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The Chrysalids [Paperback]

John Wyndham
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 1 2001
In the community of Waknut it is believed mutants are the products of the Devil and must be stamped out. When David befriends a girl with a slight abnormality, he begins to understand the nature of fear and oppression. When he develops his own deviation, he must learn to conceal his secret.

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Review

Perfect timing, astringent humour ... One of the few authors whose compulsive readability is a compliment to the intelligence Spectator Remains fresh and disturbing in an entirely unexpected way Guardian --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

David Harrower's plays include Knives in Hens, Kill the Old, Torture Their Young and Dark Earth (Traverse), Presence (Royal Court) The Chrysalids (NT Connections), Blackbird (Edinburgh International Festival; West End), A Slow Air (Tron Theatre, Glasgow). Adaptations include Buchner's Woyzeck (Edinburgh Lyceum), Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author (Young Vic), Chekhov's Ivanov and Horvath's Tales from the Vienna Woods (National Theatre), Schiller's Mary Stuart (National Theatre of Scotland), and Brecht's The Good Soul of Szechuan and Gogol's The Government Inspector (Young Vic). --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
WHEN I was quite small I would sometimes dream of a city -which was strange because it began before I even knew what a city was. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
By gordo
Format:Paperback
As a child, David has learned the strict rules of his society: "Watch Thou for the Mutant," "The Norm is the Will of God," and "The Devil is the Father of Deviation." This all meant that any living things, plant, animal, or man, had to be sacrificed or banished as soon as it was discovered to be deviant. David's father, Joseph Strorm, was the leader in the vigilant lookout for deviations in the society.
Waknuk was fortunate, because it was in Labrador, far away from the center of the nuclear war, the Badlands, further to the south. Since God had sent Tribulation down upon the Old People, humans had been struggling to return to the level of civilization that the Old People were at. Now because the past generations of Waknuk had been very careful, the community was now almost free of deviations that were the result of Tribulation. Any that did appear were destroyed or, in the case of blasphemies, banished to the Fringes.
At the beginning of the story David meets Sophie Wender and discovers that she is a physical deviant with six toes on each foot. Both she and her family are forced to run away when they are discovered by Alan Ervin. They are captured and banished to the Fringes. This problem is intensified when he sees his aunt driven to suicide because she has given birth to her third deviated baby.
David is concerned for his own personal safety when he realizes that he and the group are also deviants, because of their ability to communicate with each other in thought patterns.
Although they manage to hide their deviation, the birth of David's little sister, Petra, causes numerous problems. This is because she is still an infant and is unable to control her powers. An incident occurs in which she, David and his cousin Rosalind, are found out.
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5.0 out of 5 stars History Repeating Itself Nov. 29 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The future society depicted in "The Chrysalids" is still suffering the after-effects of a disaster sent by God, which all but destroyed the ancient world of the Old People. The survivors called the disaster Tribulation. No one knows why it happened, but the narrator, David, attributes it to "a phase of irreligious arrogance", which God, in his anger, punished. Only a few legends of the Old People remain. Centuries (millenia?) have passed, and the descendents of the Old People continue to pick up the pieces.
"The Chrysalids" is a book that deals with the issue of normality. Basically, to be considered normal you have to be in the majority. In the world David describes anything "not right" is deemed an "Offence" or a "Blasphemy". Mutants are seen as the spawn of the devil and must be destroyed to preserve the true image. (Throughout history people have always needed someone to persecute for the world's ills.)
The reader will probably have guessed that this is a world after a nuclear holocaust. But we don't actually know for sure. Other reviewers have criticised the scientific validity of radiation and its effects. For all we know it could have been a weapon even more powerful than an H-bomb that caused Tribulation. (Who knows what scientific marvels the 21st century will bring? No one imagined nuclear weapons at the start of the 20th.)
I like the way the book has a go at the self-righteousness of religion. How much cruelty and suffering has been inflicted on innocent people in the name of religion? The way mutants are treated in "The Chrysalids" is reminiscent of the witch hunts in 18th century Europe. As a matter of fact, the future described in this book resembles the 18th century.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Atmosphere Dec 16 1999
Format:Paperback
I read this book for the first time in highschool years ago and re-read it again since.
What most impressed me was the author's ability to set up atmosphere in the novel. I still to this day, after years between readings remember images I formed while reading the novel. Grass between the toes, the nuclear wastes, the way the children formed telepathic images etc...
One thing that I remember clearly is how the novel was like a breath of fresh air, clean and smooth. There are no frilly edges and there is no attempt by the author to make the book flashy. This makes the book pure and adds to the impact of the story.
As an overview, there are a group of children who are living in Eastern Canada after some type of holocaust (this is never much of a point in the book... no one has memories of it). Their society is strongly anti-mutant with a very strict set of rules as to what is "normal" and what isn't. All of this children are normal looking but are telepathic and form a click of just a small number.
The book is their story of growing up and existing in this paranoid and highly dogmatic society without being discovered and banished or killed.
A definite classic in Science Fiction circles.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wyndham's best Dec 5 1999
Format:Paperback
Something that really intrigues me about this book is that no-one has written a sequel to it, whereas in fact, this is what the ending is crying out for. I remember reading that one reviewer notes that the Sealand Woman is superior-acting, and this is very much the case, but it is possible to read into this a certain amount of facetiousness, Wyndham puts words into her mouth, but he does not necessarily agree with her high-handedness. This does not eliminate the fact that there is a certain amount of 'Deus ex machina' about a woman ascending from the skies to rescue them. I think, in fact, if I were Davie, Rosalind and Petra I would have second thoughts about leaping aboard this helicopter to go off to an unknown land, but then, what choice do they have? Anyway, I've messed around with my own sequel to the Chrysalids, drawing on the fact that Michael is still alone in Waknuk, and the new experiences faced by Davie, Rosalind and Petra in Sealand, (presumably New Zealand). Anybody interested in doing some co-writing feel free to contact me.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I read this book in high school and loved it. I've recently read it...
I read this book in high school and loved it. I've recently read it again, 20 years later, and it's even better than the first time. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Linsey Tufts
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic tale of prejudice and fear in the future
I never imagined science fiction was anything other than battleships in the universe and Aliens. This is so creative and different - it made me a fan of the genre for life. Read more
Published 11 months ago by P. Bianco
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
John Wyndham takes you into a distopian future where in this corner of the world society has become fanatical about preserving the human normal. Read more
Published 11 months ago by John
4.0 out of 5 stars good read
re reading an old classic, still a good book. though I really thought it would be free, since it is so well read and not a new book. Read more
Published 11 months ago by brandy
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story
Was my first time reading something form this author but not the last. I think this book is genius in a way that we can relate even now in this 21st century...
Published 19 months ago by David p
4.0 out of 5 stars Love this book, a great read
I do wish I could have gotten a copy with the cover I remember for the same price, but am thrilled to own a copy again.
Published on March 20 2012 by A. Craig
3.0 out of 5 stars A good beginning, but then a quick fall off a high cliff....
Because this has been labeled as being a Sophomore High School English text book, I was quite surprised at the high quality of symbolism that was featured in the first half of the... Read more
Published on July 21 2011 by Ronald W. Maron
5.0 out of 5 stars Good thought experiment.
This book is a really good one, the best I have ever read. I find it realistic; what would happen after the end of the world????
Published on Dec 9 2010 by annwithane
5.0 out of 5 stars My 100-word book review
The Chrysalids has my vote for best novel by John Wyndham; I loved it as a teenager and still find it an excellent story, as fresh and evocative as ever. Read more
Published on May 16 2007 by A. J. Cull
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Message
I read this book in grade school. The message that was clear to me was not to judge others because they are different because the difference may be something wonderful that will... Read more
Published on June 10 2006 by Ann Kidston
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