4.3 18
by John Wyndham

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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

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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 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.

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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.” –

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. –

“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

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Product Details

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

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