Kirsty's Reviews > The Midwich Cuckoos

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
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's review
May 20, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: speculative-and-scifi
Read from May 18 to 20, 2011

I first came across John Wyndham's work when on a dystopia kick around two years ago; how I managed to remain ignorant to his work prior to this is something I find mildly embarrassing, and only wish I'd discovered his novels much earlier. I started with The Chrysalids, and found myself fascinated; I quickly moved on to The Day of the Triffids and was even more impressed. Wyndham's ability to examine societal response to the unknown and feared is probably only surpassed by his vision for horrors that are all too easy to imagine coming to pass.

And so, I approached The Midwich Cuckoos with a heightened level of excitement. The only prior experience I had with the plot came from a Simpsons Halloween special, and it wasn't until after I'd delved deeply in that I became aware of its horror-genre adaptations; suffice to say, the plot was more or less unseen to me, and, to its credit, mostly unpredictable. I wish I could continue to praise the tale, but beyond the first half being an 'easy read' (I devoured the first 120 pages in around two hours), I'm struggling to find positivity to relate.

I found The Midwich Cuckoos far more sociological and psychological a read than science-fiction, as it is so frequently touted. Wyndham's descriptions of communal coping strategies are, on face value, interesting, but in print simply drone on and on, to the point that I regularly found myself jumping to the end of heavy blocks of text, due to either having switched off or feeling that a point had been driven home hard enough to require no further emphasis. These drawn-out explanations seemed to be included at the expense of making the plot interesting -- the handful of attempts at building suspense feel rushed, tacked on to the end of Wyndham's (through the character of Gordon Zellaby) seemingly endless pontifications about human existence under threat.

Many science-fiction classics find their beginnings in short-story form, and are carefully elaborated into novels that sate the literary appetite of the reader. The Midwich Cuckoos, however, seems to be the precise opposite of such a process -- rather, it feels like a story trying to be bigger than it actually is, and is unnecessarily padded out with ethical debates that, whilst may be of interest to a certain type of reader, held no value to me (even though I ordinarily would consider myself the type of reader this sort of thing appeals to). In the final few pages, the novel was, for me, summed up in a quote from its narrator:

"Not only do you talk a great deal, but you talk a great deal of nonsense, and make some of it sound like sense. It is very confusing for a listener."
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