Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Chrysalids

I certainly did not feel unusual. I was a normal little boy, growing up in a normal way, taking the ways of the world about me for granted.

Waknuk is a district of law-abiding, God-respecting people, where deviations and blasphemies are not tolerated. Any crop that dares show any difference from the norm, from the image that God gave it, must be destroyed without question. And people, well, to deviate from the God-given image means that you cannot be human at all.

It’s a little sad that a book published in 1955 on such a topic is still so relevant today, but also kudos to John Wyndham, whose stories never fail to strike a chord. The Chrysalids is set in an unspecified future where a disaster, known as The Tribulation, has occurred. As the story progresses you get a good inkling of what really happened, but it is never overtly described.

They stamp on any change: they close the way and keep the type fixed because they’ve got the arrogance to think themselves perfect.

At the core is the argument over creationism and evolution. Without mutations, humans wouldn’t be as they are today. In this world, those mutations aren’t allowed because it is taught that God created everything and change is not tolerated. Differences aren’t tolerated. It is heart-breaking to think that even today, there are some people that just can't cope with people deviating from what is considered "the norm". It touches on the horrors of eugenics; for it is not bad enough to be shunned for your differences, but blasphemies would be sterilised and banished to the Fringes. Something that really isn't science fiction at all, but a part of history many would like to forget.

That is their greatest sin: they try to strangle the life out of Life.

This is arguably the first dystopian young adult novel. David is only eight when the story starts but it is told from his perspective as he grows into a man, in first person narrative, showing his slow realisation that the world is not necessarily as his authority figure (his preacher father) tells him. David learns how to think for himself but also forms strong bonds. I got a bit teary at the end because of those bonds. It’s a story of friendship as well as what have now become recognisable YA tropes.

It’s both an easy, absorbing read and so thought-provoking. I can see why this is so often readers’ favourite Wyndham. I'm not really sure what's going on with the cover design on my old copy. There's no reptilian creatures, just people. I think the cover designer must have just been told "mutants" and sci-fi and gone with the flow!

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Also reviewed @ Book Addicted Blonde



Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

2 comments:

  1. That old cover is horrendous. LET'S TALK ABOUT THE BEAUTY OF THE PENGUIN ONES! So gorgeous. Glad another Wyndham hit its mark - this was my first and I thiiiiink I prefer Triffids so far, but that might just be because that was my most recent excursion into his books. Next up: Kraken or the dreaded Midwich Cuckoos! (Dreaded because EEEEEVIL, not because the book's going to be bad, obviously.)

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    1. I don't like the current Penguin covers a huge amount either. Me and Josh are currently reading Midwich and his new copy has a man with a bird (assuming cuckoo) on his head. My ancient copy has some creepy eyes which is much more in keeping with what it's about. Think the designer missed the metaphorical cuckoo memo ;)

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