“The Chrysalids” by John Wyndham is one of my favourite science fiction books. I first read it as a kid, and it is surely one of the reasons why I love biopunk and books about genetic mutation so much. I recently came across a new edition of “The Chrysalids” that had been released together with the rest of Wyndham’s works by Penguin Books a couple of years ago. The textured cover and slightly uncomfortable, awkward artwork really capture the spirit of the book and I’m looking forward to collecting the rest of them.
“The Chrysalids” is about a young boy called David who lives in a god-fearing community in post-apocalyptic America. His particularly zealous father preaches the commonly-held belief that man was made in the image of god, and therefore any deviations from this image are not true humans and are not permitted to live in society or to procreate. This belief extends to livestock and crops, notwithstanding the fact that due to increased radiation, incidence of mutation is very high. After making friends with a young girl who lives in seclusion with her family in the forest and the arrival of his baby sister Petra, David finds himself the keeper of many secrets – not least of which is his own.
I’m reluctant to go into too much more detail about the plot, so I’ll just say that this book is both subtle and evocative, and is a short, well-paced read. Wyndham is a brilliant story-teller and is seamlessly weaves in his commentaries about tolerance, fanaticism, fascism and eugenics. Although it was written in 1955, 60 years on it is still just as relevant and just as readable. This is by far my favourite of Wyndham’s works, and if you’re looking for beautifully-written, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi, look no further.