So I read The Chrysalids by John Wyndham way back in March. I didn’t review it immediately because really, I wasn’t too sure what to say. I did love this book and I have thought about it regularly since, but it wasn’t as life changing as the other Wyndham’s I’ve read, and honestly I was a little disappointed. Clearly I put too much faith in Wyndham, but let’s start with what I really liked about this book.
As always with Wyndham I just loved the eco-critical nature (excuse the pun) of this book. The Day of the Triffids, and The Kraken Wakes definitely prove that Wyndham enjoys analysing man’s relationship with nature and this was particularly well done in The Chrysalids. The world has become a post-apocalyptic mess, humanity has devolved into small, rural settlements, with devout religious leaders who are obsessed with perfection. Specifically genetic perfection. Any plant, animal, or person with the slightest visible abnormality is destroyed. The main characters of this book do have genetic abnormalities, but not in any visible way, they are able to talk to each other telepathically.
Frankly, telepathy in books tends to annoy me a little. It’s usually forced in and formatted strangely, especially in the YA books I tend to read, but Wyndham wrote about this strange experience phenomenally as is to be expected. The descriptions of the group talking in their minds really was breathtaking, and it didn’t feel awkward or strange, and it even worked well alongside the physical dialogue.
As lovely as Wyndham’s use of alternative dialogue was, it leads me to one of the issues I had: there was just too much dialogue! ARGH! It went on, and on, and on, and despite the exciting action everything felt sidelined by Wyndham’s long, lamenting, philosophical speeches all of them as long winded as the sentence I am currently writing. I would have loved a little more world building and description, though there wasn’t a lack of it, it was certainly sidelined in a way that I found a little disappointing.
Another thing I felt a little let down on was the female characters. I know that Wyndham was “of his time” or whatever, but that’s no excuse Trouble with Lichen and The Midwich Cuckoos were wildly ahead of their time in terms of feminism (though they weren’t perfect I was still impressed) and I felt that The Chrysalids fell a little short in that respect. The female characters were mothers, or motherly, with the one variation being a woman who was depicted as a small-minded jealous shrew. It was an exhausting read in that respect.
Don’t get me wrong, if I’d read this book of Wyndham’s before all his others I would have been completely enamoured, but sadly I didn’t. If you’re going to get into Wyndham maybe don’t put too much stock in The Chrysalids, but honestly I do think it’s a worthwhile read for any SF fan.