Review: “The Midwich Cuckoos” by John Wyndham [1957]

Something strange is happening to the quiet and closed off town of Midwich. Between the late evening of 26th September and the morning of 27th September, an unusual and unseen occurrence have encircled the boundaries of Midwich causing everybody within, and whoever crosses, the perimeter immediately lapse into unconsciousness. Once the phenomena, dubbed the Dayout, has been lifted, the townspeople goes back unharmed to their daily lives until a few months later where all women of childbearing age find themselves pregnant. The children borne are unsurprisingly unusual, not only in their identical looks, but it also becomes clear that these babies exert some unnatural influence over their mothers:

Mrs Brant had gone into Mrs Welt’s shop one morning to find her engaged in jabbing a pin into herself again and again, and weeping as she did it. This had not seemed good to Mrs Brant, so she had dragged her off to see Willers. He gave Mrs Welt some kind of sedative, and when she felt better she had explained that in changing the baby’s napkin she had pricked him with a pin. Whereupon, by her account, the baby had just looked steadily at her with its golden eyes, and made her start jabbing the pin into herself. – p. 99

As the children grow, the the women find themselves detached from their children. The Children (now with a capital C) now also seem capable of rapid learning and have a form of unnatural intellectual connection with one another. When one of the boys or girls learn something, the entire gender group will suddenly also absorb the new knowledge. The Children grow rapidly and suddenly, they become a much larger threat than Midwich initially thought putting everybody at risk.

Despite its fascinating premise and storyline, I found this quite boring. Perhaps it’s just me, not being a sci-fi fan, but I found I just couldn’t connect with the characters and the writing sort of just plodded along and was rather dry. I kept losing track of which character was who. The first part started off quite well but then it just sort of withered down. Interesting but it was just a bit ‘blah’ for me unfortunately.

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10 comments

  1. I loved John Wyndham when I was a teenager. His were the only science fiction books I read, but I wonder whether like another of my teen loves, Nevil Shute, I’d be disappointed in the writing now.

    I still don’t read science fiction as a rule, though have read one by Vonnegut and maybe another couple.

    1. I’ve never been interested in sci-fi either so I think that’s probably made me a little biased when reading them. Have you read all of Wyndham’s work? I’ve heard great things for The Chrysallids (sp.?) so I might give him another go in the future.

      And I’ve only read Slaughterhouse Five because I saw so many tattoos for ‘so it goes’ and it made me so curious!

  2. Sounds fantastic (the premise, not your thoughts). I read The Chrysalids last year, which was amazing and have been planning on following that up with either this or Day of the Triffids.

    Sorry to hear you found this kind-of dull, as the premise sounds… really good. Maybe I should go with Day of the Triffids instead.

  3. That sounds so creepy! 😀 I must try Wyndham soon, but maybe I’ll start with one of his other works. But I love the covers of these editions.

    1. I’m admitting, quite shamefacedly, that it was the terrific pink cover that grabbed my attention! And then I read the back cover and went ‘oooh’. 🙂

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