August 26, 2014

The Midwich Cuckoos - John Wyndham

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Title: The Midwich Cuckoos
Author: John Wyndham
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release date: 1960
Pages: 220


* From ten-seventeen that night, information about Midwich becomes episodic. Its telephones remained dead. The bus that should have passed failed to reach Stouch, and a truck that went to look for the bus did not return. A notification from the R.A.F. was received in Trayne of some unidentified flying object, not, repeat npt, a service machine, detected by radar in the Midwich area, possibly making a forced landing.*

The clutch that was fathered on the quiet little villafe of Midwich, one night in September, proved to possess a monstrous will of its own. It promised to make the human race look as dated as the dinosaur.

 * Who are these children? There's something about the way they ook at one with those curious eyes They are - strangers, you know.*

In the small countryside village of Midwich nothing unusual ever happens… until the Dayout. It looked like a normal day, but suddenly everything stopped: no animal or human being inside Midwich could move; no animal or human being outside Midwich could enter the village. It was then assumed that everything simply went back to normal, but it soon turned out that it was not the case.
In the first part of the book John Wyndham describes Midwich, a small English village in the 1950s. He introduces the most important characters, namely Richard Gayford, the narrator, Bernard Westcott, one of his friends and member of the military and Gordon Zellaby, an old academic from the village. It is interesting to notice that the protagonists represent different levels of involvement in the Midwich affair: Gordon Zellaby is part of the village and therefore involved from the very beginning until the very end; Richard Gayford lives in Midwich, but was in London when the Dayout occurred and so there is some distance between him and the events taking place; finally, Bernard Westcott is not linked to Midwich in any way, but becomes interested in the matter after the Dayout. By following them in their task to solve the problems caused by the Dayout, the readers are given the opportunity to compare them, which makes it even more interesting.
The first part shows how normal Midwich is and offers a great contrast with the second part, in which the strangeness of the affair becomes clear. Although everything seems to have come back to normal after the Dayout, the villagers soon notice that all the women are pregnant and that the babies they give birth too are not like other human children at all. As time goes by, the powers of the Children become more and more disturbing, threatening the quietness of the village… and maybe even that of humanity.
In order to fully enjoy this book, one must keep in mind that it was written in 1957, that is before alien invasions became so popular in science-fiction books. There are no fight between aliens and humans, we do not even see much of them –apart from the Children, of course– but we feel their presence all the time and that is one of the strengths of the book. The mystery of the Dayout creates an atmosphere of expectation and suspense, which is confirmed with each small episode in relation to the Children.
Later on in the book, when there is no doubt that the Children are not human beings, the author raises fundamental questions about humanity and survival. John Wyndham also goes into philosophical thoughts about civilisation and the creation of the world, mixing biological theories and fiction.
Although I enjoyed the book, I have one criticism regarding the characters. I found that they were not developed enough and most importantly, that the women had no part in the story –when they should, in my opinion, given that they are the one who gave birth to the Children. Varying the point of view would have added to the depth of the plot, but I suppose it would have been unusual at the time of publishing. It is nevertheless a good book, which I recommend to anybody interests in fine science-fiction and dystopia.


* In short * 
A threat to humanity?

Between science-fiction and dystopia, the Midwich Cuckoos is a thrilling book about alien invasion which shows how mystery can enter the daily life of a normal village and change it forever. John Wyndham uses suspense and mystery to raise fundamental questions about human life and survival which will give you food for thought!

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