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4.2 out of 5 stars
The Chrysalids
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2002
The Chrysalids is really a terrific story; no wonder it is often required reading at high schools. It is a wonderfully concise, powerful story on how conformity above all else is vile. Perhaps not the author's intended target, but when I read The Chrysalids I thought of religious fanatics of all forms who are self-righteous and full of hate (..although these folks don't view it that way).
In The Chrysalids we have planet Earth some two thousand years after some worldwide disaster (nuclear destruction, presumably). Only limited colonies of humans survive. Many more straggling, deformed humanoids abound ... along with freakish plants and animals. In one of the colonies they strive, above all else, to maintain purity of life forms (animal, planet, human). Humans with even the slightest deformity are thrown out of the colony, or are destroyed. Colony leaders cite biblical references to justify such actions.
This rather frightening picture of the future is told through the eyes of a boy who discovers he, along with several other children, share a "defect" - they all have mental telepathic capabilities. These children fear for their lives, and rightly so.
The story so far is rich and fast-paced; simply wonderful! Unfortunately the last bit of the book gets a bit wobbly, or at least falters from its high plateau - it turns into series of chase/battle sequences. However the very ending is rewarding.
Bottom line: compulsory reading for all.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2000
I read this book many years ago and I've never been able to forget it.My search has ended because I've found people who've read this book and i didn't just imagine it. It's a great book to read. Even though it depicts a scene in the future, it shows the attitudes that people have towards those who look different and the extent to which people are willing to go in order to keep themselves 'pure'. The book certainly gives one a new perspective on the differences between us. It's a definite read!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2000
The Chrysalids is a great read, well written and absorbing, a true classic in science fiction, and probably in fiction in general. The message that "different" may as well mean "better than the common", and that bigotry and intolerence are ugly, is presented to the readers through a very original plot that gradually reveals the situation on Earth after a nuclear holocaust. A group of children and young adults struggle to survive by keeping secret their telepathic abilities, which, like all other "mutations", are considered a sacrilege by a rigidly pious, intolerent, and cruel society. The characters in the book are alive and human, the images vivid, the feelings compelling, and the end full of hope. A truly wonderful book which would make a great movie.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2003
"And God created man in His own image. And God decreed that man should have one body, one head, two arms and two legs: that each arm should be jointed in two places and end in one hand: that each hand should have four fingers and one thumb: that each finger should bear a flat finger-nail...."
"'Then God created woman, also, and in the same image, but with these differences, according to her nature: her voice should be of a higher pitch than a man's: she should grow no beard: she should have two breasts..."
Imagine a world where only those made in the Image of God are permitted to live.
The people of the agrarian community of Waknut to which young David belongs could be the new human race that survived a nuclear holocaust. The implication is there, but Wyndham does not make any explicit reference to the origins of the race, only that there was an Old People, and they are the New.
In this community, anything deformed or abnormal is deemed a Deviation, or Abomination, and is destroyed so that it would not contaminate its stock. Entire cornfields are burned down when mutant corn is discovered, and deformed calves and other livestock are killed before they reach maturity. It is a society that has little tolerance for difference, and even young David�s left-handedness is frowned upon.
Human abominations, however, are not killed but are banished to The Fringes. David�s playmate, 8-year-old Sophie, was discovered to have six toes and her family was driven away from the pseudo-religious society of David�s parents. David finds out later that Sophie�s family has moved to the Fringes, where the other mutants are. The mutant people live in poverty and often carry out raids on the farms of the regular folk. During one such raid in which the mutants are defeated and captured by the regular folk, David sees a man closely resembling his father, only with disproportionately long limbs. David realizes that genetic mutations too run in his family, as evinced by his banished mutant uncle.
A series of events reveal that David and a number of other seemingly physically normal children are not quite so normal after all. David and several other children possess telepathic powers, which are revealed after an incident involving David�s youngest sister, Petra. Petra�s advanced telepathic powers cause the children to be persecuted by their society, and they seek refuge in The Fringes. A battle is fought between the mutants and the regular folk and help comes from outsiders.
�The Chrysalids� is a riveting read and Wyndham�s rich and scintillating prose will inspire empathy with the protagonists. It is a novel exciting in its originality and brilliant and believable storyline. Although a work of fiction, much of what �The Chrysalids� has to teach us has great bearing in our society. This is a cautionary tale on the effects of rigid fundamentalism, prejudice, oppression and persecution of those who are different. �The Chrysalids� is a novel that continues to fascinate me today as much as it did when I first read it 11 years ago.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2011
Most of the bad reviews are for a short play version of this classic sci-fi novel. It is really unfortunate that there are no moderators on Amazon reviews to spot this kind of problem. I have also seen Amazon allow reviews of books based entirely on expectations before a book has been completed or published.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2000
I read "Chrysalids" yesterday. I enjoyed much of it--the middle much (the beginning and end made all too apparent the silliness of the story--and I read rapidly to avoid stumbling over Wyndham's occasionally clumsy prose and narrative lacunae). Nevertheless, I find--I'm afraid--, "Chrysalids" fundamentally and irredeemably flawed.
1) In the preface to a collection of what he calls his "scientific fantasies" bound in a single volume, H. G. Wells explains how he sought in them to introduce just one strange element and to make the rest as realistic and matter-of-fact as possible. Wyndham in "Chrysalids", on the other hand, piles various unrelated or only loosely related fancies atop one another, suffocating whatever point he wished to make and concocting something of an aesthetic eyesore.
2) The real world problems underlying the fancies of "Chrysalids" are summarized most succinctly in this passage from its page 186: "If they ["the Old People", that is, us] had not brought down Tribulation [engaged in nuclear war] which all but destroyed them; then they would have bred with the carelessness of animals until they had reduced themselves to poverty and misery, and ultimately to starvation and barbarism [they would have over-populated the planet--though the immediate effects of over-population are subtler and more insidious than that]."
How do the characters in "Chrysalids" grapple with these problems? They don't; they magically turn into butterflies and flit away to Emerald City. Very pretty for some, no doubt, but the point of science fiction is to make us think, not to lull us to sleep.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2003
The good thing about a book, as apposed to TV or movies, is that it excercises your imagination. Some people love colorful narratives with thick imagery, plots that twist and surprise them. Some other people like a book with subtle suggestions about broader ideas/questions.
The good thing about this book, is that it does not explain the why and how of the new world... The author writes the book from the perspective of a child coming into maturity. This books has alot to say about how history is written. It is written from the perspective of the the survivors and their memories... The relationship between the children and the parents can be liken to the relationship between the average man and the governments which rule us today.
The depth and questions that this book purposes, is more than what meets the eye.
The author purposefully left out allot of detail, so you the reader have room to paint your own images and make your own inferences.
Read it more than once... Forget that you read it at school. When I was 17 or 18 years old, I didn't have the maturity nor the experience to apply to the ideas put forth. It is well worth going back to.
I am dyslexic, so if I can enjoy re-reading this, then more talented readers should have a ball!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2004
This book has fascinated me since I first read it as a teenager. Unlike some other reviewers, I loved the fact that Wyhdham left it to his readers to imagine what kind of disaster might have befallen a society to cause it to differentiate so thoroughly between what is "deviant" versus what is "the norm," that alliance to "the norm" becomes a fundamentalist religion. In one brilliant passage, a sailor describes a visit to a strange land overrun with "deviant" life. The passage includes just enough information about the environment to convey the discrepancy between the sailor's perspective, distorted by ignorance and indoctrination, and what the reader, from his knowledge of the world, knows to be true.

I've re-read the book several times, and for me it never loses its freshness, originality and relevancy. Recurrent themes in the book include truth versus knowledge, and culture's influence on what is acceptable and what is aberrant. Written in 1955, this book was way ahead of its time, and is as current today as it was 50 years ago. It is a true classic.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2001
"The Chrysalids" is one of the best science fiction books in my opinion. John Wyndham is a brilliant writer, and it's a pity he hasn't had a lot more recognition. I loved the premise of humans trying to preserve themselves in a post-nuclear world teeming with mutation. The main characters were very sympathetic and interesting. I am totally surprised by people who didn't like "The Chrysalids". Were they reading the same book? The book is a literary feast filled with great imagery, especially the descriptions of the Fringes and the Badlands. The way those people think of the Old People is enough to give us a superiority complex (to a point). Like the detractors of "Lord of the Rings",the people who belittle "The Chrysalids" are clearly in the minority. This book is amazing. Read it now!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 1999
I really loved this book. Unfortunately, I later found out that it is the follow up to a trilogy. It was still a good representative to the previous two. The story presumably takes place in Labrador, Canada as "Newf" is the island nearby. After the apocolypse comes as 'Tribulation' the scattered pockets of humans work hard to uphold God's own image. However, nobody knows what this image is. Consequently the government condones the destruction or banishment of deviations from God's own image. The moral is that stupidity breeds in high quantities and that those who fear new things lash out agains them. If you liked this book, I would also recomend The Giver by Lois Lowry. It is somewhat along the same line, but without the religious overtones.
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