"C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia are rightly beloved by millions as a modern masterpiece of fantasy and as a gentle introduction to Christian theology as well. Not as well known, but just as deserving of a place on a discerning reader's bookshelf are his only works of science fiction, sometimes known collectively as the Space Trilogy.
"The final book of the trilogy takes place on Earth, and doesn't involve space travel. Instead, it concerns the redemption of Thulcandra (Earth) from the clutches of the Bent One. It's set in a small university town called Edgestow, the home of Bracton College, just after the end of WWII.
"Certain progressives among the Fellows of Bracton College engineer the sale of Bracton Wood (rumored to house the living body of Merlin, his body preserved from aging by magic) to N.I.C.E., the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments. N.I.C.E. is a sinister group of scientists researching use of technology to rule mankind. Devine, introduced in the first book of the trilogy, is now the wealthy Lord Feverstone, servant of the Bent One and a financial patron of N.I.C.E. Merlin's magic powers would be immensely useful to the organization, so they acquire the land with the purpose of disinterring and reviving Merlin and using his powers for the cause of evil.
"The central characters are Mark Studdock, a Fellow in sociology at Bracton, and his wife Jane, a research student. Their marriage is troubled. Mark is blindly ambitious and sycophantic and Jane a proto-feminist. She is also troubled by what appear to be growing psychic abilities resulting in dreams that reflect present and future events in the real world.
"Mark is duped into working for N.I.C.E. (which wishes to use him to seduce Jane into evil), and Jane finds herself on the side of good, working with Ransom, now revealed as Pendragon. Her newfound psychic powers serve to aid in the location of Merlin and also provide information about the machinations of N.I.C.E. Once discovered, Merlin's ancient wizardry, linked with the power of the Eldil, defeat the evil N.I.C.E. in a stunning (and bloody) climax.
"The central focus is the development of Mark and Jane from shallow modernists into decent, caring people. Through the narrative, they both come to realize what is wrong in both their marriage and their outlook on life. Mark in particular has the longer road to travel; since he fell almost totally under the spell of evil. Lewis paints his conversion to good in a quite convincing manner, clearly showing his belief in redemption of the soul."
—Jeff Elkins (to see more of his Space Trilogy review, click here.)
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