WIR #18: That Hideous Strength

That Hideous StrengthLewis, C. S. That Hideous Strength. New York: Collier Books. Copyright © 1946 C. S. Lewis.

C. S. Lewis web sites:
Into the Wardrobe

I know full well the saying that one should not judge a book by its cover, but when the covers of the first two books in this series are reflective of their content but the cover of this one is not, I could not help but be disappointed. I'd hoped for a similar sort of adventure on the surface of the Moon, but what I got was a book set entirely in an English village. It's true that King Arthur does play a role in this story, but it wasn't a terribly large role, and neither was he really central to the story. (EDIT: Actually, when I think back on it, King Arthur was central to the ending, but he doesn't appear until late in the book and his role seems contrived to me.)

In addition to the disappointment of the cover, Lewis's prose in this volume had monstrous paragraphs that made for heavy, slow reading, despite Time magazine's praise that it was a "well-written, fast-paced satirical fantasy." Further, there were happenings at the end of the book that seemed tacked on instead of integral to the plot; very disappointing. Lewis's point in this novel wasn't lost on me, especially the role King Arthur played, but his role felt very unlike King Arthur. I think the problem is that Lewis was trying to fit a pagan into a Christian hole — as much as many Christians like to hold up Arthur as Christian-like, because of the virtues he is imbued with in the legend, that very legend is about as Christian as Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, in which there is little to no mention made of Christianity (even in this story much is made of it being Christian because Scrooge "repents of his evil," but his repentence is brought about by ghosts and by the fear of not being remembered after death and has nothing to do with Christ or turning to Christ). Context is king.

Generally speaking, I like Lewis's work, both his fiction and his non-fiction, but this one did not impress me. It makes me think that the subject of his book, The Abolition of Man, was probably better left and better handled in a non-fiction format.

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