Apatt's Reviews > The Midwich Cuckoos

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
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Feb 13, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, pre-80s-sf, sci-fi
Read from February 24 to 27, 2012

John Wyndham's books are often described, labeled or tagged as cozy catastrophe, I am not sure what that means as the two books* I have read so far of his are rather unsettling. My guess is the Englishness of his prose style and the politeness of his characters. As something of an anglophile I very much appreciate this style of writing, it is very comforting and old school, especially with a nice cuppa tea in my hand. The only serious problem with this book is that the plot is so well known. It was filmed a couple of times as Village of the Damned, adapted for radio plays and is required reading in many schools. If you really really have no idea what this book is about here is my ridiculously simplified synopsis:

The women in an English village are implanted with alien babies while the entire village is put to sleep for a few days. The babies grow into hive mind children with mental powers.

Another great Mark Salwowski cover.

These days the hive mind idea is old hat to sci-fi fans, with Star Trek TNG's The Borg, and Doctor Who's Cybermen being the most famous examples (as far as I know). In sf literature beside The Midwich Cuckoos Theodore Sturgeon's classic More Than Human is probably the best known. The main difference is that the Sturgeon's book concerns a small group of homo gestalt people who operate as one being but are also non-homogeneous individuals. In any case, you are not likely to have your mind blown by this book.

The book was published in 1957, in those days they tell stories with such economy, a lot of story is packed into about 250 pages. The drawback is that there is little room for character development, so the polite inhabitants of this book tend to be somewhat two-dimensional. As mentioned earlier I was already well aware of the plot from the movie versions so there is no surprise in store for me but I still find the book worth reading and immersive. If you are unfamiliar with the story when you read this fine sf classic I envy you.
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* The other one being The Day of the Triffids - also a must read classic

Note:
There are two movie adaptations of The Midwich Cuckoos that I know of.
1960’s Village of the Damned


And John Carpenter’s 1995 remake


I quite enjoyed both versions but the 1960’s one is better in term of atmosphere and subtlety.

Oh! There is also a Thai ripoff adaptation

There is no official English title, the Thai title “กาเหว่าที่บางเพลง” translates as “Cuckoos at Bangpleng”, Wikipedia calls it Blackbirds at Bangpleng for some reason. Here is an interesting review of this movie by Variety. I haven't seen it, don't really fancy it to be honest :)
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Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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Cecily I don't think I'd heard "cozy catastrophe" before, but I like it.

I agree that there is little character development, but I think that's often the case with sci-fi. If the plot is good enough, I can overlook it to some degree.


Apatt Cecily wrote: "I don't think I'd heard "cozy catastrophe" before, but I like it.

I agree that there is little character development, but I think that's often the case with sci-fi. If the plot is good enough, I ..."


I urge you to check out this article by Jo Walton (best professional sf reviewer IMO and a very nice lady).


Cecily A good blog; thank you.


message 4: by meyamashi (new) - added it

meyamashi It's a guilty pleasure to read an entire SF book in a sitting or two, and the scant 250+ pages will allow for that. Thanks for your great reviews, Apatt.


Apatt I'm a pretty slow reader, about 100 pages max per day so it'd take me a lot longer!


Cecily The Thai adaptation replaces cuckoos with blackbirds? I guess cuckoos, and their habit of laying eggs in nests of other birds are not well known there. What's the symbolism of blackbirds?


message 7: by Kevin (last edited Jul 26, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Kevin Ansbro As someone who had to endure the Booker-overlooked Chickens at Chatuchak I feel that Blackbirds at Bangpleng might be a step up in refinement.
I'm adding it!! ; )


Apatt Kevin wrote: "As someone who had to endure the Booker-overlooked Chickens at Chatuchak I feel that Blackbirds at Bangpleng might be a step up in refinement.
I'm adding it!! ; )"


LOL! served with "somtum" no doubt.

As for Cecilia's question. I think it was inspired by The Three Degrees' concert tour in Thailand.

If I can quote from Wikipedia:
"Based on a novel by the famous Thai writer and politician Kukrit Pramoj, the story closely mirrors The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham, which itself was adapted into the 1960 film, Village of the Damned."

Kukrit is known as one of the better Thai PMs, an intellectual and an all around good egg. Unfortunately with this novel he ripped off Wyndham (who was already pushing up the daisies) without giving him any credit. I don't know if the filmmakers were aware of this, I can believe they were totally ignorant because ignoramuses are not in short supply where I come from.


message 9: by Adrian (new) - added it

Adrian I agree entirely with your view of Wyndham (Beynon Harris Lucas etc) hence the friend request, thank you for your acceptance.
And don't forget the 1964 sequel Children of the Damned !!


Apatt Adrian wrote: "I agree entirely with your view of Wyndham (Beynon Harris Lucas etc) hence the friend request, thank you for your acceptance.
And don't forget the 1964 sequel Children of the Damned !!"


Thank you for the invite, Adrian! :)
I haven't seen the 1964 sequel, is it good?


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