The Chrysalids

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Many years have passed since a devastating nuclear war left much of the world in ruins.  A small village in northern Labrador comprised of religious fundamentalists is on the lookout for what they call “deviations” – food, animals or even people who deviate from the socially acceptable norm.  Once these deviations have been discovered, it is either to be destroyed on the spot or if you’re one of the few people born with a deformity, sterilized and banished from the community, destined to live in what they call “The Fringes”.

Author John Wyndham brings us into the mind of David, a young man born with telepathic powers.  Where his own personal deviation is not visible to the community, he and others who share this ability must keep their special talent a secret for fear of death or banishment.  Can David and his fellow friends keep their special skills under wraps or are they doomed to live among the fallen?

There’s nothing that creeps me out more than hardcore bible thumpers.  I’m not about to go Rust Cohle and step onto some imaginary soap box and start throwing shade on those who believe in a higher power.  I understand the purpose in believing that there’s some omnipotent being that guides us through this thresher (OK, maybe a little Rust won’t hurt) but when you start forcing your beliefs onto the general population and allowing it to govern the way you operate as a society, I get a little upset.

David’s father is a no-nonsense preacher who presents select bible verses as fact and therefore is void of empathy when it comes to protecting the community from so called deviations from the devil, despite the fact that many pose no threat.  Since nuclear waste has an approximate half life of twenty-four thousand years, there’s a good chance that the deformities are a result of radiation rather than the mythical man below.  However, I guess the struggling society isn’t all that knowledgeable given the separation from the “Old People”.

Wyndham’s novel is less about the apocalypse, genetic mutations and God than it is about what we’re doing to ourselves as a species.  If we’d put away our own reservations about race and religion, we could really accomplish more as a society rather than be bogged down in archaic ideals about what’s “right” and what’s “wrong”.

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