After reading the first two books in C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy, I was unprepared for the major departure in tone and style that That Hideous Strength embodied. I kept flipping back to see if my ebook was correct, and I spent a fair bit of time wondering how this connected to the other two book. Spoiler alert: it does, and it’s rather clever.
Jane is a new bride to an academic, Mark, and she spends a fair bit of time wondering how to spend her time when she’s not trying to finish her own thesis. A series of frightening dreams unnerves her, though, and she turns to a female counselor who then sends her to an underground group fighting for the survival of humanity. Meanwhile, Mark, who is bored and seeking intellectual affirmation and fulfillment, falls in with an organization called NICE, whose purpose and ethos is unclear. Mark finds himself in the thick of a plot where humanity is at stake and his job not at all the tame academic pomposity he was promised.
To say anything more would be spoilery, and I don’t want to do that. It’s a genuinely intriguing suspenseful thriller, and I kept wondering how Lewis would tie it all together. But why three stars? you might ask. That answer is simple: good old-fashioned misogyny that invoked some healthy woman-shaming and a large spoonful of obedience-in-marriage that Jane receives in order to reconcile herself to Mark’s troublesome aspects. NOPE. There was a better way to make his religious point clear, and Lewis whiffs it, from my perspective. I think that this book is interesting, but very dated in its views on women. I did, however, greatly enjoy the academic satire, of which there is plenty to be found.
Cross-posted to my blog.