That Hideous Strength (book review)

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That Hideous Strength is the conclusion of C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy. Although this was written almost 70 years ago, it sounds ominously like our culture today. 

I mentioned in a previous book review that the first two books of this trilogy—Out Of The Silent Planet and Perelandra—should be read together. Those who have read these first two books will definitely have a greater appreciation of the themes which come to their conclusion in this capstone book. But That Hideous Strength is such a well-told story and culture commentary that it may be read by itself and still be highly enjoyable. 

It’s amazing to me how much foresight Lewis had into the hideous ways the spirit of the antichrist can insinuate itself into our day-to-day culture and ultimately into our politics. This book is really a behind-the-scenes look at both how evil people propagate their evil plans, and how godly people stand in God’s strength to combat those plans. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t read the last chapters of the Bible yet: Evil always loses because Jesus Christ is the undefeated Champion even over the darkest of evil forces. 

As I’ve mentioned in a previous C.S. Lewis book review, this space trilogy is probably not the best place for first-time Lewis readers to jump in. This trilogy is more of a graduate-level course in seeing biblical themes portrayed in ways only a mastermind like Lewis could imagine. But for those who are already well steeped in Lewis’ writings, all three books of this trilogy are must-reads! 

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Poetry Saturday—Philomythus To Misomythus

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The heart of Man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons, ’twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we’re made.—J.R.R. Tolkien, written to C.S. Lewis

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Perelandra (book review)

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Perelandra by C.S. Lewis is the second book in Lewis’ space trilogy. Of all the books in this series, this is the only book that I would recommend reading the first book—Out Of The Silent Planet—first, so that you can fully appreciate the story. 

Out Of The Silent Planet took place on Malacandra (or Mars) where our protagonist Dr. Elwin Ransom learns the Old Solar language and clashes with the antagonist Dr. Edward Weston. Perelandra (or Venus) is the setting of this second book, which essentially picks up right from the conclusion of book one. 

Although C.S. Lewis had much stricter definitions for terms like “allegory” or “parable,” his fantasy stories in both this space trilogy and his Narnian books clearly are telling a much grander and more real Story than merely the fictional accounts in these books. This concept is on full display in Perelandra. 

In the biblical account of the temptation of Eve, the whole affair is covered rather quickly. The devil says, “Eat the fruit,” to which Eve replies, “We’re not supposed to.” And then the devil says, “Nothing bad will happen to you if you do eat it,” and she does it. In Perelandra, C.S. Lewis takes us back to that scene and imagines the debate that might have happened, with Ransom counseling the Lady of Perelandra to obey, and Weston (or at least Weston’s body) trying to convince her to bravely disobey. The interplay between these three characters is quite fascinating. 

This story is a very enjoyable read on its own, but I found that the backstory of Out Of The Silent Planet increased my enjoyment in reading this book again. Whenever you choose to read this book, you are in for—with all due apologies to C.S. Lewis—a lovely allegory! 

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C.S. Lewis On Christ’s Second Coming

“The idea which here shuts out the Second Coming from our minds, the idea of the world slowly ripening to perfection, is a myth, not a generalization from experience. And it is a myth which distracts us from our real duties and our real interest. It is our attempt to guess the plot of a drama in which we are the characters. But how can the characters in a play guess the plot? We are not the playwright, we are not the producer, we are not even the audience. We are on the stage. …

“The doctrine of the Second Coming teaches us that we do not and cannot know when the world drama will end. The curtain may be rung down at any moment: say, before you have finished reading this paragraph. This seems to some people intolerably frustrating. So many things would be interrupted. Perhaps you were going to get married next month, perhaps you were going to get a raise next week: you may be on the verge of a great scientific discovery; you may be maturing great social and political reforms. Surely no good and wise God would be so very unreasonable as to cut all this short? Not now, of all moments!

“But we think thus because we keep on assuming that we know the play. We do not know the play. We do not even know whether we are in Act I or Act V. We do not know who are the major and who the minor characters. The Author knows.” —C.S. Lewis, in The World’s Last Night

This is a great portrayal of a conversation between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis on the value of myths…

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