Chris F's Reviews > The Chrysalids

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
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Feb 28, 09

did not like it
Recommended for: anyone who would like a very obvious example of wolf in sheep's clothing manipulative techniques
Read in February, 2009, read count: 1

At first it seems as if John Wyndham is making the point that those with physical deformities are humans just like everyone else, and should be treated as such. However if we divide this book into heroes and villains, and weigh up the pros and cons for each group we find that the “heroes” are the greater monsters. If the villains are defined by their intolerance of anyone or anything that deviates from the norm then our band of heroes, and their ultimate savior, are the worst offenders. I was left wondering if Wyndham’s views on abnormality aren’t the opposite of what they appear to be at first glance. After all, the head of the bad guys (David’s father) is guilty of nothing more than misguided piousness. If he and his likeminded fellows find a person with abnormal features, they sterilize and banish them, which is pretty unpleasant. But compare that to David and co’s beautiful, physically perfect, highly intelligent, super-human savior, who indiscriminately murders hundreds of people to save one girl with qualities which she finds useful. And then defends her actions with what amounts to not much more than a shrug. “people like us” indeed!
After reading both this book and The Day Of The Triffids, I couldn’t help questioning Wyndham’s attitude towards disability. Is he a closet eugenicist?
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Lynne Norman Hi there! I read your review of the Chrysalids whilst I was still half-way through the novel and it slightly informed the rest of my reading of it - although I'm not sure I was convinced by it. I know it's been a while since you posted your review, so the memory may be a little rusty now, but my housemate (who is normally my 'go to' person for discussing books) hasn't read this particular work and I'm itching to talk about it... I felt that Wyndham wasn't passing judgment on any of the three groups who were fighting for survival - but was rather passing comment on the way different nations/races adopt different creeds to justify their own right to win the fight for survival of the fittest. In the minds of the 'true' people, the deviants living in the fringes and the rescuers from Zealand, they were all only doing what they had to in order to survive, and therefore they were perfectly right to act as they did. This belief was backed up in each case by a different creed - the 'true' people believing they were the only people made in God's image, the deviants believing they represented God's plan for the next stage of life and the Zealanders putting forward an almost Darwinian argument of evolution...
I personally loved the book - much more than the Triffids - as I felt there were many layers to the story. Your review interested me as it seemed to pick up on these layers but take a very different reading of them...


Chris F hmmm. i'd forgotten about this. if i read this book again i might have a totaly different view of it. i certainly think that 1 star was very harsh. it was very well written, and the story-telling was excellent. what i can remember is that the story began with a girl who had some abnormality to do with her feet. and as a reader we care about her and want her to triumph over the shallowness of the society in which she lives. but Wyndam banishes her and we never hear from her again. and instead he focusses on a group of people who have no physical abnormality, but rather a mental one. but it's a super rather than a sub thing. and after the Triffids, it just made me wonder about Wyndam's attitude. however, the book was very good and i can see why you enjoyed it. it's just i let my irritation get the better of me (not for the first time). your interpretation maybe the right one... who knows.
incidentally, i'm going through one of those "cant find anything good to read" spells. reading the Terry Pratchett books for about the fifth time - they're like literary chocolate. so have you any recommendations? I recommend The Judas Tree by A J Cronin, Finger of Saturn by Victor Canning, and The Grail Quest trilogy by Bernard Cornwell.


Lynne Norman Crap. I can't seem to figure out this website and its workings and I've only just found your reply above - nearly a year later! Sorry about that. Hope you found something good to read. I'm guessing if you like Pratchett then you've also discovered Neil Gaiman - I'm currently reading 'American Gods' and enjoying it. I'd also recommend anything by David Mitchell - although his narrative style can be very postmodern and I therefore understand why it wouldn't be for everyone.

I've convinced my book group to discuss 'The Chrysalids' as they're August book - looking forward to having a live debate about it!


Chris F haven't read Mitchell. will give him a go. have read Gaiman. particularly loved Good Omens. incidentally, recently read The Kraken Wakes by Wyndham. there was another small reference to casting out "the useless". definittely think he has a problem with people who may not be able to hold their own in society.
btw, if you haven't read it, i can thoroughly recommend The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony. it'll make you cry i guarantee it. or maybe you're tougher than me.

wish i hadn't given myself this stupid name when i signed up. i just filled in random nonsense thinking it didn't matter, now i'm stuck with sounding like a plantpot. maybe i can change it.
Chris (my real name)


Lynne Norman Hi Chris. Finished 'American Gods' whilst away for work this week. Now, at my housemate's insistence, I'm working my way through 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'. She keeps telling me I can't keep raving about how good a movie 'Bladerunner' is if I don't read the source material.

I haven't read 'The Kraken Wakes' but I do have it in the John Wyndham library I stole from my dad - and he tells me it's his favourite, so I will read it soon! I'll look out for 'The Elephant Whisperer' as well. I suspect, if it's that moving, I will cry. I rarely weep at movies, but a sad book can get me every time. Have you read the Northern Lights trilogy by Pullman? I lost count of the number of times those books had me sobbing like a baby!


message 6: by Chris (last edited Jul 09, 2011 03:08AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Chris F Yes, I've read HDM. Enjoyed it very much. I bet the bit where they were separating the children from their demons got the waterworks flowing eh? Tried to read Do Androids Dream, but couldn't finish it. Might give it another go. Loved A Scanner Darkly, and enjoyed Galactic Pot Healer, but sometimes Philip K Dick's imagination is too wild for me.
The Kraken Wakes is a good book btw, I'm sure you'll enjoy it. The Elephant whisperer is a true account of a conservationist who takes in a herd of wild elephants with a reputation for very aggressive behaviour and ingenuity when it comes to escaping from the confines of reserves. They even know how to beat electric fences! It is both extremely uplifting and heart-breaking if you love animals, but there's drama on every page. I couldn't put it down.
Which books have you read more than once, and enjoyed just as much second time around?


Lynne Norman Bit of a girly answer to start with as I often pick up the 'Bridget Jones' books when I need cheering up. However, the book I return to time and time again, in fact my favourite book in many respects, is 'The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' by Douglas Adams. I love all of Adams work and I've read each book several times over - even had a cat named Zaphod Beeblebrox in the past. There are a couple of Ben Elton novels I've read more than once as well. How about you?

With HDM I did cry at the separation of the children from their daemons - particularly when the young boy was found clutching a fish... Also cried when Lyra chose to be separated from her daemon, when Lee Scorseby died, when the witch guard was attacked by the spectres and when Will and Lyra were separated at the end of the trilogy... I'm sure there were other moments as well, but those are the ones that have stuck with me!

Still working on 'Do Androids Dream...' I'm really getting into it now though so it's moving a bit faster than it was.


Chris F girliness is alright with me so dont sweat.
Love some of Ben Elton's books to. Particularly Dead Famous.
Read Cornwell's Grail Quest a couple of times. Packed with great story and characters. It's strange because I cant stand war books, but war isnt really the point of the book. It's just set during that period of English history so...
Read Tad Williams' Otherland a couple of times in spite of it being monstrously long. What impressed me most about it was the fact that it had so many plot strands that I found equally interesting. Though if you read reviews, there are some that completely disagree with this idea.

Keep telling myself I should read more non fiction books but it's hard to find unputdownable stuff. If you know of any....


message 9: by Adam (new)

Adam No, no, you've misunderstood the theme of this book. Or, at least, the theme as I have come to understand it. To me it seems this book is less about physical deformities than it is about what it means to be a good and valuable person.
The book suggests that David and his friends are good while both the pious group of mutation-haters and the technologically advanced "Sealand" people (Or at least the Sealand woman)are bad.

There is a part spanning a few brief paragraphs in this novel where Uncle Axel is speaking to David about how the way one person makes another person feel, or treats other people says more about what kind of person that individual is than any physical characteristic.

John Wyndham, if he is guilty of anything with this book, it is being way to subtle with his message.


Tanvi Interesting take on it, but I think Wyndham's point was that the woman from Zealand was so diffident ("distasteful", says the book) about those people's deaths, and her whole speech implied that she was just doing what was necessary. I don't think Wyndham meant her to be any more or less cruel than the anti-mutation people. In fact, what I got from it was that they were doing the same thing from different sides - each trying to subdue the other. I wasn't very satisfied with where the story left off, though- it was just assumed that Rachel and Michael would join them and that was the end of that.


Frank Glad to see someone else saw this flaw. I found that either Wyndham can't write a final chapter, or wanted to push the idea that different races or branches of people can't live in harmony.

The former is just his failing (and I believe that to be it). The later is monstrous putting him on par with Hitler. (I could easily see the second ideology being touted easily by those who think other races are beneath them)

As to Adam's assertion on a third ideology. That's great but it's spoken one time and the fact that David, Rosalind, and Petra ignore it and go along with Zealand, says that either they didn't get the memo, or that they knowingly are going with bad people.

If David said "no you're wrong" to Zealand's woman, then you'd have a point, but instead they just nod their heads and seem to accept her warped view.


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