The Midwich Cuckoos
John Wyndham

Review of Book
Monday 26th September started as a fairly uneventful day in the fairly unremarkable English village of Midwich. Until, that is, 22.17 hours when all activity ceased and the village fell silent for a night and a day.

Several weeks later, most of the women of child-bearing age, married and unmarried alike gradually discover they are pregnant. After the initial shock and fear, when some attempt suicide and others try to induce miscarriage, and putting the phenomenon down to the 'Dayout', the villagers rally together and settle down in anticipation of the births.

Meanwhile, the 'Sage of Midwich', Gordon Zellaby, having considered all the causes and possibilities, concludes that the women are victims of xenogenesis. Fearing they might be carrying some kind of horrific freak, there is considerable relief when the only remarkable difference appears to be the babies' blond hair and golden eyes.

But within a few weeks it becomes evident that the babies - 31 males and 30 females - are able to exert unusual compulsion on the mothers, and that the children are, in fact, composite personalities who are developing at almost twice normal speed.

When the Children are just nine, their ability to exert compulsion suddenly intensifies to the point where they cause the deaths of several villagers and make it impossible for any others to leave. After starkly pointing out both the moral and political dilemmas of eliminating a group of children who are a threat to one's own species, Gordon Zellaby takes matters into his own hands.

The 1960 black and white film version Village of the Damned bears very little relation to the story at all. But I remember with some affection having to read this very well thought out and plausible classic sci-fi novel at school. Even though some elements are somewhat dated, it's a good read even today, when threats to the security of humankind seem to come more from within, than outer space... And refreshingly, in Zellaby's ponderous ramblings, he sticks one in the eye for the theory of Evolution - that it is just that, a theory.

Review of Nat's Reading
This is taken at such an unhurried pace that overall it's very relaxing to listen to. Although I have to say, Zellaby's long and tedious ramblings in the deep and hard voice that Nat chose, does make it rather difficult on the ear!

He uses a whole array of other voices; from plummy to country yokel, a little-heard Geordie that I wish he'd use more often, and a couple of Irishmen thrown in, though I do find Nat's dithery vicars a touch stereotypical!

But then he'll give such attention to small details that, as a reader you might not even think of. Such as when one female character is quoting another male character's words, Nat does a voice within a voice. I did think I'd caught him out with his Chief Constable at the beginning of the book sounding differently at the end, but then I realised they were, in fact, two different men - that'll teach me..!

Published by
Chivers Audio Books
ISBN 0754005038
June 2000
Cassette only
Complete and Unabridged
Running time 6 hrs 39mins

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