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4.3 19
by John Wyndham, Christopher Priest (Introduction)

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The Chyrsalids is set in the future after a devastating global nuclear war. David, the young hero of the novel, lives in a tight-knit community of religious and genetic fundamentalists, always on the alert for any deviation from the norm of God’s creation. Abnormal plants are publicly burned, with much singing of hymns. Abnormal humans (who are not


The Chyrsalids is set in the future after a devastating global nuclear war. David, the young hero of the novel, lives in a tight-knit community of religious and genetic fundamentalists, always on the alert for any deviation from the norm of God’s creation. Abnormal plants are publicly burned, with much singing of hymns. Abnormal humans (who are not really human) are also condemned to destruction—unless they succeed in fleeing to the Fringes, that Wild Country where, as the authorities say, nothing is reliable and the devil does his work. David grows up ringed by admonitions: KEEP PURE THE STOCK OF THE LORD; WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT.

At first he does not question. Then, however, he realizes that the he too is out of the ordinary, in possession of a power that could doom him to death or introduce h im to a new, hitherto unimagined world of freedom.

The Chrysalids is a perfectly conceived and constructed work form the classic era o science fiction, a Voltairean philosophical tale that has as much resonance in our own day, when religious and scientific dogmatism are both on the march, as when it was written during the cold war.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids anticipates and surpasses many of today’s dystopian thrillers….The Chrysalids explores intolerance and bigotry with satisfying complexity as it races toward an ending that is truly unpredictable." —The Seattle Times

"One of the most thoughtful post-apocalypse novels ever written. Wyndham was a true English visionary, a William Blake with a science doctorate." — David Mitchell

"Sometimes you just need a bit of soft-core sci-fi, and Wyndham’s 1950’s classic, newly back in print, fully delivers." —Thicket Magazine

"It is quite simply a page-turner, maintaining suspense to the very end and vividly conjuring the circumstances of a crippled and menacing world, and of the fear and sense of betrayal that pervade it. The ending, a salvation of an extremely dubious sort, leaves the reader pondering how truly ephemeral our version of civilization is..." —The Boston Globe

“[Wyndham] was responsible for a series of eerily terrifying tales of destroyed civilisations; created several of the twentieth century's most imaginative monsters; and wrote a handful of novels that are rightly regarded as modern classics.” –The Observer (London)

“Science fiction always tells you more about the present than the future. John Wyndham's classroom favourite might be set in some desolate landscape still to come, but it is rooted in the concerns of the mid-1950s. Published in 1955, it's a novel driven by the twin anxieties of the cold war and the atomic bomb…Fifty years on, when our enemy has changed and our fear of nuclear catastrophe has subsided, his analysis of our tribal instinct is as pertinent as ever.” –The Guardian (London)

“[A]bsolutely and completely brilliant…The Chrysalids is a top-notch piece of sci-fi that should be enjoyed for generations yet to come.” –The Ottawa Citizen

“John Wyndham's novel The Chrysalids is a famous example of 1950s Cold War science fiction, but its portrait of a community driven to authoritarian madness by its overwhelming fear of difference - in this case, of genetic mutations in the aftermath of nuclear war - finds its echoes in every society.” –The Scotsman

“The Chrysalids comes heart-wrenchingly close to being John Wyndham's most powerful and profound work.” –SFReview.net

Re-Birth (The Chrysalids) was one of the first science fiction novels I read as a youth, and several times tempted me to take a piggy census. Returning to it now, more than 30 years later, I find that I remember vast parts of it with perfect clarity…a book to kindle the joy of reading science fiction. –SciFi.com

“A remarkably tender story of a post-nuclear childhood…It has, of course, always seemed a classic to most of its three generations of readers...It has become part of a canon of good books.” –The Guardian, September 15, 2000

Children's Literature - Judy DaPolito
This compelling science-fiction classic gradually but inexorably heightens the danger to David Strorm and the other nine children in the Waknuk region who can communicate by thought as well as by spoken word. At first, they regard their ability simply as something useful and pleasant, though they realize it is a skill they must hide from their families and the rest of the community. Waknuk is located in Labrador, long after a nuclear holocaust turned their land into an isolated place surrounded by the Wild Country, where the chance of plant, animal, and human mutation is fifty percent; the Fringes beyond that, where the chance of mutation is much greater; and, still farther out, the Badlands, where nothing grows at all and the land is like black glass. The only written records that survived the Tribulation are the Bible and a book called Nicholson's Repentances, filled with such sayings as "the norm is the will of God," the devil is the father of deviation," and "watch thou for the mutant." David's father is one of the staunchest believers that any mutation at all must be wiped out, and two of the infants born to him and his wife have disappeared at birth. Imperfect crops and animals on his farm are destroyed immediately, as are those in all the other households in the area. When David meets Sophie, a little girl with six toes on each foot, he can't reconcile the community's belief in the evil of mutation with the sweetness of the child, but when Sophie's abnormality is discovered, she is sterilized and taken to the Fringes. As the thought-communicating children grow into their late teens, one of them marries a man without that skill and allows herself to be bullied into betraying the others. David must escape to the Fringes with Rosalind, the girl he loves, and his little sister, Petra, who can send and receive thoughts over vastly greater distances than any of the others can. Because of Petra's ability, a woman from faraway Sealand, a country that still has cars and airplanes, contacts her with the intention of bringing her there to learn to control her powers and to teach others to increase theirs. The story and characters are powerful and engaging, and the novel's attention to the ethical excesses of science and religion is as timely today as it was in the 1950's. This edition includes an introduction by Christopher Priest. Reviewer: Judy DaPolito

Product Details

New York Review Books
Publication date:
NYRB Classics Series
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Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.48(d)

Meet the Author

John Wyndham is the pen name of John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris (1903–1969), the son of an English barrister. The boy’s parents separated when he was eight, and after attending various boarding schools, he lived off family money while trying his hand—unsuccessfully—at careers such as law, commercial illustration, and advertising. In 1924 he turned to writing, and within a number of years he was selling short stories, mostly science fiction, to pulp magazines in America, as John Beynon or John Beynon Harris. During World War II, he served behind the lines in the British army, and in 1951 he published The Day of the Triffids, his first novel as John Wyndham, and a tremendous success. John Wyndham’s six other novels include The Kraken Wakes and The Midwich Cuckoos.

Christopher Priest has published eleven novels, three short-story collections, and a number of other books, including critical works, biographies, novelizations, and children’s nonfiction. In 1996 Priest won the World Fantasy Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel The Prestige. His most recent novel, The Separation, won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Science Fiction Association Award.

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The Chrysalids 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
mwalimuman More than 1 year ago
"Chrysalids" is a must read. I am no science fiction fan. Most of my reading is in history, science, religion and politics. However, in this day of advanced discoveries in brain research, DNA, human evolution as well as modern religious fundamentalism and fanaticism Chrysalids is more understandable and meaningful now than when it was written. First published in 1955, I read it in 1958 and again in 1964. The book has remained vivid in mind for more than 45 years of teaching high school and college. I did not like the final pages of the book. It's trite "deux ex machina," but that does not take away from the quality of the story up to that point. I like to believe he had a publisher on his back beating him to meet a deadline. Often I have used items in the story as examples for a variety of classes. In 2009 I came across a copy on bookstore shelf. I bought it to see if I truly remembered what the story included. Only one detail in the story was forgotten. I still totally enjoyed it, found more meaning in it, except, as before, the last few pages. All of it held for all these years. Lastly, John Wyndham is one of the two authors for whom I have read more than three books. I have been ordering reprints of others of his novels and enjoying them. "Chrysalids" remains the overwhelming favorite. "Day of the Triffids" is still fun and better than others in the same vein. It was made into a horribly bad movie. The story still stands on its own, but you will see reflections of recent movies in it. I saw three movies based on the "Midwich Cuckoos," all similarly horrible films as "Day of the Triffids." But the book is still a good one in its descriptions and characterizations. At a minimum, you must read "Chrysalids."
Lizzie-B More than 1 year ago
As a child, I loved the vividly drawn interactions among the characters and their families and neighbors. I wished I could be friends with David and Sophie, and I wondered how brave I would be if I were faced with such danger.

As an adult, I think the themes of curtailing individual rights and controlling the pursuit of science remain thought-provoking and topical.

No, this is not great literature, but Wyndham is a fine storyteller. This is an engaging, enjoyable book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book has some interesting ideas in it. even though it was definetly sci-fi, it seemed to be a realistic world and was put together in a believable way. excellent book, but the beginning confused me a lot- it made more sense the second time through.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I originally read this novel when I was in grade school, and have loved it since. Titled 'Rebirth', it told the story of a young man who was different in a society that weeded out difference with a vengance. Set in a post-appocalyptic world, any deviation from the norm is considered taboo and is immediately dealt with, either by destruction or exile. The hero of the story discovers that he has a profound difference, telepathy, but it is not noticeable. Tutored by an uncle, who had sufferd a great loss because of the prejudice in his community, the hero learns to hide his mutation and leads a normal life until his sister is born. She is a dramatic telepath, and he realizes that if he doesn't protect her, she will be eliminated as a deviant. Through a course of dreams, he contacts others like himself and his sister, and in a desperate attempt at survival, they set out to meet their saviours. A timeless tale that captures the imagination and heart of anyone who has ever had to deal with prejudice in order to protect someone they love.
224perweek More than 1 year ago
Of all the older books I have read, this is by far my favorite. It's almost like reading poetry. A little hard to understand at time but beautiful. The story line is so involving. I could barely put it down. Now I want to read all of John Wyndham's books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I too read this novel back when I was in Grade 9, and I must admit, it is a very good book. Within these pages, we see how faith and paranoia work together to root out 'abnormalities', passing them off as works of the bad. It is in this book that one gets to connect with the characters and encourage them during their flight from bigotry to salvation. In the end, we can reflect: What does society today pass off as bad? Is it really? and why do people think of it as being so? This novel is truly a cataclyst for the mind, as all good literature are.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is the best book i have ever read. It makes you feel special for what you are but at the sametime makes you notice how the human race has the effect to shun people out of their life when they don't deserve. It makes you notice that it is possible to change and that whatever someone says you have to do. It dwells deeply into the beating of children and discriminates against the folk who have been mutated due to nuclear war. I suggest reading this book if you like excitement and gracefulness to.
Guest More than 1 year ago
it took me a while to get to understand and to look into it but as i went it was boring at first but now i love it so much i would read it a second time
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Wyndham¿s novel, The Crysalids is a futuristic portrayal of survival amongst breeds. This book appeals to people of all ages. The basic content for the novel might be a little too mature for the average grade school student, but the ideas the novel supply are very appealing to most anybody. The idea that the future of the world, is the complete opposite of most people¿s ideologies, is very fascinating to the reader. This novel forces the reader to think, and in turn teaches them a moral lesson. The character¿s conceptions on the world as they know it, are very engaging as well. They see basic animals, such as the monkey, as an unbalanced human being, which holds the image of the devil. The special ability of the selected children appeals to the reader as a reader¿s fantasy. Many people throughout the world wish to hold the same powers as these few kids. This novel allows the readers to imagine themselves as having this unique ability. I would recommend The Crysalids, to anybody who loves an interesting novel and can allow their imaginations to unfold with the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read 'Chrysalids' yesterday. I enjoyed much of it--the middle much (the beginning and end made all too apparent the silliness of the story--and I read rapidly to avoid stumbling over Wyndham's occasionally clumsy prose and narrative lacunae). Nevertheless, I find--I'm afraid--, 'Chrysalids' fundamentally and irredeemably flawed. 1) In the preface to a collection of what he calls his 'scientific fantasies' bound in a single volume, H. G. Wells explains how he sought in them to introduce just one strange element and to make the rest as realistic and matter-of-fact as possible. Wyndham in 'Chrysalids', on the other hand, piles various unrelated or only loosely related fancies atop one another, suffocating whatever point he wished to make and concocting something of an aesthetic eyesore. 2) The real world problems underlying the fancies of 'Chrysalids' are summarized most succinctly in this passage from its page 186: 'If they ['the Old People', that is, us] had not brought down Tribulation [engaged in nuclear war] which all but destroyed them; then they would have bred with the carelessness of animals until they had reduced themselves to poverty and misery, and ultimately to starvation and barbarism [they would have over-populated the planet--though the immediate effects of over-population are subtler and more insidious than that].' How do the characters in 'Chrysalids' grapple with these problems? They don't; they magically turn into butterflies and flit away to Emerald City. Very pretty for some, no doubt, but the point of science fiction is to make us think, not to lull us to sleep.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This totally futuristic book was one of my literature texts for school and it was DEFINATELY THE BEST ONE! It holds your interest from begining to end bringing a story which in time could become a reality to life. Not to mention making you want more of it in the end. I recommend this book to anyone who believes the future of the world might not be as great as we think it will. Or will it...
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ok it looks a bit rubbish but what did i know. I thought but it looks rubbish why read it but I read a bit and from then on I was hooked. I finnished it and read it again not being able to put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
wow what a breathtaking book. It was interesting and imaginative from the word go. It really kept my attention, I would highly recommend it
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is thought provoking and deeply imaginative, what with it's thought-shapes and such. I enjoyed it thoroughly and would recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy or science fiction - a worthy read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've hated literature classes ever since I was a kid. They make us cover the subject in the most boring way u can ever imagine..... till one day we were made to read chrysalids, it was so thought provoking ... I am mesmerized... from then on literature class took on a whole new meaning. I have never been so captured by any fiction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Chrysalids was probably the best book ever written by John Wyndham. It has such imagination and creativity, and the characters are great too. If you want a great Sci-Fi book, I highly suggest that you read 'The Chrysalids'
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a book many children aged nine or ten to twelve or so might enjoy, but I would not have my own read it and I don't recommend you have yours read it. It teaches them the wrong lessons. It tells us that problems are best ignored, that you don't have to ever grow up if you don't want to. It encourages xenophobia and paranoia (in the popular, non-clinical sense of the word) and--I don't know how to put this delicately--cold-blooded violence. (Although the adult psyche will probably prove impervious, I recommend it for only those adults with a high tolerance for simplistic drivel and badly constructed prose.)