John Wyndham was born in in the Midlands. After leaving school, he tried his hand at several careers, including farming, law and advertising, before. The Midwich Cuckoos [John Wyndham, Nathaniel Parker] on * FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. In the sleepy English village of Midwich. John Wyndham was one of the most prominent and influential British SF The Midwich Cuckoos is one of his best known works, a tale of visceral Cold War fear .
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Time for another left turn at Fedorabut one that seems appropriate given the festive season. Focussing on a series of increasingly deadly events in a small English village, this is a typical bit of low-key speculative fiction by John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris — It was filmed twice as Village of the Damned in andwhich may have diverted attention from the original book, which is much sharper and less cosy than it may seem ….
We must make it bind us together for the good of all. Presumably with a bit of tongue-in-cheek, Wyndham begins with a small English village that is not so much sleepy as actually asleep!
There is a military research outpost nearby so, this being the height of the Cold War, thoughts immediately go to some sort of attack. Then everyone wakes up and life seems to go on more or less as before, though 11 people died during the incident due to exposure or accident.
Within three months an air of unease descends when it becomes clear that every single woman of child-bearing age is pregnant …. Some of the women attempt to induce miscarriages, others even attempt suicide. Some are beaten by their husbands, believing their spouses to have been unfaithful. But some of the women were teenage virgins … Ultimately everyone realises that while a couple of the pregnancies were natural, most were artificially created and that the women are in fact merely hosts.
At birth the children all prove physically similar with golden eyes, delicately tapered extremities and fine, silvery hair.
The story is divided into two halves, narrated by an author who recently moved to the village with his wife but then leaves for a job in Canada. They return seven years later on holiday to see what has happened to the village and its children since then …. The Midwich children instinctively know about this and prepare to retaliate, having already caused several deaths, demonstrating a rather Old Testament approach to dealing with conflict with the understandably disturbed villagers.
By now the children are being taught by at a special school, segregated from everybody else. They have a hive mind, what one child learns they all know too.
Soon the village will be too small and they prove that they can control minds, making their enemies turn on each other — can they be stopped? Although usually marketed as SF, this is a story of unease and paranoia that also touches in fascinating way on Christian mythology and is told in a sober and adult fashion. The book was written barely a decade after the end of the Nazi threat, with many seeing recent activities by the USSR in Hungary as harbingers of more international warfare.
Indeed, late in the book we learn that this was not an isolated incident and that similar cluster pregnancies and blackouts occurred on the same day throughout the world.
Book Review: The Midwich Cuckoos John Wyndham | The Reader’s Room
The story and cast of characters, inevitably, has been greatly compressed to fit in its minute running time. The narrator is dispensed with entirely as are many secondary characters, focusing almost exclusive on scientist Gordon Zellaby a nicely understated George Sanderswho in the book belatedly emerges as the main character. The number of the children is also somewhat reduced in numbers from 60 in the book to a dozen.
In the book the children are mostly heard of but not seen, with only a couple of dialogue scenes with them towards the end. For the film they are more clearly telepathic, with increasingly powerful ESP abilities. Compared with the book, the film is certainly more traditional in terms of its gender politics — Wyndham gives the women a much more central role, but in the film we get a much more predictably patriarchal approach, with the men always being the ones to decide how to deal with the children.
The film proved to be a hit though initially MGM was very nervous about its religious undertones when Stirling Silliphant delivered his draft script to the executives in Hollywood — so much so in fact that they shelved it for a couple of years.
Ronald Colman, initially considered for the lead, was dead now but George Sanders is really good in the role a useful reminder in fact of what a subtle performer he could be. Ultimately this would lead to many other books and films about children who are plain evil — or worse!
The film had a sequel in Children of the Damnedwhich kidwich on the international dimension which was alluded to in the story but was otherwise unseen.
Midwoch result was a decent if slightly too verbose excursion that deserves credit at least for not taking the path of least resistance and offering more than just the usual retread. A set that is really well worth getting.
Village of the Damned Director: Geoffrey Faithful Art Direction: I was barely a child when I saw this film, and was very disturbed at that time. Thansk Robert — what is impressive too, and I should have pointed it out in the review really, s that the film is smart enough to demonstrate a real ambivalence about the children and the degree to which they cucoos doing anything different from what anyone else would do to protect themselves. The scene at the end is very memorable and completely original to the film — in the book we never find out what actually happened int he classroom.
The connection with the wynndham is totally new to me. Very interesting and I might try the book. Thanks TracyK — well worth a look I think — Wyndham was certainly well above average and serves his pride of place among s british SF authors. My husband, of course, had heard of wjndham author and the book, and others he has written Day of the Triffids specifically. Maybe I will get a copy for the next Sci Fi Experience.
I do really like Midich of the Damned though — well, the version! Science fiction is simply not for me. As for horror, if I have to recommend a horror film, I would definitely go for Psycho! Sergio — Thanks as always for a fascinating post.
I respect a well-made film; I really do. Of course he turned out to be absolutely correct.
I think Wyndham was fairly ambivalent about it in many ways — in the book Zellaby makes a very good case on behalf of the children — which I think has helped keep it current. Never read the book but I do quite like the movie. A, sorry chum, you did say the sequel, I mid-read. I should re-watch Children of the Damned — it looks good and had a strong cast but must admit, I don;t remember that much except that in my memory it did get a bit bogged down in talk very early on … What i liked though was the changed attitude to the children, which seemed a worthwhile tack.
I agree about Sanders — he worked with many fine directors and was usually very good value and I like him a lot here. Would have been fascinating of Ronald Colman had played it …. The climax was brilliantly done and for the time very, very effective. Thanks Karen — it is nice when the ending is really memorable! Using the wyneham as a setting is a masterstroke, as it has become the place where, in the modern world, city folk retreat to escape from stress. If i recall cukcoos, Wyndham had witnessed the chaos that reigned in Germany just after WWII, and became fascinated by the idea of how quickly things could fall apart.
The Cuckoos are rather like the Triffidds, in that they are actually in the background for a lot of the book. In fact there is an almost deliberated distancing effect. The film is nicely understated. For myself, I tend to prefer the non-glowing version, as the effect more jjohn makes them SF monsters. The low-key approach is much creepier.
Just got the new Blu-ray of Caught Fire and it is a superb film that holds up fairly well. Book and film scared the lights out of me when I was very young, I still shiver to remember!
John Wyndham was very popular then — I wonder how much he is still johh I went through a phase of reading John Wydham in old paperbacks I used to pick up in charity shops.
The beauty of these books were that they were very short. Easily read in an afternoon. No longer the case with much fiction these days. Thanks Sarah — and yes, I know what you mean abotu the length thing though finding an afternoon just to sit down and read feels liek a major achievement these days.
Thanks for yet another great review. I read this a few years back, and the main thing I remember was it being preachy and sexist in the second half.
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Disch and John T. I remember the tv version of Triffids vividly — it was absolutely wonderful. I could see that working, although I really have no complaints on Sanders.
I agree — one of best leading roles — indeed, I suppose one of his last …. I found it very disturbing too and have never looked at blonde kids the same way since. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Email required Address never made public.
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