“ Author: John Wyndham „
The book I'm about to review 'The John Wyndham Omnibus' is,not surprisingly,a collection of three of John Wyndham's more famous novels.Stolen/inherited from my parents I have read this book cover to cover sevral times (and may have to read it again,now I've dug it out) because it's an always 'easy to read' collection of sc-fi? novels both entertaining and relevant.I know little of the author bar that he wrote mainly in the 1950's and I don't know if it's a fair comparison but I always feel him to have a similar feel and range to H.G Wells another sci-fi writer that I've always enjoyed.I do think however that sci-fi is perhaps a limiting label to put on both these writers as there are much more than spaceships and little green men(war of the worlds?yes I know it involves a martian invasion)but they both tend towards social comment more than technilogical advances(see Time Machine or The Chrysalids). Three of his best novels are included in the 'Omnibus' and I'll give a short decsription of each without,as reading and rating other novel reviews I see that giving away the endings to be frowned upon - perhaps rightly so though ops and reviews are all written in an individual's own personal style and with individual viewpoints and conclusions.I however wil not give too much away as with these particular novels I'd like to think that at least one person may in future read one of these books as they are entertaining if nothing else.The three novels within are - The Day of the Triffids,The Kraken Awakes,and the immortal The Chrysalids.I begin - The Day of the Trifids. Perhaps the most famous of the three due to,no offence intended for I love Hammer Horrors myself,a tacky 60's Hammer film version that neither does the book justice nor bears much resemblance to the original story though there are large walking killer plants involved.There was a BBC serial that aired in the early eighties that I watched as a kid and though memory is a funny thing I do beleive it was much more true to the book - I only saw it at the time,was too young to have the patience to read the book then and it was at least 20 years ago so don't hang me for that opinion if it proves wildy inaccurate.These two productions may have made this book in particular more well known that the others. We enter the story with a man lying in an hospital with bandaged up eyes,his inner-monologue trying to figure out why on this busy Wednesday morning it sounds like a Sunday.The hospital being in Central London the absence of sound either within the hospital itself or on the busy main road outside make him,to start with,uneasy and shortly in his sight-deprived state bordering on sheer terror.It is a clever and claustophobic start to a novel which though seemingly about some strange and to the protagonists who are unaware of their origin,deadly plants able to communicate with each other and walk.The human race largely blinded in a chance and ironically self-innflicted event (as we later find out) find themselves prey for these plants that were before this pan-world lights out used if not wholly tamed by man for their special oil that they produced. Having found some equally lucky members of soceity that also ecsaped the blinding our hero tries not only to recover from the shock of his modern world turned upside down but make a life for himself and a few others in the new situation in to which they find themselves,a situation were without the benefit of machines and the backing of modern knowledge they are at the mercy of a cruel nature seemingly ever ready to strike when our human watchful gaze is dropped.This theme of the tenous grip that humanity has on his world and his vulnerability outside his modern setting coupled with natures power and lack of respect for all that man sees as his domain is superbly visible through this thoughtful and well written tale.The triffids represent the chaotic power of nature and it's habit of quickly reclaiming a foothold where man thinks he has prevailed in his continual struggle to fashion the world and to farm its resourses for his own need. The Kraken Awakes. With a 'War of the Worlds' type of storyline this is a fascinating and somwehat pertinant story in which the enemy is really nature in disguise,though the ever rising sea-level in this book is not a disguise at all.Beginning with a writer and his newly-wedded wife on a honeymoon cruise who spot a series of 'meteorites' crashing into the sea.They contain beings from another planet who unable to take our relatively light air-pressure land on the seabed before launching their attack upon the land in special craft,a form of 'sea tank'.Quickly being beaten by man the creatures melt the poles and make the sea-level rise and it is in this ever decreasing landscape that the main characters have to survive.Another thinly-veiled warning about the power of nature and it's ability to return wherever we think we have control over it this is a great story with a little nod and a wink towards Wells classic War of the Worlds. The Chrysalids. The most powerful and thought provoking of all his novels this is a literary clasic in its own right.Centreing around David Strorm from a mischievous boy to grown man and his life in Waknuk,a post apocalyptic and very puritan settlement in Labrador.After a nuclear holocaust,long since believed by the settlers to be the work of God sending the 'Tribulation' on the 'Old People' for their arrogance and belief in themselves and their modern lifestyle the people fear the return of the Tribulation and live in state of vigilance,ever watchful for anything that 'deviates' from the 'norm'.Whether it's crops,livestock or even people the backward farming folk of this story will route it out and burn it ,except in the case of 'deviants'sad,mutated people who are the work of God stricken unperfect as a warning for wrong living and undevout behavior and they're banished to the 'fringes' rather than killed.The fringes are belts of land that are barely inhabitable and were nothing grows according to God's strict design.Believing that godliness is what helps them reclaim fringeland into workable farmland the people,despite their personal beliefs live it this authoritarian society were newborn children are checked by an 'inspector' for conforming to the 'norm' before being registered as 'in the true image'.Badlands outlie the fringes and rather than being blasted by God's wrath are post nuclear wastelands and the reason why things are mutated. Believed to be the 'norm' young David Strorm finds the he and his cousin Rosalind have the ability to communicate telepathically and soon find that there are some others who can aswell.His secret is discovered by his uncle Axel who fortunetly being an ex-sailor who has seen the world far beyond the limited outlook of the local population no longer believes in the rhetoric espoused by his brother-in-law,David's father one of the most god-fearing and devout of them all. We follow his life and his constant danger of being discovered through out his path from child to adult and when his secret comes out he gathers his fellow 'mutants' and races for the fringes in hope of sanctuary.This is a very perceptive novel not only about humans wont for placing people in seperate boxes but also about the stupidity of stiffling change which is afterall how nature evolves.This is a taut,claustrophobic novel where we live the constant fear of discovery and the ending is fantastic.If you haven't read it then you should.I highly recomend any of these novels but can't give you a price as I see my copy dates from 1979 but do suggest if you see any of them in the library or bookshop give it a go.They are written in an easy,entertaining style and don't moralise or rely on scientific jargon or tortous technoligical psuedo-science that plague some of this genre.Enjoy!!
It's somehow ironic that John Wyndham, known to most of us first and foremost as the author of sci-fi page-turners like "Day Of The Triffids" and "The Midwich Cuckoos", had something of a distaste for most of the sci-fi being published in the 1950s. In his introduction to "The Seeds Of Time", an anthology of his own short stories, he is almost savage in his condemnation of editors who had established a generic blueprint and who were loathe to consider material that strayed away from it, Wyndham referring to them as "minor showmen determined to keep the genre in the cliff-hanger class". "The Seeds Of Time" is very much a revolt against what he terms "the adventures of galactic gangsters in space opera", crediting the reader with intelligence by offering up stories that have an intelligent premise at their root. Several of them underline the enthusiasm that Wyndham shared with HG Wells for the possibilities of time travel but each moves along a specific stylistic tangent to avoid any risk of repetition: the farcical comedy of "Pawley's Peepholes" and the tragi-romanticism of "Chronoclasm" though hewn from the same original seam are totally different in their outlook. Several of the stories take a distinctly horrific tack - the Mary Shelley-esque "Compassion Circuit" and Poe-influenced "Survival" are prime examples - and Wyndham even attempts to give sci-fi a pastoral influence on "Wild Flower", a piece that could almost be termed "anti scifi". The constant that Wyndham brings to the whole collection is an accessible, relatively jargon-free style that inevitably sprang from his desire to develope as broad an approach to writing as possible and although "The Seeds Of Time" is unlikely to entertain you from start to finish, it will nonetheless impress you throughout.
John Wyndham was a science fiction writer who was way ahead of his time. Despite the fact that they were written forty or more years ago, his novels are still exciting and relevant to todays readers. He explored a range of ideas, regularly returning again and again to concepts such as the manipulation of time, the idea of parallel dimensions, consciousness and the power of the mind. I'd like to introduce you to my three favourite Wyndham books, two of which are novels and one a collection of short stories. **** THE CHRYSALIDS A fantastic, post apocalyptic sci fi tale about a devoutly religious community struggling to exist after a nuclear war. The community of 'Waknuk' struggle to make sense of the effects of the war by refusing to accept 'deviants' that do not adhere to a strict set of conditions known as 'the norm'. Children, animals and crops that are classed as 'deviants' are either destroyed or abandoned in 'The Fringes', where deviancy is, funnily enough, the norm. The protagonist of the story is a young boy called David Strorm, who has his own 'deviant' secret - the ability to communicate telepathically with several of his friends and his sister, Petra. David and his friends are able to keep the secret for a number of years, but when it is finally discovered, they are forced to flee for their lives. **** THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS This was made into a very scary movie, but the book is far, far better. The story begins with a very strange scenario. An entire town appears to have fallen asleep. Anyone who attempts to enter the town drops asleep as soon as they get within half a mile of the towns outskirts. Twenty four hours later, the town 'awakes' and appear to have suffered no ill effects from their bizarre sleepathon. Baffled, the authorities decide not to investigate the phenomenon, as they do not know h ow to deal with it. Several weeks later, the women of the town realise they are all in a similar, bewildering situation - every single woman of childbearing age is pregnant! The women bear their children, who are normal, healthy babies, who all share a startling physical characteristic - they all have golden yellow eyes. A less visible but no less amazing characteristic they share is the ability to control their mothers by the power of thought alone. The babies begin to grow into children...But what are they, and what terrible purpose do they have in mind....? You'll have to read the book to find out! **** CONSIDER HER WAYS This is a lesser known collection of short stories by Wyndham. All of the stories are interesting and worth a read, but the story that gives it's name to the collection is without a doubt one of the best short stories I have ever read. 'Consider her ways' is narrated by a woman called Jane, who finds herself at the beginning of the story floating in a 'formless void' unable to pinpoint who she is, where she is and where she is heading. 'Jane' awakes to find herself a monstrous whale of a woman, shrouded in pink, in a strange unrecognisable world where men are unknown, and society is made up of four 'types' of women - 'Mothers,' who spend their lives bearing babies (four at a time!) and are revered by the rest of the population; 'The Doctorate' who turn out to be the ruling class, 'Amazons' who do menial work and are built to reflect their purpose, and 'servitors', who are four feet tall and are slaves to the rest of society. Jane is bewildered by the world she finds herself in, and the strang body - that of a 'Mother - that she now inhabits. She is from our world, she has known a husband, and can't understand why there are no men in this strange world. She is determined to f ind out what has happened; how she has arrived here, and then she begins to remember... A compelling, frightening read - could it really happen...? If you're new to Wyndham , I'd start with 'The Chrysalids.' All his writing is very accessible and enagaging, but I have never known anyone read 'The Chrysalids' and not enjoy it. If you've read these three, try 'Day of the Triffids' and 'The Seeds of Time'. Wyndham is a fantastic writer, and you won't be disappointed.