‘The Midwich Cuckoos’ by John Wyndham

Nothing ever happens in Midwich. The sleepy country village is the epitome of English ordinariness, so when residents Richard and Janet Gayford are prevented by police from returning after a weekend away, they are understandably eager to discover the cause of these highly unusual circumstances. It transpires that, Sleeping Beauty-like, the whole town has fallen into a simultaneous and seemingly enchanted slumber from which they will not be woken. What’s more, anyone who ventures too close to the village’s borders will likewise fall instantly asleep…

The Midwich Cuckoos is how I like my science fiction: imaginative, philosophical, but ultimately rooted in the reality of human existence. I was pleasantly surprised at Wyndham’s insight into the experience of his female characters, but I also uphold that the story’s potential for gothic horror would have increased exponentially had he taken this one step further and actually narrated from the perspective of a woman. There was some horror to be had nonetheless, and a definite creeping sense of dread and the uncanny as the effects of Midwich’s Big Sleep slowly become clear. The greatest source of discomfort for me, though, was the (as I read it) relative ambivalence of the supposed antagonists – Wyndham does present an impressively nuanced account of his subject matter. However, given its eventual conclusion, I am not sure I can wholly get on board with the novel’s implied overall message. I’d be very interested to hear what you think.

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John Wyndham
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