The Chrysalids

Last year, I looked through an old diary and found an entry detailing my love for a certain book (I shan’t say which one) that I had read about three years ago. I have absolutely no knowledge of ever reading it. Seriously, not a sausage. I mean, I do read quite a lot of books but to have zero recall of a book that I said that I really loved was weird. It was a bit like reading someone else’s diary, which as everyone knows is completely illegal and only a stinker of the highest order would ever do. Anyway, the upshot is that I thought that this year, I would make a concerted effort to write a little review of every book that I have read and enjoyed. It could be a three-word review, it could be three pages but my aim in 2018 is to chronicle my booky odyssey.

Jan 2nd, 2018 The Chrysalids – John Wyndham

I read my first Wyndham last year on the recommendation of a friend. I think I assumed that I had read some of his work because I had seen a couple of screen adaptations. In fact, Village of the Damned is one of my favourite British horror films and Day of the Triffids one of my favourite TV shows. However, my assumption was wrong because I hadn’t actually read any of them because I am an idiot. So, I am going through his small body of work one-by-one. I read the Midwich Cuckoos last summer, and loved it, and decided to put the Chrysalids on my Christmas list. The Chrysalids is set in a few hundred years after a devastating nuclear accident/war wiped out most of the human race, and focusses on a small, highly religious community. The community are fearful that if they anger God he/she/it will rain down another “tribulation” as punishment. In this world, genetic mutations in crops, livestock and humans are commonplace. The community believe they must preserve normality at all costs and so mutant crops are burnt, livestock killed and humans are banished to the Fringes. The story follows David, Rosalind and a group of friends who all have an unseen mutation that goes undetected by the village elders, they can talk to each other using only their minds. The question is, how long can they keep their secret and what will happen when the community discovers their “abnormality”?

I’m a sucker for this kind of sci-fi. It feels real and rooted. The story is essentially how ignorance and fear of different people can lead to intolerance and violence against even those we love. It is about how the rigid rules of religious literalists and extremists make a mockery of the morality they are hoping so desperately to uphold. And that is what makes it feel so relevant. The Chrysalids is the LGBT community fighting against prejudice for equitable treatment, it is people voting for politicians who spit bile and venom about “immigrants”, it is women who have had to keep silent about male abuse in the workplace for fear of reprisals. It is, in short, a tale for our times. Please read it because it is brilliant.