Image Credit: GooKingSword on Pixabay / CC0 / Public Domain

The first two parts in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, are set in 1940s England and focus on Dr. Ransom, the hero of the story. He inadvertently ends up in an adventure taking him to space. Given the title, I am not giving away anything here.

Initially, I found the story amusing and reminiscent of Franz Kafka’s novels on a certain level. The amusement gradually faded away and was replaced by annoyance. C.S. Lewis can’t help himself and tries to force-feed his readership Christian doctrine by the use of allegory. Worse, he does so talking down to his readership in a sing-song voice. 

As a Catholic, I find that attitude of patronising and proselytising offensive.  Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion and whatever you believe (or not) is none of my business. If I want to share my beliefs, I must do so with respect for the other person. That is the difference between proselytising and evangelising. I gave both novels 1 star on Goodreads. Don’t read them, just find a summary on-line and skip to the third novel in the series.

That Hideous Strength

My experiences with the first two novels made me apprehensive of reading the last part, but since I had already paid for this, I thought I better get it over with. And I was surprised. In a good way.

This time, the story is set on Earth, in England. And it features Dr. Ransom, some new characters, including the mythical Merlin, and a bear. The objective this time is to conquer Evil once and for all with the help of every planet’s ‘Oyarsa’, a sort of presiding angelic being. You can’t help but see Tolkien’s influence here with his Valar.

There’s some allegory here, but of better quality. C.S. Lewis himself referred to That Hideous Strength as the fiction counterpart of The Abolition of Man*. The book warns what will happen when eduction and ethics don’t go hand in hand: brilliant minds that act without a moral compass, without a heart. They aren’t immoral, but amoral. It’s an astute insight, and it could be a commentary on our present times weren’t it for the fact that it was written in the 1940s. Highly recommend the third novel, I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.