About The Chrysalids

Chrysalids_first_edition_1955
Author John Wyndham
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Publisher Penguin
Released
Media Type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 208

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John Wyndham

Imagine living in a world where an extra toe on a newborn will automatically result in the death of the baby, a pig with more hair than normal will be put down, and corn kernels that are not in perfectly formed rows will necessitate burning an entire field. This world exists in John Wyndham’s novel, The Chrysalids.

This is the world of David Strorm, the main character in the novel. As a young child, he often dreamed of a city filled with objects considered fantastical in his world, such as flying machines and carts that move without horses. However, as David grows older, he realizes that he has the ability to communicate telepathically with certain other children. This ability means that David would be considered to be a Blasphemy in his community.

David does not understand the severity of such status until he meets Sophie, a girl who was born with an extra toe on each foot. David befriends Sophie and keeps her secret. When her secret is discovered by another boy in the district, Sophie and her family are forced to flee. As a result David realizes that, if his secret is discovered, he will suffer dire consequences.

As David gets older, he and the other telepathic children master the use of their abilities. David’s forward-thinking uncle, Axel, becomes aware of David’s telepathic power; he makes several efforts to convince David that the extra ability is something worth having, but must be concealed. The others agree to keep their secret, and they are able to live normally for some years.

The secret is threatened when one of the others, Anne, chooses to marry a normal (non-telepath) man; although Anne attempts to renounce her powers, her husband eventually discovers the truth, putting the lives and David and his fellows in danger. Another risk emerges when it becomes evident that David’s little sister, Petra, possesses far greater powers of telepathy. Petra’s thought projection is painfully strong and usually involuntary; she is young, and her powers are tied directly to her emotions. When she gets upset, she becomes a compulsive beacon, drawing the others to her. This creates a potentially dangerous situation.

Members of the community become aware of David’s powers, and he must flee with Petra and his girlfriend, Rosalind, who has also been revealed as telepathic. They must make a dangerous journey in search of a region where no one knows who they are, or why they left their home.

On their journey, Petra begins communicating with a woman in a faraway land, who promises to send help. She also promises to bring them to Sealand, a land which is populated by telepathic people. David and the girls must avoid the posse from their district that continues to pursue them, and are captured the Fringe people, a group of exiled Blasphemies who seek revenge.

Themes examined in The Chrysalids include the inevitability of change, man’s inhumanity to his fellow man, ignorance, and bigotry. Despite being over 50 years old, the ideas expressed in this science-fiction novel are still timely today. This novel is an excellent reader for individuals who are avid readers of classic science-fiction.

 

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