John Wyndham is often described in rather disparaging term as the main proponent of cosy catastrophe
. This based on the allegation that his protagonists tend to be English middle class white males who are not much inconvenienced by the apocalypse, somehow continuing to live it up while the rest of the populace suffer. Having read three of his books I find that while the allegation is not entirely unwarranted it is also not quite fair. I hope to write more about this issue when I get around to reviewing [b: The Day of the Triffids|530965|The Day of the Triffids|John Wyndham|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320530145s/530965.jpg|188517].
However, there can be no justification in calling The Chrysalids
a cosy catastrophe or cosy anything. There is even a quote in the novel that addresses this issue:“This isn't a nice cosy world for anyone—especially not for anyone that's different,' he said. 'Maybe you're not the kind to survive it, after all”
David Strorm, the telepathic protagonist and his telepathic friends certainly do not have a good time lording it up to anybody. They live in a rural region called Labrador ruled by fascistic religious zealots. In this post apocalypse world the “Tribulation” (nuclear holocaust) has caused wide spread mutations among all life forms, and mutations of any kind are regarded as blasphemies: “And any creature that shall seem to be human, but is not formed thus is not human. It is neither man nor woman. It is blasphemy against the true Image of God, and hateful in the sight of God.”
Even minor ones like a small extra toe will lead to exile or death. The discovery of mental deviation (telepathy) practically causes panic among the ruling zealots and the telepaths are immediately regard as a threat to humanity and pursued.
While [b: The Day of the Triffids|530965|The Day of the Triffids|John Wyndham|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320530145s/530965.jpg|188517] is Wyndham’s best known work, The Chrysalids
is often cited as his best. It is not hard to see why. Beside being a fast paced thrilling story the underlying message of the story is also heartfelt. The book is clearly a metaphor for the plight of ethnic minorities and the disenfranchised. Compared to the other Wyndhams that I have read The Chrysalids
is the most compassionate. The plea for tolerance is already evident early on in the book where the narrative focuses on a charming innocuous friendship between the outwardly normal David Strorm and a nice little girl called Sophie. Sophie is almost
normal except for a small extra toe on each foot. Once her “deviancy” is discovered the friendship has to come to an abrupt end and she has to go on the run with her family.The Chrysalids
is a wonderful and highly readable little novel (around 200 pages). It reads a little like a YA book due to the age of the central characters, however, in spite of the fairly straightforward plot it is quite profound and moving. The prose is very nicely written, the narrative compelling and highly readable. This book can be an ideal gateway for new readers to the genre, and a must-read for fans of “old school” science fiction.