Books Read in 2022 – 13. The Midwich Cuckoos – John Wyndham

Genre: Science fiction. Dystopia

Narrative Style: First person, Chronological

Rating: 5/5

Published: 1958

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: When Richard and Janet Gayford return from a trip into town, they find it is impossible to get into Midwich. As soon as anyone comes within a certain distance of the village, they pass out. Thankfully, the effect wears off but then it transpires that all the women in town are pregnant. What had happened to them when they were unconscious.

Time on Shelf: Not very long. I wanted to read it before I watched the recent TV series.

This is a very British book. Wyndham gives his narrator, Richard, a middle class, stoic voice. As he and his wife were away, Janet does not become pregnant so he is able to view events in a largely detached way. He talks to the other villagers and reports what happened in a journalistic way, never succumbing to emotion.

When the babies are born and start to exhibit strange powers, although Richard is concerned, he is able to take a step back and report what is happening, much like a scientist observing an experiment. It quickly become apparent that the children have telepathic powers unlike anything seen in humans. They can force their parents to do their bidding even causing a couple who have left Midwich to return. They lash out when they feel threatened which is worrying for all of the villagers especially as the children are growing up much more quickly then human children would do.

As with other of Wyndham’s book. this is more a thought experiment than a novel. The focus is on how people might react and the moral ramifications. As such, the characters are not all fully developed. More important are the discussions of how the issue of the children will be dealt with when they grow to be more powerful and eventually unstoppable. Wyndham gives examples of events like those of Midwich in other countries and how their governments dealt with them before coming up with his own elegant solution. They have the issue that annihilation of a group of children, no matter how powerful, will not look good to those outside of the issue. It is also virtually impossible to surprise the children who will no doubt fight back viciously against any sort of attack.

This is a novel of discussion and thought, rather than action. It makes you think about what the government would do if such a thing were to occur. I am curious now to see how far the TV series follows the book.

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