Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Chrysalids - John Wyndham

Remember when I used to review my Classics Club books in a timely fashion? Yeah. Me too...

I'd reread The Day of the Triffids just prior to creating my Classics Club list last year, and I absolutely adored it. So it made perfect sense to put another John Wyndham book on my list. Last month, I finally got around to reading it. (But not reviewing it. Because I'm the worst.)

The Chrysalids is a dystopian novel, pure and simple. Set a thousand years in the future, it tells the story of a group of young people living in an isolated community on the island of Labrador. The mainland, we're told, is a wasteland and the community prides itself on weeding out any genetic mutations, whether they be in plants, animals or humans.

As a child, the protagonist, David, witnesses a friend and her family being cast out into the wilds because said friend has six toes on one foot. This makes him uncertain about the way he's been raised, and when he and a group of other children develop telepathic abilities, they try to keep things quiet for as long as possible.

At its heart, this is very much a Cold War novel. It plays on the fear of the 'other' that was so prevalent in the 1950s, as well as including a nuclear apocalypse. It focuses on the destructive nature of Western society and its futile attempts at perfection.

One of the things I liked best about this book is when the characters find out about Zealand, a technologically advanced Utopia far across the sea to the south. And the reason I liked this so much is simple: so much of the time, dystopian novels are very US-centric, and I always find myself wondering if the rest of the world is in the same predicament or if they're all fine and just watching the chaos unfold. Here, clearly, it's the latter. So I loved that recognition that the rest of the world still exists.

On the whole, this was a short but important story, and it's definitely one I'll reread in the future.

Have you read it? What did you think?

K xx

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