Sunday 9 January 2011

REVIEW: The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham (4*)

(Penguin, 2008)

This was my first John Wyndham novel and I had no idea what to expect. I wasn't even sure what it was about! I needn't have worried, because it entirely lived up to Wyndham's reputation as a classic science fiction writer.

The plot revolves around a group of children living in a dystopian society obsessed with 'God's True Image'. Anyone and anything that is seen to be 'wrong' is immediately stamped out as an agent of the devil. If a field of crops is less than perfect, it is burned. If a cow is malformed in some way, it is killed. And any human found to be different is stripped, sterilized and sent out into the 'Fringes', an area filled with exiled deviants, to live or die as they will. By taking these measures, the people of Labrador hope to appease God and rebuild the incredible society that existed before the Tribulation that turned the Badlands to deadly black lakes of burnt land and wiped out the 'Old People'. These children, who can communicate with a kind of advanced form of telepathy, know it's only a matter of time before their secret deviation is discovered and they'll have to fight for their lives...

I found this novel to be beautifully written and deeply thought-provoking. The obsession with the 'right' attributes that make someone human reminded me of the Nazi Aryan race, and was quite disturbing to read. There were elements of religion and philosophy, with characters musing on life and spirituality, and the real meaning of humanity. There were messages of tolerance, friendship and love. And behind all this there was a cracking good post-nuclear-apocalypse science-fiction story. With writing this good and plots this fascinating, this certainly won't be my last Wyndham - I think I might have to loan my houseplants out to someone and read 'The Day of the Triffids' next!

  • "The essential quality of life is living; the essential quality of living is change; change is evolution: and we are part of it.  The static, the enemy of change, is the enemy of life..."

Source: I borrowed this book from my local library.