The first Wyndham novel I have ever read was The Chrysalids, which made me a fan. Then it was followed by The Day of the Triffids, which I think should serve as a template for post-apocalyptic sci-fi novels. This weekend, I finished The Midwich Cuckoos which, although not his best work, is still one enjoyable and well-written work of science fiction.
One fateful day in the village of Midwich, all the people suddenly fall asleep. They awaken the following day feeling tired. And surprise, it turns out that all women are suddenly pregnant. Everything's attributed to the mysterious object found in the village on that same day, which mysteriously disappears the next day.
When the women more or less give birth at the same time, the village folk discover something about the babies.
'Most striking are the eyes. These appear to be quite normal in structure; the iris however, is, to the best of my knowledge, unique in its colouring, being of a bright, almost fluorescent-looking gold, and is the same shade of gold in all.
'The hair, noticeably soft and fine, is, as well as I can describe it, of a slightly darkened blond shade. In section, under the microscope, it is almost flat on one side, while the other is an arc; the shape being close to that of a narrow D. [page 96]
The people of Midwich also discover that these children grow up fast, such that after 9 years, all of them seem to have the appearance of 16-year-olds. And they find out something else -- these children act as one unit. If you teach one child how to solve a puzzle and you show the same puzzle to a different child, that child can easily solve it, as if it's encountered the puzzle before.
The Midwich Cuckoos then becomes a study of the survival of a species. The men and women of Midwich believe that, for all intents and purposes, these children are not human. The novel explores what happens when either the children or the villages are threatened. A person who attempts to kill a child eventually feels a compulsion to commit suicide or to engage in a fatal accident.
Wyndham has written a very fascinating novel. I couldn't help but picture myself in Midwich, feeling very paranoid in the company of these otherworldly children. Why have they chosen Midwich? What could be their ultimate goal on this planet? Where did they really come from? Unfortunately, these never answered. Nevertheless, these same questions make The Midwich Cuckoos a very engaging and thought-provoking read.
Read this book if:
- You like creepy-looking children.
- You believe all those stories about alien abduction and impregnation.
- You love classic works of science fiction.