First, a stern warning. This isn’t a piece for any person looking a laser beam sci-fi thriller, or Mad Max Road Warrior “after the Bomb” book. Or if you’re some Senior High School kid who only picked it up ‘cos “teacher made me”… drop it now and get on with getting that Cheer Leader’s telephone number.
Wyndham’s visionary and literary genius is best shown within this, his finest work. His better known novel, Day Of The Triffids, superb as it is, pales by comparison. The Chrysalids is a novel that ends on a positive, but very credible note: it has none of the self-indulgent anti-Romanticism of Neuromancer, nor the saccharine ‘utopia-ism’ of Star Trek at its worst.
The story itself, cunningly weaves many
amounts of understanding.
Being a sci-fi pageturner,
we have a story
the near future
in which a boy conceals his telepathy
from a neo-Luddite Fundamentalist community bent on destroying
including the slightest physical deviation. There’s adventure aplenty
just like a damn good yarn!
But because a polemic against the excesses of any kind of Fundamentalism whether’scientistic’ or ‘anti-scientistic’, the novel reaches its heights. This is a watershed for almost any sensitive reader, professional or layman, who is agonising over the tensions our world faces today.
This novel, first published in 1955 stands as a worthy “mirror” companion to Huxley’s Brave New World. Huxley’s dystopia displays the evil false religion of unquestioned Technophilia, and the flaws of barbaric Romanticism. Wyndham’s novel is less hampered by Huxley’s sophisticated intellectual style; his conflicts are more urgent and pressing, his characters better drawn, warmer and much more ‘human’. We’re feeling the poignancy and pathos in the suffering and death of unhappy, ‘deformed’ Sophie.
We appreciate the honesty, courage, tenacity and good commonsense of David. He is a worthy hero, as well as one with whom we quickly side. And these characters of Wyndham’s struggle in a post nuclear holocaust world that is chillingly credible. A great deal of it is so close to our very own daily truths. The actual truths of The Chrysalids reveal Wyndham’s keen intelligence and wisdom in Man’s ways. Some individuals will invariably attempt to suppress the hand of Nature; to freeze progress and forever keep Mankind a crawling grub.
A few will try to seize the wings of immortality through artificial wombs of technology. While others still, will permit Nature to work her very own miracles and, while living and letting live, will successfully emerge in to the joyous flight of any body free from a restricted mind. Wyndham’s positive ending, for his heroes escape to a land where the last of those ideologies prevails, makes The Chrysalids a manuscript full of hope and promise.