1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 170: The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham

John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris, better known by his pen name, John Wyndham, was a master of post-apocalyptic literature during the mid 20th century and published sever books, including; The Day Of The Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos (the novel which two films, both called The Village Of The Damned was based on).  But it is perhaps The Chrysalids that is his best work.  It tells the story of a young boy who lives in a community of religious zealots and follows him into young adulthood.  He, and several others around his age, have been gifted with the ability to read thoughts and while this may seem as a gift to some, it is not seen as such within the community which David, the novel’s protagonist, lives.  In his world any deviation from the norm is considered heretical and orthodoxy reigns supreme.  If a child were born with an extra finger, they were burnt.  If a woman gave birth to three children who did not meet the criteria of the norm, then she would be disavowed by her husband.  David and his friends manage to keep their secret though, at least for a time until words gets out and they are forced to run.  The writing isn’t something I would compare with the likes of Faulkner or Cormac McCarthy.  It is standard science fiction, but it indulges in themes which were no doubt very relevant at the time of its publication and still remains relatable today as it deals with instances where those are differ from the majority find themselves in a constant state of war with the world around them, be it because of their skin colour, their religious affiliations or perhaps sexual preference.  It also delves into Hobbesian concepts of man being in a natural state of war and how the masses need to supplicate to a higher authority to remain in peace, but more importantly it borrows from Hobbesian approach to fear and explore how fear of that which is different, or of the unknown can inspire man to indulge in reprehensible acts which they may not have otherwise engaged in.  It’s a short book and because it is easy to read and because the narrative circles around a group of adolescents, it could be ideal for young adult readers, but there is enough to engage adult readers as well.

 

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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