The final novel of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, That Hideous Strength, brings to a crescendo the themes at work in Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. While reading the book in its intended context provides a richer experience, Lewis wrote this final novel so that it could stand alone. For those of us attempting to weather the unsettling global upheavals in the twenty-first century, That Hideous Strength is vital reading to understand the network of connections in the cosmic battle in which we find ourselves.
While the previous novels follow the extra-terrestrial adventures of Dr. Elwin Ransom, most of That Hideous Strength alternates between Jane Studdock and her new husband, Mark, on the planet Earth. This is only fitting: Perelandra ends with man and woman triumphant over Satan and in perfect harmony with each other, nature, and God. But back on Earth, Jane and Mark stand for fallen Adam and Eve: newly wedded and yet grossly out of harmony with each other, out of step with nature, and coldly dismissive of God and anything approaching the supernatural. They are Adam and Eve as modern man and woman, not aware of how lost they are, yet deeply unhappy.
Mark Studdock’s story arc leads him one vague step at a time into the employment of the N.I.C.E., a quasi-governmental science, sociology, and research society. This institute is perhaps Lewis’ greatest articulation of the ways in which Satan works in the modern era, for the N.I.C.E. is comprised of very familiar faces: politicians, clergy, scientists, newspapermen, even its own police force (this last run by “Fairy” Hardcastle and the jackboot of lesbianism). It is what we now refer to as the Deep State, its satellites, and stooges. Swiftly, Mark ends up an accomplice to an authoritarian, inhuman program he does not truly comprehend: