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The third novel in The Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis.
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That Hideous Strength is a genre shift. (It's subtitled "A Modern Fairy-Tale For Grown-Ups" for a reason). In the quiet college town of Edgestow, Jane Studdock finds herself haunted by strange dreams of a decapitated man and an undead mystic. Meanwhile, her husband Mark is strong-armed into joining the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments, a joint political-(quasi)scientific organization that is surreptitiously taking complete control of the town. The NICE is particularly interested in Bragdon Wood, where Merlin is rumored to be buried — not dead, just resting. With great reluctance, Jane falls in with the oddly inactive resistance led by Elwin Ransom — the only opposition to the NICE's (literally) diabolical plans.

If you get the feeling that this one is a hackjob copy of 1984 or Fahrenheit 451, you actually have it backwards. This book came first: and right about the time of the atomic bomb. George Orwell actually wrote a snazzy review (titled "The Scientists Take Over") and sang the book's praises, with the caveat that he thought it was weakened by the book's supernatural premise, since of course good will beat evil if angels are involved. The book is also riddled with Christian allegory, although less overtly so than Perelandra was. Slightly. Perhaps it may be most generously summed up in the words of Lewis's friend and fellow Anglican apologist, Dorothy L. Sayers: "less good but still full of good stuff." On the other hand, another friend, J. R. R. Tolkien, dubbed it "That Hideous Book".

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This book provides examples of:

  • Agent Scully: MacPhee, a die-hard atheist scientist, remains implacably skeptical throughout all the supernatural events of That Hideous Strength, even though he's on the side of the supernaturalists. If anything, he represents the value and virtue of rational thought.
  • The Alleged Boss: Jules is nominally the director of N.I.C.E., but he's only a pompous windbag who's clueless about what really goes on there. Wither and Frost are actually in charge.
  • Ambiguously Gay: "Fairy" Hardcastle. She's definitely butch, but her lesbianism is implied rather than stated outright. Comes across like a more discreet version of the the Girls Behind Bars butch jailer stereotype.
  • Animal Testing: One of the many activities that goes on at N.I.C.E., usually involving vivisection. Nobody seems to really know why they're doing it, because the lower ranks are unaware of the disturbing, transhumanist goals of the upper echelon. They experiment on animals to make way for experimenting on people.
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  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: Ransom at the end of the book, at least thematically. He will never die, but will instead be transported bodily to Perelandra, where he will live in paradise until the time comes for him to return. It's also implied that this happened to Enoch, Moses and Elijah... and King Arthur.
  • Author Appeal: Based on some of his private letters, Lewis might be suspected of this in the case of Miss Hardcastle.
  • Author Tract: That Hideous Strength is a fictionalized version of Lewis' The Abolition Of Man, arguing against Philosophical Naturalism masquerading as Scientific Progress.
  • Babies Ever After: What else should happen when Venus gets involved?
    • When the escaped animals that were used for vivisection rendezvous at St. Anne's and proceed to do ... what animals inevitably do when presented with the opportunity
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Several different examples, in various ways.
    • For a very long time, there was apparently a decree from God that the planetary angels were not to act within the Moon's orbit. Much of the Enemy's plan in That Hideous Strength revolved around the idea that mankind was cut off from direct celestial aid. Unfortunately for the Enemy, when he arranged for humans to leave the moon's orbit and interfere with Malacandra and Perelandra, the planetary angels were freed to interfere with Thulucandra in its turn.
    • Ransom mentions that one advantage of fighting devils is that they hate their mortal minions as much as they do their foes, and happily "break their tools" when the mortals are of no further use to them.
  • The Baroness: "Fairy" Hardcastle, head of N.I.C.E. security. It's strongly implied that she's a literal sadist who gets aroused by torturing female prisoners.
  • Bears Are Bad News: A bear named Mr Bultitude kills the Big Bad, who had kidnapped him from the zoo and used him for vivisection experiments. Hence also:
  • Benevolent Alien Invasion: The eldila, peaceful aliens who live in the vacuum of space, have covertly infiltrated Earth to undo the corruption caused the Bent One. There's even a rumor the master of the eldila, Maleldil the Young, has personally intervened in the matter.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Merlin, although ultimately on the side of good, doesn't really fit within the modern framework of good and evil. One of the better examples of Deliberate Values Dissonance.
  • The Bluebeard: How a newspaper refers to François Alcasan, who murdered his wife.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Merlin, although ultimately on the side of good, doesn't really fit within the modern framework of good and evil. One of the better examples of Deliberate Values Dissonance.
    • This is actually a plot point in the story; one of the reasons that the protagonists wish to locate Merlin is because he lived in a time when practicing magic was acceptable. This allows them the luxury of having magic abilities on their side despite the such things normally being forbidden in the modern era as witchcraft. Merlin is basically an ethical loophole.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Miss Hardcastle is said to have once been a fascist. The fascists were virulently homophobic even for their time, and were very gung-ho about traditional gender roles. It's possible that Miss Hardcastle simply didn't realize she was a lesbian then, but Lewis never addresses the point either way. Also possible she doesn't really believe in any ideology and joins any group she thinks likely to gain power.
  • Buffy Speak: MacPhee accuses women in general of talking this way and somehow still understanding each other.
  • Chic And Awe: Implied in Jane Studdock's pending reunion with Mark at the very end.
    • More accurately describes her first meeting with the Director (Ransom)
  • Cigar Chomper: Miss Hardcastle is usually seen chewing an unlit cigar. It's rare for her actually to light one, and when she does it's a very bad sign.
  • Closer to Earth: Mark is entirely taken with the Progressive Element and goes in with them almost immediately. Jane has a bad feeling about them.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Again, the tramp.
  • Cold Sleep, Cold Future: Merlin's experience of the modern world.
  • Curse of Babel: The undoing of NICE, extending even to their ability to write, thanks to the intervention of Viritrilbia through Merlin.
  • Death World: In Professor Frost's telling, the Moon mountains so sharp that you could impale a man on them and undiluted heat so intense a human body would instantly disintegrate into moondust. It was not always so; there was a race that "cleansed itself" and lives beneath its surface, and Frost hopes to follow their example.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Merlin is appalled by his wakers' hospitality even though he acknowledges that their technological advancements are very comfortable, because they replace servants who would honor him with devices that just sit there. In this and several other ways, he comes off as barbaric, both to the reader and to other characters. In this and countless other ways, his mindset is very different from that of the 20th century characters. Justified, of course, in that Merlin is a superficially-Romanized Celt from hundreds of years prior.
    • Also Justified in that that's the entire reason Merlin is there in the first place. The holy angels needed a magician to act through in order to deal with Belbury, but magic has been strictly forbidden for centuries. So God set aside Merlin, who had practiced magic back when it was still permissible, to be a vessel for his servants.
  • Distracted by My Own Sexy: The trope is also flirted with in That Hideous Strength, particularly when the ladies of Logres are dressing up. Also Averted in an interesting way in the dress-up scene. The dressing room contains no mirrors, and none of the women can see why the dress they're wearing is so incredibly beautiful on them, though they can all see it on each other - which illustrates the point (on humility - think of others, not of yourself). Jane Studdock for example thinks her dress is too fussy, though blue is her color. But the others like it on her so she wears it - and promptly forgets all about it in the interest of choosing dresses for the others.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Hilariously, Dick Devine/Lord Feverstone. He runs over a chicken, and declares all the animals (and pedestrians) he misses "damned lucky".
  • Dystopia Justifies the Means: The N.I.C.E.'s eventual aim is Transhumanism, with mankind replaced with a new and "superior" form of life.
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: The one chapter from the perspective of the villainous Withers ends with him facing Mr. Bultitude, an actual bear, as he stands on his hindlegs and growls. Withers isn't seen again.
  • For Science!: Filostrato, one of the N.I.C.E.'s more (relatively) idealistic members.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The N.I.C.E. (National Institute of Coordinated Experiments).
  • Good Is Old-Fashioned: According to the N.I.C.E., whose goal is to advance evil and diabolism under the guise of "scientific progress."
  • Good People Have Good Sex: "Venus at St. Annes'", the last chapter of That Hideous Strength.
  • Hard on Soft Science: "There are no sciences like sociology," says Hingest. And the "scientific" programs of the N.I.C.E. are depicted throughout as just a front for totalitarian scientism. Then again, the protagonist is a Cunning Linguist.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Aged vocabulary throughout the novels aside, Ransom describing the transition of the human body from earthly pleasures to heavenly pleasures (during the events of Perelandra) as 'Transsexual' in particular is even more awkward now then it was back then.
  • He Knows Too Much: This is why Hingest is murdered after he resigns from the N.I.C.E.
  • Hysterical Woman: A woman begins to laugh uncontrollably in fear and nervousness in response to Horace Jewels' speech while he's under the influence of the Curse of Babel. She stops when Wither forces him to sit and clears his throat...only to begin again when Wither is under the same Curse of Babel, at which point she's joined by another woman!
  • Hypocritical Humor: The officially modernist and egalitarian Jane is surprised and repelled to find that the only physician among the folk of Logres is a woman, Dr. Grace Ironwood, and that these folk make no class distinctions: Dr. and Mrs. Dimble regard themselves as on the same level, and members on the same terms, as Ivy Maggs, Jane's former charlady. Worse, they regard the charlady and her convict husband as on a par with Jane and Mark! (And at that, they are probably being generous, in their own minds. Mr. Maggs just stole a little money from the laundry where he worked before he met Ivy and went straight. Mark is involved in an infernal conspiracy to take over the world, and Logres isn't yet sure if he's a dupe or a traitor.)
  • In with the In Crowd: Mark Studdock's motive for joining the NICE in That Hideous Strength.
  • Ironic Name: The N.I.C.E. is not very nice at all.
  • King in the Mountain: Merlin, resting under Bragdon Wood in That Hideous Strength. Additionally, Enoch, Moses, Elijah, King Arthur, and, at the end of the last book, Ransom himself are living eternal lives on Perelandra, awaiting the final salvation of the silent planet.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: "Fairy" Hardcastle's inner circle minions are explicitly described as the sort of "fluffy, simpering" hyper-feminine stereotype. Like Miss Hardcastle, their lesbianism is implied rather than stated outright.
  • Literal Metaphor: When Mark's superiors at N.I.C.E. mention "the Head", he assumes they're just talking about the person in charge. He finds out later that it's an actual decapitated human head, and the ringleaders are taking orders from it.
  • Losing Your Head: One of the experiments at N.I.C.E. involves attempting to keep a severed human head alive indefinitely.
  • Loss of Identity: The human leaders of N.I.C.E. have all experienced tremendous trauma to their personalities and, in the worst cases, their basic free will, as a direct result of their long-term voluntary exposure to the powers of the dark eldila.
  • Mars-and-Venus Gender Contrast: That Hideous Strength is largely about the unhappy couple of the Studdocks and how they come to accept the roles of their sexes despite modern hang-ups about there being any roles at all.
  • Melancholy Moon: Before Mark learns the terrible secret of the N.I.C.E., the Moon seems larger in the sky then he's ever seen it before. Its presence is fitting, since N.I.C.E. hopes to cleanse the Earth of flesh until its as pure as the planet's distant neighbor.
  • My Brain Is Big: The Head of N.I.C.E. MacPhee speculates that they deliberately eased off the skullcap and applied stimulants, though he is doubtful of whether it would actually work. He's right, for a change: the Head's powers come not from its expanded brain matter but from its possession by a dark eldil.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Horace Jules, the nominal director of N.I.C.E., is a venomous caricature of H.G. Wells.
  • Not What I Signed on For: Bill "The Blizzard" Hingest, an accomplished chemist, joined the N.I.C.E. because he believed it was actually about science, and resigned as soon as he found out it was really about social engineering and transhumanism.
  • Older Than They Look: Ransom is extremely youthful in appearance despite pushing 50 and sporting a long, luxurious beard. Yet he also gives off an aura of wisdom befitting one much older. The former is from visiting Perelandra, the last truly paradisal world, and the latter is from his experiences making him truly humble — that is, having no illusions about his true nature as a creature of Maleldil.
  • Otherworldly and Sexually Ambiguous: The Oyeresu have genders, but do not have sexes in the biological sense. A quote about the Oyarsa of Jupiter and the Oyarsa of Saturn:
    "The three gods who had already met in the Blue Room were less unlike humanity than the two whom they still awaited. In [Mercury] and Venus and [Mars] were represented those two of the Seven Genders which bear a certain analogy to the biological sexes and can therefore be in some measure understood by men. It would not be so with those who were now preparing to descend. These also doubtless had their genders, but we have no clue to them."
  • Out of Focus: Ransom. After his adventures in the first two books, he graduates from The Hero to the Big Good, and the story focuses on two new characters, Jane and Mark Studdock.
  • Opposed Mentors: An evil example where the two chief villains disagree on the best way to dehumanize their initiate/captive.
  • Peace & Love, Incorporated: The N.I.C.E.
  • Police State: The college town, as ruled over by The N.I.C.E.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Discussed by Merlin when trying to prove Ransom's credentials.
    "A [jack]daw that lives in a hermit's cell has learned to chatter book Latin before now. ... A daw may also have Greek on its bill."
  • Possessing a Dead Body: The higher standing members of the N.I.C.E. communicate with higher-dimensional lifeforms by specially preparing severed human heads for the "macrobes" (as their scientists call them) to possess and speak with. What the N.I.C.E. is too blind to realize is that these macrobes are literally demons from Hell.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Again, Miss "Fairy" Hardcastle, who takes particular joy in torturing female prisoners.
  • Sarcastic Devotee: MacPhee, the only member of Ransom's True Companions who doesn't share his Christian faith.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Professor Frost was doing this way before Gendo Ikari made it cool. Even in a book, it's still scary.
  • Scale of Scientific Sins: The N.I.C.E. follows just about the whole thing, almost to the letter.
  • Sci Fi LGBT: A villainous example, "Fairy" Hardcastle is a Butch Lesbian stereotype with a sadistic streak.
  • Secret Police: The N.I.C.E. have their own police forces. They managed to seize control of a college town with only a handful of people realizing it.
  • Seemingly Profound Fool: The tramp. He gets mistaken for Merlin by the N.I.C.E. and is either too simple or too smart to correct their mistake.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: N.I.C.E.'s secret masters hold them in just as much contempt as they do all other human beings. Once Merlin has unleashed the might of the oyeresu upon their based and ruined their plans for good, they, as Ransom aptly puts it, "break their tools," driving the humans under their close control to destroy one another, and then themselves for their own twisted amusement.
  • Self-Duplication: Wither always seems to be wandering around just the right places on campus to make everyone nervous. It's apparently a dark power he gained from his secret masters. Mark eventually punches one to find it's an insubstantial phantom that disappears when he touches it.
  • Shout-Out: Númenor gets mentioned several times, based apparently on some discussions that Lewis had with Tolkien (Lewis apparently never saw a manuscript, since he invariably spells it "Numinor").
  • Social Climber: Mark started doing this while still in school, abandoning his genuine but tragically unpopular friend to be In with the In Crowd, unaware that the In Crowd are basically working for Satan.
  • Something Completely Different: That Hideous Strength has no space travel and is about saving the world instead.
  • Squishy Wizard: Merlin considers himself to be this; when told that he wasn't to use magic the same way that he did a millennium and a half ago, his assumption was that there would be a fight using spears and swords, and admitted that he wouldn't be good at that kind of fighting.
  • Time Abyss: Ransom's company start to feel planets crumbling and galaxies spiraling into the dust when they feel the presence of the Oyarsa of Saturn, Lurga. He's so ancient that even the other gods and angels feel young compared to him.
  • Top God: Jupiter-Oyarsa is the most divine and powerful of the eldila by a country mile. The narrator calls him the King of Kings and admits that he understands why men made an idol of him and called him the true God. Despite this, Jupiter-Oyarsa is not pleased to have men kneel and worship him, for Jupiter himself is a servant to Maleldil the Young, a being far greater than the world-shattering eldila and the idols made of them.
  • Torture for Fun and Information: "Fairy" Hardcastle openly admits she gets off on torturing people (especially women), and questions how anyone could succeed in the Secret Police if they didn't get a kick out of it.
  • To Win Without Fighting: St. Anne's plans to win not by force, but relying on the eldila. While MacPhee wants to use human might to defeat the N.I.C.E., Ransom and the others know that isn't an option. They succeeded, with Merlin and the Oyeresu disrupting the Institute's plans.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Ransom appears to be divinely young as a result of his journey to the eternal paradise of Venus. On the evil side of things - Frost and Wither both have something really weird and unnatural about them. That bilocation thing, for instance...
  • Transhuman Aliens: We learn that the Moon became as desolate as it is because the Lunarians tried to destroy their bodies and become pure minds. There never was a greater disaster.
  • Transhumans in Space: N.I.C.E. hopes to bring the vision of the first book's villain to life by creating an interplanetary empire. Unlike him, they have also set their sight on eliminating the flaws of organic matter and hope to replace humanity with a select few minds that have been stripped of their flesh, allowing them to eventually create a totally hygienic and controlled universe.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Bucking" is used as a stand-in for...
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Says the N.I.C.E.
  • Values Dissonance: An in-universe example with Merlin, in that he has fifth-century morals and expectations, exasperating the modern-day protagonists. For instance, upon hearing that one of the protagonist's husbands is in prison for a theft (one he'd actually committed), Merlin seemed to have ideas about riding off to attack the county jail to free him. Merlin even suggests overthrowing the king of the U.K., at one point!
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Ransom got one on his heel in Perelandra during his fight with the Un-Man. It stays with him throughout That Hideous Strength and gives him constant pain, since it can only be healed on the world where it was inflicted and he cannot return there until his task is done.

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