jeremy's Reviews > The Chrysalids

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
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Jun 14, 12

bookshelves: fiction
Read in June, 2012

john wyndham's 1955 novel, the chrysalids, despite well-crafted exposition and rising action, is afflicted with far too many missteps for it to be a work of any great consequence. set in a post-apocalyptic future where genetic abnormalities (be they plant or animal) are considered "blasphemies" and "offences" against god (and, thus, worthy of eradication or expulsion), the chrysalids is a somewhat didactic morality tale that lacks the gravitas or import of other dystopian fiction. wyndham's novel begins promisingly enough, but the storytelling loses its trajectory rather quickly thereafter.

david, the chrysalid's young telepathic narrator, is almost entirely unbelievable, given that his stultifying descriptions and manner of speaking are incongruous with someone his age (regardless however precocious he may be). the prose often reads in a clumsy or stilted way that seemingly serves only to detract from one's ability to fully immerse themselves within the plot. the story's ending appears to be in direct contrast with the lesson wyndham's tale was constructed to convey- or, at the least, undermines the integrity of whatever moral lesson he was hoping to assert.

as the chrysalids is evidently often assigned as a coursework text for uk english students, the novel's coming of age aspect may well appeal most of all to the young reader. for those already better read in the dystopian genre, the chrysalids will likely seem like an attenuated work in comparison. wyndham's story is too thinly constructed for it to fully realize the promise of its own early ambitiousness.

'for other forms it keeps on keeping on,' he said, 'but not for man, not for kinds like the old people and your people, if they can help it. they stamp on any change: they close the way and keep the type fixed because they've got the arrogance to think themselves perfect. as they reckon it, they, and only they, are in the true image; very well, then it follows that if the image is true, they themselves must be god: and, being god, they reckon themselves entitled to decree, "thus far, and no farther." that is their great sin: they try to strangle the life out of life.'
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