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Customer reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
27
3.5 out of 5 stars
Plan for Chaos: Classic Science Fiction
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on 8 September 2017
Good story, as with all john wyndham stories
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on 26 February 2015
I found this to be a very interesting 'lost' work. Written during an eighteen month gap in the middle of Day Of The Triffids, Plan For Chaos, from a 21st century perspective, throws up some interesting questions and shows that Wyndham looked at things differently to most. Both the basis of this story and the technology have to be viewed from a late 1940s point of view but they work well, in a SciFi meets Crime Noir fashion. I rather enjoyed the hapless hero, Johnny. His apparent ineptitude and obvious shortcomings work well to emphasise the scale of the plot.

To anyone buying this, I would not expect you to be disappointed. However, I found the Introduction, which I read first, a little off-putting and, having read the book, I disagree with it. I know. A little pedantic but, if you're reading Wyndham, you probably are, too.

The introduction harps on, at some length, about the confused heritage and 'voice' of the narrator, implying that it detracts from the novel. I disagree. This is not unusual in Wyndham. Disorientation in the narrator is common in his writing, as is a complicated lineage. Chocky, and The Outward Urge, for example. His narrators are usually people with particular skills, but out of their comfort zone. Triffids, Kraken Wakes, Chrysalids, etc. As much as I enjoyed the story, it was nice to see a writer in transition and my impression is that he started Triffids, wasn't clear on what he wanted with it then, wrote this and decided to go in a singular direction with Day Of The Triffids. Well worth reading.
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on 28 October 2010
Having read several negative reviews i almost did not get this book. In the end i bought it because it was the last Wyndham book i did not have. It is much better than the reviews would imply and if you have read other wyndham books and enjoyed them then you will enjoy this. there is alot of humour throughout the book whether it was intended or not. The only minor flaw is trying to be more american than the americans with the use of certain american phrases or words. Well worth getting.
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on 26 February 2011
I had to have this book; I've been a Wyndham fan for forty years since a teacher who I'll never forget introduced me to possibly my all-time favourite book- "The Chrysalids". This is not in the same league, but is highly enjoyable.

It's full of puzzles. At the time of its initial writing, stealth technology and German flying saucers were surely rather radical concepts; it made me wonder if this was someone creating or re-creating a Wyndham novel, but given the academic support for this, it has to be accepted as given.

In the early chapters particularly, it feels like Wyndham was trying to achieve a strong American appeal, which is fair given the market in the US, I suppose.

The story- well, I haven't read Ira Levin's "The Boys From Brazil", just seen-and tried to forget- the execrable film- it's all pretty complete, and told in Wyndham's preferred first person style; the protagonist is familiar Wynham, which is to say, real (not always realistic) and flawed; certainly no superhero, but a good guy in a complex situation.

Needs to be added to any Wyndham collection; not perfect, but worth a read, and certainly no worse than "Web".

I think overall this book gives me a link between Wyndham's pre-war work, and the later novels from "The Day of the Triffids" onwards.
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on 28 January 2010
Well, I nearly didn't buy this book because of the previous review, and I'm glad I changed my mind. First off, the previous reviewer is quite right that it is far away from the classic Wyndhams both in terms of subject matter and quality of writing - so please don't expect it to be terrific because if you do, you will be disappointed.
But it is a perfectly OK sort of read - a Boys from Brazil/Archangel type thing (tho writing standards not up to Harris!). It has suited me perfectly for a couple of evenings while not wanting any sort of challenge. And if you are at all a Wyndham aficionado you may well be interested at the points where the style is recognisably him. The main problem of the book is, I think, correctly identified in the introduction - the hero/narrator lacks the clear voice that is so characteristic of Wyndham's better novels and without that one is not brought into the action and over the weak bits of plotting. One stands outside judging the book far more than in any of the others. It may well be right that part of this problem is created by Wyndham's decision to make Johnny Farthing a cultural misfit - in that he ahs lived many places and sounds wrong in all of them. I suspect that part is also about the difficulty for the author of identfying with him in circumstances where (without entirely giving away the plot) he doesnt physically stand out very distinctly - Trollope always said he wrote with a picture of his heroes and heriones always clear in his mind.
Anyway, I would say it is worth a read just out of interest if you ever really liked John Wyndham - just don't expect too much ...
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on 17 January 2015
Plan for Chaos is fascinating. Think of cloning and the Boys from Brazil, or think of Reagan’s Star Wars programme, or North Korea’s enterprise in electronic warfare.

Wyndham got there first, and he got it right. Another achievement of this extraordinary Englishman.

No more spoilers, but it moves well, and the interplay of motivations in the second half of the story is a delight. The development is logical, the Male Protagonist is no action hero, he’s an everyman caught up in something dreadful, able to report, but not influence events. The Female Protagonist is again typical Wyndham, tougher minded than the male, but sympathetically drawn.

There are the occasional lectures that appear in all Wyndham novels, but they fit. They explain the motivations and the backgrounds. Skip them on first read if you wish, but go back and read them more carefully afterwards. They are worth it, they complete the story, and more importantly they make you question your own certainties about right and wrong.

Having said all that, it’s not perfect. The biggest flaw, and the one that stopped it being published was his attempt to set the opening chapters in the USA. It doesn’t work. It might have been less obvious it he had just produced another pulp sci-fi like so many other UK writers did, but here he is speaking for the first time in his true voice, and that voice is clearly English, and an educated upper-middle class Southern England one at that. Put that in New York and it just does not fit.

What he should have done is set it in England, the England he knew and lived in. The plot need not have changed much, but the book would have been immeasurably better. However there seems to be a received wisdom amongst USA publishers that USA readers are not bright enough to cope with long words or with non-American heros (that’s why “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” became “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in the USA). That seems rather patronising to me.

Wyndham certainly does have long words. My English is pretty good, but even I had to look up “objurgation”. but that is his style, an educated literary style, and it doesn’t seem to have stopped quite a few Americans reading “Day of the Triffids”.

There’s one other flaw, the ending seems rushed, as if he’d dashed something off, then never got round to revising it. Maybe that’s what happened, or maybe it’s just Wyndham being more interested in his characters than in the catastophe that they live through. He had developed his characters to the point he wanted, so he felt it better to stop the story than to carry on into long irrelevance.

So – flaws, yes, but well worth it, and I’m glad to have had the chance of once more reading that quiet, restrained English voice describe horrors far worse than any cheap pulp shocker.
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on 2 July 2012
The book doesn't start terribly well, especially if you're on the look out for the unconvincing semi-American voice of the lead. Then it gets into its stride and becomes rather an intriguing mystery. I think 2/3rds of the book is rather enjoyable. It is when the mystery is essentially solved that things decline rapidly. I'm a real Wyndham fan and I usually like the way his lead characters are essentially unassuming, normal people but Freda, his fiancé, seems so lacking in emotion that I began to believe she might have some sinister motives. Their relationship never gets very exciting because neither have much in the way of personality: as the plot comes almost to a halt this becomes more painfully obvious. The hero seems impotent: wandering around in a state of mild confusion, not knowing what side to take and the reader has no option but to feel the same. When the factions of clones compete for power it is intrinsically uninteresting since they rather inevitably are largely indistinguishable. If you're interested in Wyndham, read it, otherwise stop after Triffids, Chocky, Kraken and the other good ones.
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on 10 November 2015
Interesting.... I'm glad I read it: big fan of the author. But I can see why it was never published. Wyndham often wrote (I have observed) in the first person and - as such - did it well and was believable because (I think) the maxim "write about what you know" was embraced by him: all of the characters in novels like Chrysalids and Triffids and Kraken are, in teir own way, someone who the author seems familiar with and you view the (often quite anglophilic) worlds he created through their/his eyes.

His attempt to make the main character 'Nordic/American" come British fails pretty miserably and the enclosed environments he pushes the characters through feel badly defined and quite unreal. Finally, the plot seemed to plod on repetitively and lack any real idea of where it was going and instead seemed to boil down to a series of speeches about women in control of the planet and Nazis.

I gave it 2 stars rather than 1 simply because it is stuffed with some clever ideas and worth reading for them but.... not his best work: quite amateurish, in fact.
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on 7 November 2014
It's intriguing that the reviews for this book vary so much. Personally I think the reviewer that commented, 'a flawed but intriguing curiosity' was right. I'd even go a little further and say it's so deeply flawed it's a struggle to get to the end. This book has been published long after Wyndham's death and it's quite likely he was greatly dissatisfied with it (perhaps why it wasn't published while he was alive). Within in it Wyndham seems to aim for a hard boiled American feel and it just doesn't work. If you haven't read all of Wyndham's other novels and short stories I'd say read those first. Web was published soon after is death and is a much more satisfying read than this. If you have read everything else by Wyndham you may want this out of curiosity. I would have given it one star but the introduction by Christopher Priest is worth two stars alone. In the blurb it says it's a companion to Day of the Triffids - I failed to find any link whatsoever. Perhaps Triffids is as good as this is bad...
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VINE VOICEon 28 November 2010
This gets off to a stuttering start, though the problem has less to do with the pulpy plot than with the unconvincing narrative voice. However once the novel got going (although it has to be said the whole thing was somewhat disjointed) I did think there was some real narrative drive, and something intriguing about the way the scenario played out, ludicrous though its premise was. The character of Freda, and the relationship between her and Johnny Farthing, was curious, and such subtly off key notes seemed more authentically Wyndhamesque than the more lurid aspects of the story. `Plan for Chaos' anticipates the exploration of one possible future for humanity in the more accomplished 1956 short story `Consider Her Ways'. Yes, this probably is for diehard Wyndham fans, but as long as you don't expect too much you won't be too disappointed.
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