I like John Wyndham’s novels, perhaps a little dated in their characters attitudes but the storytelling is strong and inventive. Unfortunately, this selection of stories didn’t quite make the grade for me. The title story is about a time in the future when men have died out and women have survived and found a way to procreate alone. But they have created a caste society limiting the women to certain duties and stations in life. The idea was interesting, but the story was dry and dull. Of the other stories the last one providing an interesting twist on the selling one’s soul to the devil was enjoyable. The others show the seeds of Wyndham’s Sci Fi imagination but felt like early drafts, not quite hitting the mark.
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By Lizzy Siddal
Did I misunderstand something?
I thought that the mutants were punished by being sterilised and abandoned in the fringes to take their chances. So how come spiderman starts entertaining notions of making babies with Rosalind? Surely this would be impossible ....
I've just finished reading the novel and am brimming with ideas so thought I'd start a thread.
Returning to the book as an adult gave me a very different view of it indeed. As a child, I thoroughly enjoyed the tension in the story and empathised with the idea of a group of young people at odds with the alien world around them.
And as an adult I did enjoy the narrative, but find myself disturbed by some of the ideas. I found myself in sympathy with the novel's message almost all the way through. The idea of a moralistic and religiously bigotted community arising in this post-apocalyptic world was compelling and Wyndham's criticism of this world is very powerful indeed. The use of the innocent narrator works well with this and much of Wyndham's message in the novel's earlier stages - about the need to accept change - is voiced effectively and thoughtfully through Uncle Axel.
However, it's the final few chapters that disturbed me. The problem with Wyndham's acceptance of the need for evolutionary change comes to have a fascistic resonance for me. The new telepathic race who come to save David and his friends are described as so physically perfect and have such an interest in Petra, as an even more highly evolved member of the species, that I began to doubt them. I was also disturbed by their callous killing of everyone aside from those with powers similar to their own - described as a 'necessity'. I realise that David is also upset by this, but he seems to forget this very quickly as he joins the glorious and bright future (and the writing at this point is all about luminosity and hope). An early liberal message about tolerance and acceptance of others seems to become a harshly fascistic message about a kind of master race who will be ultimately triumphant and eliminate the savages. Shades of 'tomorrow belongs to me', I thought. Very disturbing.
What do others think? Am I being overly dramatic about this? I certainly had a very different response as an adult and feel a little unsettled by it.
By Mad Dog & Glory
From the age of 10 till about 14, I was obsessed with the books of John Wyndham. I used to go into libraries and bookshops just to see how many John Wyndham books they had. If it had all of them, it was a good bookshop. If it had none or only a few, it was a bad bookshop. (I had all of them of course.) It was a very simple litmus test, and it worked for me.
I read them over and over again. I loved The Day Of The Triffids of course. Silence being the signifier that something was wrong was very powerful. Chocky - featuring a boy of about my age - meant a lot to me. The Midwich Cuckoos spooked me out completely, but in a good way. My favourite though was The Chrysalids, about a post-apocalyptic world. I can't remember why I loved it so much. Maybe it was because the others were more famous, and we true John Wyndham fans had far more discernment than the hoards!
The books of short stories also had a big effect on me, especially the title story of The Seeds Of Time, about time travel. A lot of mind-expanding thoughts about going forward in time and meeting your future self. It was the first time I came across the concept, which seems to crop up so much now (from Back To The Future to Blackadder), that if you went back in time and changed one small thing, then the present you come back to will be different.
I never read science fiction now. In fact, in my 20s I made the mistake of trying to re-read John Wyndham yet again, but the prose seemed very clunky, and my twentysomething self was intolerant of badly-written prose. I would be more tolerant now.
Nothing though can ever take away the permanent place that John Wyndham has in my childhood.