0521 | The Midwich Cuckoos | John Wyndham

This is a truly original bit of sci-fi which, although not terribly well written, has a great plot and, as all good sci-fi must, continues to raise relevant questions for the human race to consider.

The village of Midwich finds itself the scene of a mysterious phenomenon: every childbearing woman present in the village on a particular day becomes pregnant. The resulting progeny are human to only a certain extent. It is the extent to which they supercede humanity in their abilities that eventually provides a threat that must be dealt with.

There is much to like in this short novel. The plot is original and you are driven onward by a curiosity to see exactly what happens next, particularly as the children grow older.

And as they do, Wyndham does a good job of bringing in moral and
ethical dilemmas which confront the characters and using these for the reflective reader to consider when thinking about how humanity currently conducts itself. Issues relating to our relationship with other species of animal, evolution, the treatment of minorities, the legal position of minors in relation to criminal activity and even moral issues surrounding pregnancy and illegitimate offspring. It would make a good set text for a school or basis for discussion for a book club.

What lets the book down is Wydham’s lack of flair when it comes to his writing style. It’s a bit stilted. Me and the missus read this book together out loud to each other and often had to reread parts that simply didn’t scan because of the way the writing was constructed. There was some pretty archaic vocabulary too even for when this was published.

You can also tell that it’s ideas, not characters, which power his writing. None of the characters was particularly well developed and the narrator was the least developed of any I’ve read since Powell’s infamously formless Nick Jenkins. I didn’t particularly care what happened to any of them and, for a novel with a very real threat against humanity, that was a let down.

Still, for a novel which isn’t particularly well written, it is memorable and has had its own unique impact on the sci-fi genre. For that alone, it’s worth a read.


One of the luckiest accidents in my wife’s life is that she happened to marry a man who was born on the 26th of September.


Wyndham neatly sums up virtually every Hollywood disaster film of all time:

Naturally, in America, it is all rather bigger and better [than an alien invasion in the UK]. Something descends, and something comes out of it. Within ten minutes, owing no doubt to the excellent communications in that country, there is a coast-to-coast panic, and all highways out of all cities are crammed, in all lanes, by the fleeing populace – except in Washington. There, by contrast, enormous crowds stretching as far as the eye can reach, stand grave and silent, white-faced but trusting, with their eyes upon the White House, while somewhere in the Catskills a hitherto ignored professor and his daughter, with their rugged young assistant strive like demented midwives to assist the birth of the dea ex laboritoria which will save the world at the last moment, minus one.


This might reveal the ending. If you want to see the quote, click show

RATING midwichr
Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | StyleRead more about how I come up with my ratings

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