Over the past couple months I have read the CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy (or Ransom Trilogy) for the first time. And as a fan of CS Lewis, it is odd to me that I have not picked it up before. Each of the three are quite different both in content and style. The first feels like an early HG Wells science fiction novel. Professor Ransom is kidnapped and taken to Mars, where he discovers an ancient civilization that has never had sin introduced into it as the Earth has.
The second novel, Perelandra, continues with the same theme of sin being introduced into the world, but this time Ransom is taken to Venus to prevent an Eve-like character from falling prey to a human possessed by the devil and trying to get her disobey God and sin, just as he did with the original Eve on earth. This book felt less like an HG Wells novel and more directly Christian fiction almost bordering on allegory, similar to a modern Pilgrims Progress.
The final novel of the trilogy includes Ransom, but only in the later part of the book. Instead a young Don (British professor) and his wife and the main characters. And from early on this feels like George Orwell’s 1984. NICE is a secretive government research project that is trying to take over their local community and eventually the whole country.
Because it has such similar feel to the totalitarian oppression of 1984, I looked it up. 1984 was published 4 years after That Hideous Strength. And George Orwell publicly reviewed That Hideous Strength, so we know that he was aware of the story. But instead of 1984’s look at the totalitarian state after it was in full control, That Hideous Strength looks at the desire before it was fully realized.
Unlike Narnia where God is hidden in the concept of Aslan, the concept of God, but also of other heavenly beings that communicate with Ransom and others, are fully realized and open. It is not that this is heavy handed Christian fiction, but rather that it is explicit. Lewis is working on the idea of what it means to be a Christian, what it means to live as husband and wife and to submit to one another. What it means to stand against evil and wait upon God as you do that.
There is a lot of action (and anti-action) that happens in this book. People are murdered, tortured, accused of crimes they didn’t commit to force them into actions they don’t want to take. But much of the final action is spiritual. God undertakes the work so that no one can boast of their own action that save the world.
There are a few points where Lewis get a bit didactic. But these are also some of the best points because he is actually working through theology. And even the less active discussion sections work well as introductions to ethics or theology.
In some ways, this is my favorite of the trilogy because I think he accomplished something that is unlike what he does in any other book that I have read of his. But in other ways, I still like Perelandra the best because it is such a good re-envisioned look at the story of Adam and Eve. Perelandra was still always focused on the story, while That Hideous Strength occasionally veered off the story into teaching.
Related Bookwi.se Reviews books by or about CS Lewis
- Out of the Silent Planent (Space Trilogy #1)
- Perelandra by CS Lewis (Space Trilogy #2)
- A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of CS Lewis by Devin Brown
- Reflections on the Psalms by CS Lewis
- CS Lewis: A Life by Alister McGrath
- Surprised by Joy by CS Lewis
- Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by CS Lewis
- Till We Have Faces by CS Lewis
- The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis (Narnia)
- The Silver Chair by CS Lewis (Narnia)
- The Magician’s Nephew (Narnia)
- The Last Battle by CS Lewis (Narnia)