The Chrysalids Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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David Strorm's father doesn't approve of Angus Morton's unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realise that his own son, his niece Rosalind and their friends have their own secret aberration that would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badland....
About the author: John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Benyon Harris was born in 1903, the son of a barrister. He tried a number of careers, including farming, law, commercial art and advertising, and started writing short stories, intended for sale, in 1925. From 1930 to 1939 he wrote stories of various kinds under different names, almost exclusively for American publications, while also writing detective novels. During the war he was in the Civil Service and then the Army. In 1946 he went back to writing stories for publication in the USA and decided to try a modified form of science fiction, a form he called 'logical fantasy'.
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|Listening Length||6 hours and 58 minutes|
|Audible.ca Release Date||November 25 2021|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #1,396 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#7 in Genetic Engineering Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#13 in Genetic Engineering Science Fiction (Books)
Top reviews from Canada
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Was glad to revisit it.
Side note, this might have had some influence on the creation of some Marvel characters.
C'est la vie.
Top reviews from other countries
Falling for that reader's temptation to spend time with an old friend, I've just finished reading it yet again - in fact, it's one of the first books on my new Kindle Paperwhite.
The story is set at some point in the future. We don't really know when, but it's safe to assume that at least a thousand years have passed since today. Civilisation has fallen long ago - and is now trying to claw its way out of a largely non-technological agricultural era. What became of mankind, we're not told for sure - but a large-scale nuclear war seems the safest bet.
David lives with his family on a farm in Waknuk, part of what we know now as Labrador. Life isn't easy. `Deviations' (mutated crops and animals) are feared as the work of the Devil and have to be guarded against, rooted out and destroyed to guarantee genetic purity. `Abominations' (mutated people) are sterilised and cast out to the Fringes, a land where little grows true and life expectancy is short.
Physical deviations are easy to spot - an extra finger, long arms and so on. But David deviates in a way that people can't see with the eye: he can communicate over long distances, with his mind. He's one of a group with the same curse, or gift. As he grows, it becomes increasingly hard for the group to hide their deviation - and discovery can only end in one way.
In a land that is driven by religion (the Bible being only one of two books which survived the Tribulation, the passing of the old people) David's father is one of the most fervent zealots, who wouldn't hesitate to hand over one of his family to the authorities.
So, enough plot. I don't want to spoil it if you've not read it.
To readers of science fiction, much of the above will seem like familiar territory. But remember: this was written in 1955. The Chrysalids is very much one of the first carts to cut grooves into science fiction's muddy lanes.
It could certainly be said that some of the writing is of its time. A little formal for today's eyes; a little proper; perhaps - now and again - a little stilted. But what can't be said is that the book is ever anything less than absorbing - and its tale of prejudice, judgement, intolerance and fear is as relevant today as the day it was written.
If the book has a flaw, for me it's a grand speech given towards the end - by one of the characters. Again, I don't want to spoil things for you - but it retreads the themes of the book in a less than subtle way, needlessly repeating and reinforcing the book's core messages. It's not a great crime - but possibly something of a stumble.
I personally consider this to be Wyndham's finest book. The characters are stronger than in The Day of The Triffids; their relationships more realistic, moving and engaging. The prose is wonderful. The plot keeps moving - raising the stakes until it reaches the conclusion.
I can't deny my deep fondness for this book. It's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Its values and sensibilities have helped to shape mine. I'm affectionate towards it, as you would be with a loved old friend. It also was responsible for instilling in me a romanticism; a high regard for relationships based on deep love. In a time where most science fiction writers were somewhat emotionally constipated, Wyndham paints the relationship between David and his cousin, Rosalind, in a way that those of us who can't connect with our minds - and are restricted to physical senses - can only envy.
I was first introduced to the works of John Wyndham in my early teens by my excellent high school librarian. Along with Dorothy L. Sayers (one of whose novels will be featured as a Desert Island Book later in the year), John Wyndham was an author I would never have picked up without her encouragement, but who has since become a lifelong favourite. The first of his books I read was Chocky, and it (excuse my language) scared the crap out of me, but it was this book that really made me think and which continues to linger in my mind long after I finish reading it, even after multiple re-reads.
The book is set in a post-apocalyptic corner of Canada. The Earth has been blighted by a tragedy that the reader assumes is nuclear war, but this is never confirmed because the people living at this time don't actually know what happened to make their world the way it is. Their reality is that vast tracts of the planet are uninhabitable, and the earth is so ravaged by radiation fallout that large proportions of everything are deformed and distorted from what they perceive to be the 'true' image. For comfort, the population have grasped on to religion with fervour to control their lives and they ruthlessly pursue what they consider to be gospel as regards how man should look and behave, to the extent that they destroy crops and animals they consider deformed or 'Offences' against God and inflict unspeakable horrors on humans that do not conform to the True Image of God, whom they label as Blasphemies.
The story follows the life of David Strorm, the son of one of the most rigid leaders of their community, and his group of fellow telepaths, who have managed to say hidden from people as they are physically normal, but who fear persecution because their telepathic ability is not shared by the majority of people (the Norms).
This is basically a book about bigotry. About fear of people who do not look or act exactly the same as the majority, and who are persecuted for their differences, despite the fact they do not hurt anybody. When I listened to this book a few weeks ago to prepare for this piece, I had no idea just how relevant the story was going to feel when I came to post it.
The Audible version of this book is extremely well narrated and very easy to listen to and, as someone who loves and has read the book many times, I can attest that the story loses none of its impact when consumed as an audiobook.
First published in 1955, the book takes its inspiration from the Cold War fears of nuclear devastation that influenced so much science fiction of that era. However, as in The Day of the Triffids, Wyndham is not so much interested in the fact of war or destruction as in the societies that may arise following an apocalyptic event.
Here we’re in Labrador, in one of the few populated areas left on Earth where only the far north and south have recovered enough from the nuclear winter to allow some kind of normal life to be resumed. A little further south are the Fringes, where mutations in plants and animals run wild, and to where mutants are exiled to fend for themselves. Further south again are the Badlands, where human life is unsustainable due to continuing nuclear pollution. In the conflict and disaster that followed a few hundred years ago, all technological knowledge was lost and the small population of remaining people have since gone back to old-fashioned methods of farming and living in small village settlements. The Bible survived, however, and faith is strong. People believe that God sent Tribulation as a punishment for sin, and are determined to root out any new signs of sin in order to appease him. Sin has come to include any form of deviation from the norm, physical or behavioural. David’s father is a staunch and harsh believer, always first to condemn sin and brutal in his insistence on driving out and destroying any kind of mutation. The basic story is of the danger in which David and the others find themselves when their secret leaks out, and the tension is in knowing whether they can find a way to survive.
But along the way Wyndham is mulling over wider philosophical questions. What is normal, he asks, and does our humanity rest in our physical selves? Since the Bible doesn’t physically define what a man or woman should be, how can the people of Waknuk know that their definition is right? We hear of other communities, far away, from where intrepid explorers have returned with reports of people who look very different – they may be hairless, or have hair all over their bodies, the woman may have six breasts rather than two, they may be taller, or shorter – and they all think they’re “normal” too and that any other form is a deviation. Some societies don’t seem to care about mutations in their children so long as the child is viable, while others, like David’s, refuse to even accept that a newborn is human until it has been inspected and passed as meeting the specifications set down.
The question of evolution is also at the heart of the book, even if evolution in this case has been triggered by a profoundly unnatural event. Through his characters Wyndham debates whether two diverging arms of a species can co-exist or whether the less evolved will always try to eradicate the more evolved through fear. I found the way he did this fascinating, although I’m not sure he intended me to feel as I did – that his characters at each level soon came to believe in their own superiority and to de-humanise anyone different from them. At first it is David’s father and his like who set out to destroy all deviations, but soon David and the other telepaths seem to believe just as firmly in their own superiority and to convince themselves that their survival justifies the killing of “normal” people. I felt Wyndham expected me to agree with David’s people on that one, but I came to see them as just as blinded and blinkered and cruel as his father. I’m trying to avoid spoilers, but there is another group who appear later in the book, and they also seem to consider themselves highly superior to all others and, indeed, to see those others as little better than dangerous vermin. Survival of the fittest, perhaps, but this seems like more than survival – it seems like hatred.
The introduction in my copy, by M. John Harrison, picks up on another theme which I missed but feel is valid; namely, that the book was written just at the beginning of what became known as the Generation Gap, when young people suddenly had the opportunity to get a good education, including living away from the parental home at universities and colleges, and be upwardly mobile, leaving their parents’ generation behind and often scandalised by the new moral codes the younger people were forging. Again, though, I felt this made the evolutionary theme less, not more, credible – the younger generation didn’t want to eradicate their elders and the older generation didn’t kill their deviant young (in most cases!).
On the whole I found this excellent, but perhaps not quite as coherently worked out as the earlier Triffids. Telepathy seemed a strange mutation to choose, not directly resulting from the nuclear devastation in the way Sophie’s extra toe did, and the message seemed confused between a cry for us to embrace deviations from the norm and a kind of endorsement or at least acceptance of a survival of the fittest mentality being used to justify eradication of the “other”. However, I certainly found it thought-provoking, which can only be a good thing! So long as no one out there thinks “thinking” is a sign of deviancy… 😉 4½ stars for me, so rounded up.
David, a by-all-accounts 'normal' boy first encounters Sophie, whose parents had hidden her deformity of having six toes per foot from the Inspector and the government. He eventually learns firsthand the terrifying fate awaiting those who are found to be different and “unapproved”.
Sophie and her parents' fates make David realise that his own ability to communicate with a special group of children through “thought-shapes” must never be made known to anyone, not especially to one of the fiercest opponents to mutants, his own father.
When his little sister, Petra, turns out to have the same gift, but in far greater proportion than him, and unconsciously so, the dangers become even more real and urgent.
An altogether gripping novel that questions the relative meaning of being normal, and dealing with the oppression of what the majority deems different and therefore labelled deviant. My only complaints are perhaps the sometimes checkered narrative (e.g. David's lovelorn musings about Rosalind and his growing attraction to her right smack in the middle of their perilous escape), and sudden lenghty expository comments by certain representative characters that slow down the action somewhat.
Nonetheless, the inventive blend of sci-fi and southern gothic genres in this work is in itself of literary merit and should appeal especially to young readers.