The rural village of Midwich in country England was little known until "Dayout". The entire town becomes enclosed in an invisible dome. Everyone inside the dome falls asleep, and no one outside it can enter or determine what is happening. Just as inexplicably, the dome is soon lifted and the inhabitants come to.
Everything seems to go back to normal fairly quickly, but one by one each of the women of child bearing age and ability find themselves pregnant. Each bears a child, but these children are not what they seem. It soon becomes clear to the villagers that the Children have an ability to make people do their bidding, as well as a very special connection between each other. Eventually the town must make a choice, do they save themselves or do they save the world?
There was much to love about this book, although I found it somewhat of an anticlimax compared to his other books.
I think the reason for this is that the action that is so integral to his other novels takes a back seat to Wyndham's own philosophising on matters such as evolution, race, religion and justice.
The story of The Midwich Cuckoos provides the perfect mechanism for exploring these fascinating issues. Are the Children really men or some other species? If they are some other species, is it murder to kill them? Is it murder if they kill people in the village? How do the laws of one species govern the behaviour of another? Is justice about getting even or is there something more to it? If God created all species, did he intend that mankind's supremacy on earth come to an end when he created the Children, is it simply a part of evolution?
Then there is the more over arching question of collectivism vs individualism - should mankind as a whole be prioritised over the lives of some individuals that comprise mankind? How can such decisions be made and by who?
I am not quite sure where to place this in my thinking of the book, but it did occur to me that what Zellaby does at the end of the book reflects to a certain extent what Jesus Christ is said to have done for mankind. Going hand in hand with the question of individualism v collectivism is this idea of self sacrifice and what role it plays/should play in our lives. How far would be go for others and in what circumstances? This is something that is worth further thought, especially in conjunction with Wyndham's (through his characters) reflections on religion throughout the book. It's something I will reflect more on during a second reading of the book.
There were so many fascinating questions explored, but I felt at times as though Wyndham was pushing his own agenda and views on me through the character of Zellaby, who does most of the philosophising in the book. It was somewhat frustrating, especially when it was mixed with what I consider old-fashioned ideas about religion and more particularly female gender roles.
Don't get me wrong, I loved this book. It was tense when it needed to be; there was danger and mystery. The premise of the story was unique and thought provoking. It only needed a little more action and a little more talk to make it one of my favourites.
How did you find this one compared to his other books? Does it bother you when you feel like the author is more concerned with getting a message across than getting on with the story? I would also love to know what people thought of the movie adaptations if you have seen them.