameron
Review Date: March 2002

 

Copyright : Roderick Alasdair Cameron 2001 - 2012                   rod@rodcameron.co.uk