Of Dystopian Novels

I just finished reading That Hideous Strength written by C. S. Lewis. It is the third in what is commonly called The Space Trilogy, though any of the three books could be read on its own. The first two books, Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra, are fine in their own right, but Strength outdoes them both, handily, in my view.

I noticed this time through That Hideous Strength themes that resonate with the debates we are having today about how much government we want, who do we trust for information, and so on. Lewis was spot on in framing, in particular, the tack that progressive types will take in advancing their cause.

But don't take my word for it, here's Powerline blog contributor Steven Hayward :

"Dare I incur the wrath of (Ayn Rand fans) everywhere if I suggest that Lewis' dystopian novel is the best of the entire genre of mid-20th century group that includes 1984 and Darkness at Noon. Which means it is also far superior to Atlas Shrugged, not only in style but in content as well. Whittaker Chambers had it right that Atlas Shrugged is a "strenuously sterile world" filled with "operatic caricatures." By contrast, Lewis' portrait of the academic bureaucrat Withers holds up along side Randall Jarrell's Pictures from an Institution. (It has some other relevant wit: the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments-or N.I.C.E.-is dead-on for the kind of authoritarian bodies and processes-sensitivity training anyone?-the therapeutic Left imposes on all of us today.)"

All of Hayward's post is here.

1 comment:

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