Sunday, May 24, 2009

Review: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

book 3 of 4 for the It's the End of the World Challenge II
genre: post-apocalyptic/science fiction
rating: 3/5

The premise of this book is so promising: a great "Tribulation" has swept the earth and genetic mutations are rampant. Many small communities have vague legends of the "Old People" who once lived and their highly religious societies have defined a "human" in very specific terms. Five fingers. Five toes. Two eyes. And if a person deviates from this strict definition of a pure human, they are a menace to society and not tolerated.

Our main character, David, is raised in this fundamentalist society and as he grows up he begins to see that not all deviations are as visible as others. And as he learns more about the place that the world has become, he begins to question the truths that he'd always been taught.

There are deep thoughts in this book: what makes a person human? What kinds of secrets are okay to keep and what are the consequences when trust is broken? What are the results of intolerance in society? I can see why it is a book that would be discussed in English classes, there is much to discuss. What did not thrill me was the writing itself. The characters felt like they were painted with vague brushstrokes instead of with interesting details, only at the very end did I feel like I started to care about them. The writing was just not...literary. It was like listening to a Joe Schmoe tell me a story at the dinner table, it didn't ever really grab my interest.

I am aware that a lot of hard-core science fiction fans would like to skewer me, and that's fine. It's a classic, I keep reading in every review, and I don't know why I just missed it with this one. A bit disappointing, but, not horrible. It really is an interesting idea and I liked where the plot took the story, I just was a bit bored on the way there. If you are a true devotee of the science fiction genre, this early classic is probably still worth reading.

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