The Chrysalids is set in the future after a devastating global nuclear war. David, the young hero of the novel, lives in a tight-knit community of religious and genetic fundamentalists, always on the alert for any deviation from the norm of God's creation.
Abnormal plants are publicly burned, with much singing of hymns. Abnormal humans (who are not really human) are also condemned to destruction - unless they succeed in fleeing to the Fringes, that Wild Country where, as the authorities say, nothing is reliable and the devil does his work.
David grows up ringed by admonitions: KEEP PURE THE STOCK OF THE LORD; WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT.At first he does not question. Then, however, he realizes that he, too, is out of the ordinary, in possession of a power that could doom him to death or introduce him to a new, hitherto unimagined world of freedom.
The Chrysalids is a perfectly conceived and constructed work from the classic era of science fiction, a Voltairean philosophical tale that has as much resonance in our own day, when religious and scientific dogmatism are both on the march, as when it was written during the cold war.
©2008 John Wyndham; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
A Sci Fi junkie who occasionally goes slumming to read other literature.
In a post-apocalyptic world, David struggles with his culture's belief that plant and animal deviants should be destroyed. Deviants are anything that does not physically or otherwise match the image of God as defined by the deeply religious culture. He meets a girl his age and keeps her deviation secret, then discovers that he and some other children, including his little sister, are telepathic. When the adults discover this deviation, David, his sister, and a friend run for their lives. They are saved by a lady from a telepathic society that lands in a flying craft and carries them away.
This novel had potential, but I was disappointed in the ending which seemed to be a deus ex machina. The message of the novel is clearly one of tolerance, and is repeated ad nauseam. I therefore expected the flying, telepathic savior at the end of the novel to bring a final message of tolerance and peace, but instead she turns out to be just as discriminatory as the people of Waknuk. In an unemotional explanation of her killing of the aggressors, she describes how the stronger species will have a natural intolerance for the weaker species and ultimately destroy them ("the way of it").
Graeme Malcolm has a halting, lazy British accent, a terrible attribute for action scenes. He does not differentiate his voice between different characters, which makes it difficult to follow dialogue at times.
this book is mildly entertaining in a Hunger Games sort of way. the book is ahead of its time, having been written in 1955. I would recommend the book for teenagers and possibly young adults.
I'm a John Wyndham fan but this isn't really like his other post-apocalyptic novels. I know some people have written that this is a story about the importance of accepting differences, but I have to disagree......I think this is a book about the problems of trying to recreate the past, of banishing changes in the belief that the past (or present) is best, and of refusing to move forward. As Uncle Axel says to the young protagonist David, "Life is change". Those who don't accept change will be left behind.
The apocalyptic event is not named, but is pretty clearly nuclear bombs and the resulting radiation. In the recovery, there are small groups of people building small civilizations around the world in isolation from the others and who, not surprisingly, think their way is the only and best way to be. David's community in Labrador (he lives on the estate of Waknuk) is intolerant of anything deemed to be a variation of a severely limited definition of normal - burning crops that grow poorly or too well, killing animals born with abnormalities in form or function, and banishing any people found to be "imperfect" to the Fringes. (Interestingly, women are sterilized before being sent to the Fringes, but men are not.) Uncle Axel was the only one who seemed to realize that if you try to emulate the past, you'll wind up with the same problems that plagued the past (in this case, an apocalypse), but he kept his views to only himself and David, whose secret he kept.
David begins to lose his faith in the morality of the strict adherence to "normal" when he discovers a young playmate has 6 toes. He was already telepathic, communicating with other children in the town who were also telepaths, but he begins to realize the dangerous situation they were in - that banishment could happen to anyone found to be different at any time, not just newborns. When the first telepath found was tortured in an attempt to get her to name the others, the remaining group fled, ending up in the Fringes. They discover that while the Fringes people aren't the scary mutants they were led to believe (they might have Marfan's Syndrome, or 6 toes, for instance), they are equally as prejudiced against outsiders as Waknuk.
Eventually the telepathic teens are rescued by people from New Zealand who heard their plight (as telepathy is very common there), though the rescuers are not full of perfect enlightenment either.
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YOU CAN'T LIE WHEN YOU TALK WITH YOUR THOUGHTS
I loved the first three hours of this. I loved it, because it intelligently hit one of my pet peeves. I have never understood the hatred toward people who are different. Just today a customer I was delivering to, made a disgusting remark about blacks and it came out of nowhere. As a kid I witnessed fat kids, tall girls, short boys, blacks, girls with freckles, kids who wore metal braces on their legs, people with cleft lips, pimples, etc,... get picked on. In junior high one boy with a very small penis and whose testicles had not dropped was humiliated consistently. Michael Landon was humiliated by his mother for bed wetting. How about the kid in Lord of the Flies with asthma. In our town there is suppose to be a farm with albinos living on it. Teenagers go out there at night to taunt them.
Some might get upset by how religion is represented in this book. They are the bad guys. I have a friend who went to a catholic church and the nuns tied his left hand to his chair so he could not use it, as he was left handed. When I was young I went to a church, where the preacher from behind the pulpit told us that Cain was marked by becoming a Negro. Before the civil war, the Quakers were trying to free the slaves, but the Baptist were preaching that it was okay per the bible for white men to own black men. Last year a preacher of a mega Assembly of God church, stood behind the pulpit and told his congregation to vote against the rights for gays bill. He almost got into to big trouble for that, but managed his million dollar A SS out of it. Religion can be good, but when used for hate, it is devastating.
The Rest of The Story
The last three and a half hours is one long chase scene. It is almost like the first and second half were written by two different people. The first half by a very talented writer and the second half was a hack job. The ending is such a disappointment. As another reviewer has mentioned we are preached at, about being accepting of those who are different but, in the end those who have telepathy discriminate against everyone else. To not have telepathy makes you inferior and you don't deserve to live. End of story.
Bohemian Bon Vivant
Well written and fully realized world that disintegrates into a simple chase for the third act and wraps up with a less than inspired ending. A bit of a disappointment after the more fully realized Day of the Triffids, but the book will stay with me nonetheless, especially considering the political times we live in and the monstrous GOP's insane attack on homosexuals, which could very easily have provided the allegorical subtext for this work.
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