on 30 August 2011
For those from the all-action `Star Wars generation' of sci-fi fans, this tale of an insidiously growing menace in sleepy rural England may be difficult to acclimatise to. Instead of a power wielding, baddy zapping superhero, the central character is an elderly, ponderous sociology professor, whose long winded discourses challenge the attention spans of his family, friends, public officials and, of course the reader. Once again, Wyndham is unafraid to present us with an unusual protagonist.
The first few chapters are a beautifully crafted first person account of the alien visitation. I especially liked the `bird's eye view' of what individual villagers were doing at the moment the phenomenon started. Wyndham gives us a likable neighbour in each character, with just the right balance of humour to offset the creepiness (LOL at the description of the Leebodies' contest of scholarship over piffle!)
Regrettably, the standard of writing peaks early and the middle section flounders in a mix of 1950s philosophical debate and past action scenes disappointingly relayed through dialogue. More than once I felt detached from the plight of the villagers. It seemed that the principle characters were living in an upper-middle class bubble: more interested in academic discussion than finding solutions. I misjudged them. If an action hero develops his strength through combat, an intellectual develops his through observation, discussion and serious thought. The pace picks up again in the final chapters and I was kept guessing right up to the last two pages.
One passage that raised a smile was Wyndham using his characters to have a gentle poke at the bang-crash-aliens-zapping-humans sci-fi literature that he is clearly reacting to in this novel. Anyone thinking about contributing to this genre should read TMC; the place of quiet human reasoning in a culture known for violent conflict is certainly something worth thinking about.
on 7 July 2012
It's a shame you can't review the writing and the format separately. John Wyndham's writing is impeccable, well deserving of five stars. It's an incredible book that's well worth reading. However I brought the RosettaBooks into Film Kindle edition. The text was so riddled with typo's and grammatical errors it became painful; they completely ruined the book. The formatting was downright rubbish. At least once a page you'd see words that ran into each other. The fact that I'd paid close to a fiver for something so poorly executed just leaves me feeling robbed. It isn't a very long book, it would have taken someone a couple of hours at most to just proofread it and correct the errors, but no. So by all means buy the book, I doubt you'll regret it, but my advice would be to cut the Kindle Edition a very, very wide berth.
This is an enjoyable version of John Wyndham's classic tale. I'd read the book quite a few years back, thick I'd seen excerpts from the film and of course watched THAT Simpson's episode!!
So now it was time to hear as Frank Zappa so eloquently put it 'this movie for your ears'.
First things first it has the BBC logo and is a full cast dramatisation so that is an indication that this will be something good. The cover is striking evokes the tale well 2 CDs so we can imagine a good two parter dramatisation. And that is dear reader what you get a really entertaining version of the book.
Now to the plot.
I don't suppose for one moment I am a plot spoiler the story is, I believe, well known by now.
Briefly an English Village, Midwich, has a strange occurrence one night.
No one can get into the village because it is surrounded by a perfect circle of 'influence'.
Any one walking towards that circle is hit by a 'force' within the head that causes the people to pass out.
Within the circle every living thing is lying on the floor.
We do not know if they are dead or what.
Thankfully about 18 hours later they recover and the circle is open.
Now a few months later each and every woman of childbearing capability is pregnant.
Now this poses a dilemma. Wives whose husbands have been away from over 9 months and unmarried virgins have problems.
Each child is born on the same day in June.
I hope this whets your appetite for the story because it is different than the movie version.
By the end of the first disc the babies are not even born and this gives you an indication that this drama really is telling a story and in my opinion is telling it well. The tension and suspense are really slowly cranked up little by little and the writer and adaptor are to be praised.
A big surprise and joy was that a leading role is played by Bill Nighey, and he is simply wonderful. He has a great voice for radio and really brings the role as narrator to life.
The rest of the cast give good support and the story and drama are really enjoyable.
I will not give away the ending!
But I really envy your journey in getting there.
on 8 November 2012
The story itself is great, quite possibly a classic, however, this edition has the most spelling, grammatical and general errors I have ever seen in a book I have paid for.
Many times the spaces between the first word of a sentence and the second are missing and other words are replace by similar sounding ones, ie five replaces live. It almost seems that it was dictated and never proof read - be warned.
on 27 September 2002
Surely the hardest thing for a Science Fiction writer - or any writer for that matter - to acheive is to make the paranormal sound beleiveable. John Wyndham makes it look so easy that by the time you've finished one of his books you feel ready to pick up a pen and write one yourself.
The Midwich Cuckoos is impeccably written, easy to read, and extremely well thought out. Wyndham provides a broad pallete of characters unrivalled in most Science Fiction, each of whom expresses a different, thoroughly beleivable opinion/reaction to the bizzare coming of the "Midwich Cuckoos". What is important is that Wyndham never loses focus of the central characters, so that the book is, in the end, more about people than aliens/spaceships etc.
The point I'm trying to make here (not very coherently) is that whereas most Science Fiction centers around action and fanciful phenomenon, Wyndham's work never loses touch of humanity. He has a keen ear for the voice of post-war England, and a keen eye towards the behaviour of men and women who are 'up against it.' In this way the Midwich Cuckoos is a very English book and as acute a piece of social observation of 1950's village life as you are likely to find.
If none of this wittering makes any sense then allow me to sumarise: The Midwich Cuckoos is an superbly written, elegantly crafted work of Science Fiction that you really have to read.
Viewers of the excellent early film version of this may feel disappointed: the pace is slow, there is lots of dialogue, and the characters are hard to grasp. What's more, the children are more of a threatening presence - they cannot even be told apart reliably - than the active individuals of the film. But if the reader sticks with it, there are great rewards to be found.
First, the principal story is about the village, Midwich, which is as normal a place in the English countryside as one can imagine. There is an extraordinary series of events, first a blackout of all residents in a well defined perimeter, and then the realization that all women of child-bearing age are simultaneously pregnant, about 60 women. The full first third of the novel portrays how residents attempt to deal with the pregnancies, how they establish a kind of solidarity between themselves, that will later prove brittle and prone to violence. It is here that the complex characters are estalished in a brilliant way that is imortant later.
Second, there is the enigma of the children, whose attributes are nothing short of extraordinary, in that they appear to have two massminds, one for girls and the other for boys. They are all able to impell the villagers to behave in certain ways, as in disallowing them to leave Midwich in a time of crisis. As they all appear to be clones, no individuals emerge. What is so wonderful is that so little is explained - virtually all of the action takes place off-stage, including what the children are planning beyond their survival. They remain a splendid mystery with cunningly placed details for the reader to piece together; many interpretations are possible, if the reader enjoys that kind of exercise of the imagination. Interestingly, it is never clear whether or not they can read minds, which is only implied obliquely, and there are limits to what they can see.
Third, the reader never gets a clearly defined meaning for it all, beyond the fact that they are alien and constitute a threat, perhaps to humanity as a whole. Instead, the main characters speculate on it and discuss it, with some very unusual ideas floating about. This too can be great fun, but again, it is piecing together hints. I was left with a sense of mystery at the complexity of the universe, which is such a delight to a middle-aged mind!
Finally, there is the action that a village leader decides to take. While there is very little actual violence, it is always a threat of dread to all the villagers. For all appearences out of character, the leader proves decisive and even prescient. But again, unlike the movie, very little of the final struggle is spelled out.
This is a splendid vehicle for the lively imagination. It is also very British, which will put many American readers off, as we explect clear and fast-paced action, unequivocal explanations, and a wrap-up (with the possibiltiy of a sequel). What you get is a large social drama with subtle characters, the recognition of a new "threat of the jungle" that is never defined and whose meaning remains a delicious mystery. Warmly recommended.
on 28 August 2002
A very well-written piece of sci-fi. John Wyndham has achieved a beautifully realised feeling of tension and an ominous foreboding as the book progresses, particularly after the mention of the fate of the Children of Gizhinsk towards the end. What I particularly find remarkable about this novel is that Wyndham has the ability to make the reader totally aware of the confused and mixed emotions of Midwich's inhabitants after the "birth" of the Children and I find the book all the more better for it.
A classic piece of sci-fi that deserves a place in the bookshelf of any sci-fi fan.
This was a very eerie, disturbing read. I guess that most people are now familiar with the concept of the story. The novel deals with a whole lot of complicated issues - the division of people, attitudes and morals in a small town is easily reflective in modern society. This novel deals with so many different issues, it can make you mental trying to distinguish them all but here's a few: the mass fear taht can arise when humans are faced with something they don't understand and doesn't readily fit into their morals, attitudes and what they have been taught; the inability to see the opportunities of welcoming and trying to understand those things; it shows how division in attitude, morals, religion and custom can divide a town leading to mass hysteria and violence.
It also complicates all the above issues with this one:
What do you do if your child, a product of your own body, something you care for, look after, guide and love turns out to have ideas, concepts and methods that are almost the exact opposite of what you have tried to instil in them? What if they turn out to be manipulative, destructive, controlling and in the end downright evil? How far would you go to keep your faith in that child, continue to defend it and love it knowing that it was capable of committing hideously evil deeds? How do you deal with a child taht knows you are under its control and that you are terrified of it?
This book was brilliant and should be read - it's fairly short so there's no danger of it becoming too overboard or tedious adn I guarantee taht the children will freak you out!!!
Wyndham does it again with 'The Midwich Cuckoo' where he provides a book that immediately captures the imagination and then keeps you hooked to the final resolution. His style is deceptively simple and yet the descriptions are rich and give full flesh to the story. The film 'Village Of The Damned' was based on this book ad if you know that film you will be aware of the basic premise. Without giving anything away, this book follows life in a village where everyone is rendered unconscious for a 24 hour period and on awakening all the females have become pregnant. We then see how the village deals with this unexpected occurrence and what happen once the babies start being born. The ending leaves you satisfied and clears up most loose ends and for a short novel this manages to pack in a lot of detail and intrigue. It is very stylised, based on post WW2 Britain, but non the weaker for it. If you like Sci-fi then this will be right up your street, but even for those who aren't too keen on that genre this is written with such verve and style that you can easily read and enjoy this in it's own right. Well worth a look.
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This is the novel for which John Wyndham is best remembered. Written at the height of the Cold War between East and West, it is a metaphor for the vast differences in political cultures which existed at that time. The village of Midwich is cut off from the world for 24 hours without any reason. Months later, many of the local women give birth to children who look remarkably alike. Cold and indifferent, the children establish their own culture despite misgivings by the Establishment. It soon becomes apparant that the children have unusual gifts, telepathy; telekinis, and are becoming a danger to the established order. I wont reveal the ending of course. Overall, its a beautifully written book and should be read by a new generation of sc-fi fans.