Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I've recently been listening to an unabridged audio recording of That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis. This is the third book in his so-called Ransom trilogy or space trilogy.
Lewis admitted that one of his goals for the book was to infuse it with ideas he discussed in The Abolition of Man. Both of these books took a great deal of time to grow on me and for my appreciation of them, in turn, to grow. But they are well worth the effort, even if it takes repeated readings over the course of many years.
There's a wonderful phrase Lewis uses in That Hideous Strength, about a certain group of human beings who have "pulled down deep heaven on their heads," not in a good way, but in reference to their own doom. These are people who remove themselves from God's transcendent moral standards, casting aside any ethical inhibitions, in order to conquer nature and establish themselves as, in essence, gods, but atheistic gods (if such a thing can be imagined).
That Hideous Strength has been criticized for being ponderous, overly long, and out of character for the space trilogy. It is, for one, set entirely on Earth, involving no space travel. In this sense, it is more "supernatural thriller" influenced by Lewis's friend Charles Williams.
I agree that it is at times ponderous and perhaps even burdensome now and then. But I'm reminded of a comment Rossini made about the music of Wagner: "Wagner has lovely moments but awful quarters of an hour." That Hideous Strength is hardly "awful," but it does indeed have "lovely moments" of intellectual brilliance and, as such, is well worth reading. It is, if not prophetic, timeless and quite insightful regarding our own times and dealings with deep heaven.