Saturday, 17 February 2007


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I have read all of the works of John Wyndham but my favourite has to be The Chrysalids and I have read it many times and I have wondered a number of times what it would be like to write a sequel to it in the way that sequels were written by another author i.e Rececca
like the book Rebecca's Tale.
The Chrysalids is written about life in a post apocalyptic world.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The story begins in post-apocalypse rural Labrador, Canada several thousand years in the future. Labrador has become a warmer and more hospitable place than it is at present. The inhabitants of Labrador have vague memories of "The Old People", a technologically advanced civilization which existed long before them and which they believe was destroyed when God sent "Tribulation" to the world to punish their forebearers' sins. The society that has survived in Labrador is loosely reminiscent of the American frontier of about the 18th century The inhabitants practice a form of fundamentalist Christianity with post-apocalyptic prohibitions. They believe that in order to follow God's word and prevent another Tribulation, they need to preserve absolute normality among the surviving humans, plants and animals. Genetic invariance has been elevated to the highest religious principle, and humans with even minor mutations are considered "Blasphemies" and the handiwork of the Devil. Individuals not conforming to a strict physical norm are either killed or sterilized and banished to the Fringes, a forbidden area still rife with animal and plant mutations.

Most of the action takes place in the inland rural settlement of Waknuk. Ten year old David Strorm, the son of Waknuk's zealous religious patriarch, has inexplicably vivid dreams of brightly lit cities and horseless carts that are at odds with his pre-industrial experience. Despite David's rigorous religious training, he befriends Sophie, a girl carefully concealing the fact that she has six toes on each foot. With the nonchalance of childhood David keeps her secret. The subsequent discovery of Sophie's mutation and her family's attempted flight causes David to wonder at the brutal persecution of human "Blasphemies" and the ritual culling of animal and plant "Deviations". David and a few others of his generation harbor their own invisible mutation: they have strong telepathic abilities. David begins to question why all who are different must be banished or killed. As they mature, David and his fellow telepaths realize that their unusual mutation would be considered a "blasphemy" and they carefully conceal their abilities. That their mutation cannot be directly detected allows their unusual abilities to remain undiscovered for a time. Eventually the group is exposed and David, his half-cousin Rosalind and younger sister Petra flee to the Fringes. Through the unusually strong telepathic abilities of Petra they make contact with a more advanced society in distant "Sealand". David, Rosalind and Petra elude their would-be captors and are rescued by the Sealand mission to discover the source of Petra's telepathic transmissions.

Though the nature of "Tribulation" is not explicitly stated, it is implied that it was a nuclear holocaust, both by the mutations, and by the stories of sailors who report blackened, glassy wastes to the south where the remains of faintly glowing cities can be seen. Sailors venturing too close to these ruins experience symptoms similar to radiation sickness. A woman from Sealand, a character with evident knowledge of the Old People's technology, mentions "the power of gods in the hands of children".

From the number of times I have read the book, I have only really thought of the Chrysalids in relation to the present and the future, never really as a statement on our past.

The leaders of the village attempt to keep control of the people and affects of the radiation under control through strict rules. BUT in the book David(the main character) discusses with his uncle about right and wrong and how can they possibly know that the strict rules they have are correct. Only 'perfect' children are allowed to survive, I am not sure if they are killed or just left in the fringe lands but children who develop problems later are banished to the fringes. Who made the rules? The people left after the Tribulation? Were they right? Where did their yard stick to judge people come from?

They have a second book with their Bible which was written by their first leader, it describes how long an arm and a leg etc can be, or how many hands or fingers a human can have. Any thing that differs is a blasphemy which happens often with their houses being built from the remains of the 'old people'.

Without the fundamentalism,really how different is our society.
Who wrote our 'religious' books?
Where did the laws of our country come from?
Who decided what was right and wrong for us?
I believe that everyone is on a spectrum as far as mental health is concerned, one day you could not feel good but another you feel better whilst on other days you feel brilliant. But why should any end of the spectrum be right or wrong?
Years ago epileptics were seen as afflicted by the devil.
During my nursing career the format for caring for the mentally ill in the UK and the learning disabled has changed, they are no longer locked away in institutions. But I know some countries still do banish them and lock them away.
Why should any form of religion seek to establish the laws of a country?

Whilst the leaders in The Chrysalids are seeking to protect themselves from the mistakes that the 'old people' made they are in fact, if you look at the history of our society, doing the same.

1 comment:

Steve said...

The Chrysalids is a top book - I read it as a school boy and it's one of the few stories that stayed with me right into adult life. I own a copy that I still read through every now and then. I liked The Kraken Wakes too but always feel that The Chrysalids has the edge over it.

Have you read any John Christopher? It's hard to get hold of now but "Empty World" is a fabulous book - it has the lightness of language that John Wyndham employs to such good effect in The Chrysalids (light but somehow dense at the same time). Unbelievably it was considered a book for children! It's another one that I still drag down from the bookshelves with pleasure.