Review for That Hideous Strength

That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis

Genre – Science fiction, Fantasy, Christian fiction

Series – 3rd book in the Ransom trilogy

Rating – PG-13 for strong violence and language

Synopsis –

Jane and Mark Studdock have had a rough patch in their marriage. Mark teaches at Bracton college and has recently joined the Fellowship there; he is constantly endeavoring to be a part of the inner circle. This leads him to joining an evil organization called N. I. C. E. Jane on the other hand prefers her independence, but that is changed when she has visions that begin to scare her. With help from an older couple, Jane meets the Director aka Ransom. Will Mark realize his mistake before its too late? Should Jane trust what the Director is telling her?

My Thoughts –

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I did it!! I finished the Ransom trilogy!! Whew, that has taken me on quite a journey. I actually really liked this last installment as it felt completely different from first 2 books. Lewis moves the story back to earth with a little time gap between Perelandra and That Hideous Strength. We also alternate between the N. I. C. E. stronghold at Belbery and Ransom’s group at St. Anne.

The characters that Lewis added in this book were my kind of jam. Jane and Mark felt flushed out, yet pretty relatable. I actually liked Mark, despite some of his views/flaws, and wanted him to see the error of his ways, but he was kind of fooled by N. I. C. E. flowery phrases. Jane, while stubborn, at least realized she needed help. The group at St. Anne’s was kind of funny in their own way – a band of misfits who no one would think could impact Britain. How can you not like a bear named Mr. Beltitude? Plus, Ransom was more of a background character which I think fit after his transformation on Venus. He was like the wise father to the group. In Perelandra, Ransom was odd and a bit idiotic at times, and I just didn’t care for him. So, it was definitely a breath of fresh air to see him change.

One thing Lewis add to That Hideous Strength is a bit of Arthurian legend which was not in his previous books. I liked it. Merlin was kind of kooky, but he added to the plot and was a vehicle for climax. After listening to a talk on this book, I learned that Lewis became friends with Charles Williams while writing. He influenced Lewis quite a bit. I ‘ll add a link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61w7SHOJQEg

Spiritual warfare is also heavily present. The N. I. C. E. have found a way to keep a dead head alive. This invites the “macrobes” or demons to speak through this head to the key people in N. I. C. E. Their whole philosophy is to brainwash the public into a very sterile way of thinking. Meanwhile, Ransom has been conversing with the Oyarsa, who are equivalent to angels. At one point, Ransom is talking to Jane and he tells her that she will have to convert to Christianity which goes against Jane’s strong sense of will. Eventually she submits.

One downside for me at least was the ending. I kind of expected a huge battle between the Oyarsa and the bent one, but really all it took was Merlin freeing the animals, who then brought justice. It felt a little odd to me.

Language – Pretty frequently used, although mostly by the nonbelievers. I would say used more often then in the previous books. Kept within the bounds of PG though.

Violence – The directors of N. I. C. E. murder a couple of people who try to leave their organization. Mostly done off the page. Also, mentioned that they want to murder large groups of people to cleanse the world and perform experiments upon animals. They orchestrate riots in Edgestow. Miss Hardcastle takes pleasure in torturing the prisoners. In one instance she burns Jane with a cigarette. Towards the end, Merlin releases animals during a banquet at the N. I. C. E. headquarters, who proceed to kill and maul the guests. References to the room filled with blood. One character’s arm is mauled off. Later a character kills several characters and covers the room in blood. He is then eaten by a bear. So, yeah, violence is also stepped up a bit compared to previous books.

Innuendo – Miss Hardcastle takes off her tunic revealing that she isn’t wearing a corset, while it doesn’t outright say, it hinted that Hardcastle is a lesbian. One of N. I. C. E. goals is to get rid of sex. Mention that on one side of the Moon they don’t breed, but live forever. The other side is depicted as savages. Later on, 3 N. I. C. E. members strip naked before their head. After everything is set right, Venus draws near. This leads to all the animals mating. Jane and Mark spend the night together with a promise of a child.

Conclusion –

It feels really good to have finished this series. It will probably be one that I will reread in future. It wasn’t what I expected for the final book, but it worked. I would say that this one is my favorite of the trilogy. Followed by Out of the Silent Planet then Perelandra. The N. I. C. E. organization really reminded me of the Nazis so you could see how the war impacted what Lewis wrote. Funny little anecdote, Lewis mentions Middle-earth and Numinor which is from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings/ Simarillion. I thought that was kinda neat!

Have you read this trilogy? Have a favorite book by Lewis? Cannot wait to hear from you all!

Anna

Review for Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

Genre – Christian fiction, Fantasy, Science fiction

Series – First book in Cosmic or Space Trilogy

Rating – PG for mild language and peril

Synopsis –

Dr. Ransom is out on a walking holiday when he meets an older women who is worried about her boy. After endeavoring to save the boy, Ransom is drugged and taken aboard a spaceship. His kidnappers are Devine and Weston. They proceed to take Ransom to Malacandra as a sacrifice to the inhabitants who live there. Ransom embarks on a journey across the planet as his misconceptions are challenged by the inhabitants. Will Ransom be able to escape the clutches of Devine and Weston? Or will he be forced to stay on Malacandra forever?

My Thoughts –

This is a tough book to review as there is a lot to unpack in this small book. It is very different from the Narnia books. In fact it almost felt more like J. R. R. Tolkien’s style of writing. Yet, there are a few moments that reminded me of scenes from Narnia. It goes deeper into theology and philosophy then Narnia does, although some of it kinda hidden underneath the plot. Lewis’s goal was to get people to stop thinking about space and think of it in terms of the heavens. I found a lecture that does a pretty good job explaining Lewis’s perspective. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP-7lc52IZ0&t=3s.

The characters were unique and had some interesting characteristics, but focus is on the allegory. Ransom is a likeable character whose preconceptions about the universe around him are stretched as he learns from the creatures living on Malacandra, which is Mars. There are 3 types of creatures that live on Malacandra and each have different gifts: Sorns, Hross, and Pfifktriggi. Hross were the poets and storytellers, while the Sorns were the philosophers, and lastly the Pfifktriggi are inventors. I have to say that I liked the Hross the best as they felt the most fleshed out of the three. I liked how they were simple creatures who took life as it is without worrying about tomorrow.

However, the villains felt flat to me and at times foolish. They never really added much to the story. Plus, they had such a minor role. As a reader, I want the villain to stand out and make me worry that he will actually do something evil to our characters. I never felt that way in this book. A good example is Thanos or Loki from the Marvel universe. 🙂

I have always been fascinated with space and space travel. Even when I was little and learning about the Apollo missions, it excited me that we could travel to the moon. So, I loved how Lewis describes space and gives it beauty. He also gives Mars a lush landscape with a variety of terrains. Ransom goes from odd jungles with purple tree like plants to a barren Alp like place. He gives the creatures on Mars a unique language that Ransom is able to learn. Hands down Lewis is a master wordsmith.

Overall the plot felt slow and methodical. Lewis has a plan and reason for writing this series, and you can tell. There really weren’t any intense moments. It is defiantly a book that makes you think.

Language – Whenever the two antagonists are around, they use mild language. A few uses of “God” as exclamation by villains. Ransom does not swear.

Violence – Devine and Weston threaten a boy and try to kidnap him. They try to offer Ransom as a sacrifice to the Sorns. They shoot and kill a couple Hross as they believe the Hross are hostile.

Innuendo – A couple mentions of procreating with the Mars inhabitants, mostly as a joke. At one point during there space travel, the ship becomes so hot that they only wear weighted belts. As a character is traveling, he notices that an island looks like a women’s breast.

Conclusion –

It was really interesting to dip my toes into something by Lewis other then the Narnia series. I have read The Screwtape Letters, but it has been a while. So, I really enjoyed getting to go on a space odyssey to Mars! It gave me a new perspective on the heavens. Normally we think of space an empty void, but there is beauty and creativity in all that God made. I would highly recommend this book. Although don’t expect it to be a light read. 😉

Review for Flight of the Angels

Flight of the Angels by Allen and Aaron Reini

Genre – Science fiction, Dystopian, Christian fiction

Series – 1st in Flight of Angels series

Rating – PG-13 for violence and mild language

Synopsis –

Set in the future, where the United Coalition Navy has outlawed Christianity and those who profess it are sent to re-education centers. Captain Dex D’falco and his Christian group called the Angels are hiding out on a forsaken planet. After several run-ins with Marauders (a droid driven spaceship) while trying to gather much needed supplies, D’falco realizes there is a mole in his midst. Over at JenKore, a massive mining and military company, Darik Mason is given the impossible task of figuring out where the missing M-2 machines went. As the Angels fight for survival, someone high up the Jenkore food chain wants all the Christian dead and is willing to do whatever it takes.

My Thoughts –

This was quite the roller coaster ride!! I gotta say I really loved this book. Its been a while since I truly enjoyed a book this much. I have a soft spot for science fiction, always have. 😉 The author does a great job meshes Christian fiction and Sci-fi together. Compared to some other science fiction books that I have read, this one incorporates a fair amount of technology. JenKore is a technological company that creates robotic droids (in my mind I picture those droids in Star Wars Empire Strikes Back).

Not gonna lie, but there are a lot of characters to keep track of throughout the book. Once I got to know them, it was easier. It took me a while to connect to Dex, not sure what it was, but I didn’t care for him until later on. Maybe it had to do with how the authors waited until like 40% through to give us his backstory. Anyway, he did grow on me later on. But I really loved Darik and Nikky’s story line. FYI Nikky is the geeky tech guy who helps Darik track down some information on the M-2s. I loved how the author gave him a pet turtle. It just felt like something that would be realistic.

There were so many components to the plot. Things that I thought didn’t really matter, ended up playing key roles. The authors did a great job keeping things moving and letting it get bogged down. I also appreciated having an ending that wasn’t rushed and left me wanting more. Heads up they do leave it on a cliffhanger. 😉

It startled me how real this book felt. I can totally see this happening in the future. Already we are staring to see measures prohibiting Christianity around the world.

Violence –

Because this is set mostly in space, picture Star Trek type battles. Lots of shooting down ships. Now the Angels have a protocol where they do not shoot manned spacecraft. Overall not many deaths occur as mostly robots.

Now there are a few cases where Christians are put to death due to their faith. These are a bit more descriptive as they are first stabbed then their throats are slit. A hero try to prevent this, but is too late. Another instance a hero watches it on a camera and the blood spatters covering the lens.

Language – Usually Christian fiction steers away from inserting language, but this wasn’t the case. Stuck within the confines of what you would hear on a PG show like Psych or Monk. It was fairly spread out, but both believers and non-believers did it.

Innuendo – Not much. A couple hints that two characters liked each other, but not doing anything about it. A couple guys flirt with a waitress. Late on a character takes another character on a trip and they talk about flying away to the beach.

Other – One occasion where a couple characters get drunk.

Conclusion –

I really enjoyed this one!! There were a few mysteries that are not resolved, and I am looking forward to reading the second installment in this series. A well put together novel with some intriguing concepts thrown in the mix. Definitely geared towards adults. I cannot recommend this one enough! Go and get yourself a copy!!

I would love to hear your thoughts! Do you enjoy science fiction? What are some of your favorite genres??

Anna

Review for Sky without Stars

Sky without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell

Genre – Science fiction, Teen, Les Miserables retelling

Series – System Divine Book 1

Synopsis –

To start this is a retelling of Les Miserables that is set in the future. There are three young adults whose lives are about to intersect though they don’t know it yet. Chantine, Marcellus, and Alouette all live in different parts on Vallonay. As a revolution begins, the truth comes out and no one is who they thought they were.

My Thoughts –

In my opinion writing a story based of a classic sounds hard. First, you have to keep the basic main points from the original, but also keeping your story fresh and vibrant.

Although this book is set in the future, not much has changed. Yes, our phones are now on our arms and the police have turned into droids, but people are still they same. Segregating themselves onto a rainy planet and warring over resources. I liked this updated feel.

You can tell who the main characters are based off, but here we only have three main characters with Epinine being the one with most page time. I honestly did not care for Chatine as her attitude struck me as arrogant. Took a large chunk for her to even feel sorry for someone other then her self. Marcellus’s character was relatable. Confusion over lies he had been told. Despite his flaws, he truly wanted to do what was right and I liked that. Alouette was OK. I really wanted more about her dad.

The plot felt a little slow at times, but I think that it was preparing for the next book. We spent a lot of time getting to know the characters and their environment. Despite its slowness, I had a hard time putting it down.

Language – Pretty mild, only 5 d words

Innuendo –

A mention of flashing a tette for money. Later on two characters kiss/embrace.

Violence –

Multiple mentions of blood bordels which suck blood out of young girls in exchange for money. We don’t see it actually done, only talk of its existence. Characters view this as awful. Also, a innocent character is put to beheaded. (Characters look away before it occurs). Lots of shooting lasers.

Conclusion –

Les Miserables is such a great story about redemption and forgiveness; and I was honestly surprised someone was retelling it. I think the author did a great job drawing the reader into the story while also giving us descriptions of scenery. Despite the flaws, this series definitely has potential. The book is geared toward young adults.

Have you read Les Miserables? or seen the musical? What are your thoughts?

Review for Offworld

Offworld by Robin Parrish

Series – Book 1 in Dangerous Times

Genre – Christian fiction, science fiction, Dystopian

Rating – PG-13 for perilous situations and violence

Synopsis –

Four astronauts return from a 2 year mission on mars to find no one on earth. Odd things start happening on their voyage through the atmosphere. To make matters worse, Commander Burke starts having visions of a shifting void. Will they figure out where everyone went before its too late?

My Thoughts –

Science fiction is one of my favorite genres as there is an unlimited supply of possibilities and who doesn’t love space travel? Plus the author makes this mission feel fresh and different. It like if you throw Interstellar and War Games into a blender with a dash of end of the world situations.

On the whole I would say this is a plot driven novel. It’s action packed, but leaves a little bit wanting in the character background department. Giving an astronaut Fibromyalgia was interesting and I wish we could have had more detail describing how it affected her. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be left on earth without your family. It would be devastating. The author does a great job exploring how it affects the astronauts differently.

Although the book was classified as Christian fiction, there were only a few mentions of God. A couple brief discussions on whether God exists and a few prayers. There is mention of a divine rift in time and a piece from the heavenly realm has somehow fallen on earth and wreaked havoc. That felt a little bit implausible as God is omniscient, but its science fiction.

Language – A couple references to living in hell.

Innuendo – Some mild talk about how the astronauts would have to repopulate the earth. Later on a character professes his love via a phone call.

Violence – Several of the astronauts get injured during their landing. A character dislocates his arm and has to wear it in a sling. Another character gets buried under a building during its collapse. Several characters die due to getting shot. A few shootouts between characters (not much detail). During an explosion, a character dies self-sacrificially to save the world.

Conclusion –

This book was hard to put down as questions keep building until the end. A perfect science fiction thriller for an afternoon read. I wish there was a sequel as there are unanswered questions. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It had some interesting points on the lengths we would go to get answers.

Do you have any favorite science fiction novels? What are your thoughts on Offworld?

Review for The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Riddle of Ages

The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Riddle of Ages by Trenton Lee Stewart

Genre – Middle-grade fiction, science fiction

Rating – PG for mild peril

Series – 5th book in The Mysterious Benedict Society

Synopsis –

It has been several years since we last met with the society. They have now grown up and matured. Yet, there is a new crisis arising. The Ten Men have escaped and are looking for revenge, and they have teamed up with another telepathic individual. Will the society be able to come together once more?

My Thoughts –

I was so excited when I first heard this was coming out!! I read this series back when I was in middle-school. So this was a sweet treat to be able to visit with some old friends. The older kids are roughly 16 years old, maybe 17. While, Constance is now 8.

This book had a different feel to it then the previous four. (I’m included The Extortionary Education of Nicholas Benedict in the count.) The writing style has changed. The riddles are still there, but the focus has shifted more to how they have all changed.

A key component to this book is growing up and how that affects friendships. I think this one will resonate with kids and adults alike. There are some great moments in there between Reynie and Mr. Benedict which really got to me. I loved that we get an idea of where the kids will go in the future.

I will mention a couple downsides that I feel detract from this book. First, less action and less mystery. I do with there would have been a bit more mystery for the kids to solve. It spent much more time focusing on interpersonal communication.

Secondly, the adults where for the most part are out of the picture. I remember when I first read this series, how positive the adults were portrayed. So, many books these days have awful parenting. This was always a series I could count on showing positive parent-child relationships. Not to say that the parents were portrayed negatively, but their influence was minimal at best. I guess this is due to the kids needed to grow up and take on more responsibility.

Language – None

Innuendo – A character who can read thoughts heard that a some characters had crushes on each other. There is no mention of who crushes were on.

Violence – This series for the most part tries to handle things without relying on violence. Several characters talk about how they do not want to hurt anyone. A bad character throws pencils at other characters, and talks about hurting them. Also a character shoots tranquilizer darts, but overall no one is hurt.

Summery –

I loved being able to return to this fantastic series. The whit and charm were still there, but the characters themselves have changed. While, there is less action, we get a deeper look at friendship and the lengths one would take to keep it going. This would be a great read-aloud!

What are your thoughts? Have you read this series? Which book is your favorite?

Anna