Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"The Chrysalids" by John Wyndham

Written in 1955 as a modified form of science fiction that John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Benyon Harris (what a mouthful!) called "logical fantasy", "The Chrysalids" exhibits his sublime vision of a futuristic world presumably tainted by a human race too keen to create eternal lines, resulting in large-scale destruction of fertile lands and mutation of the human genes, an apocalypse the "Old People" called "Tribulation".

In Waknuk, where David lives with his family on a farm, living things that show the slightest physical deviation from the God's images are burnt, or in the case of humans, sent to the wildness of the "Fringes country" to maintain the purity of their genes. Then, David discovers by accident that he can talk with his cousin, Rosalind, from distance by sending "thought-shapes". To me, it's a matter of time before this knowledge alone seals their fate, and that of the other children with the same gift they have contacted.

Finally, they meet their destiny in the shape of their own species and a new home, but not before David's father together with the town folks, chase after them and get themselves into a head-on confrontation with the Fringes people.

I was totally enthralled by the psychology of evolution, so splendidly laid out throughout the novel. The eventual annihilation of the Old People, or as a foregone conclusion, of Waknuk's town folks, is due to their counter-evolutionary tendencies, mainly the resistance to change, but not just of the physical form. By that, I am also referring to their primitive minds, their bigotry and rejection of deformity. And I wonder had John Wyndham left a social message here, relevant even today. The town folks never learn from the Old People's mistake. They, perhaps embracing their survival instinct, struggle fruitlessly to eliminate the new species, just like any others facing extinction. But the laws of evolution prevail always, and thus the birth of a new, superior species spells the end of its precedent. Contrary to the town folks' belief, that's the last words of God, His final say. That is, if there is ever a God.

P.S.: Seriously, I have much misgivings about this book review. The complexity of the themes thrills me, but to put them in a comprehensible manner with my own words, well, I don't know. You be the judge. Or maybe, let's just leave it to God. That is, if there is ever a God.

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