Science Fiction

The Midwich Cuckoos

My iPod has more plays and audio books on it than music, which allows me to mainline books directly into my brain whenever I want. This is probably the only thing that has stopped me from hitting the headlines as a spree killer, for which I’m occasionally grateful.

The book I’m currently pumping into my brain is John Wyndham’s classic The Midwich Cuckoos, filmed twice as Village of the Damned (though both movie versions are pretty good, the book is far superior). It’s a thoughtful tale, as much a study of the British culture of convention and social embarrassment as a tale of subtle alien invasion. Like Wyndham’s other great novel, The Day of the Triffids, the story includes much discussion on the practical value of human social conventions and constructs like civilisation. In the case of The Midwich Cuckoos, our humanity – most notably the human instinct to protect our young – is used against us, as the alien intruders take the form of children born to every woman of childbearing age in a small English village nine months after a mysterious event that renders every living thing within a two-mile radius unconscious for nearly two days. These are the cuckoos of the title; creatures that look like us but are not us, squatting within our society and affections while using us as hosts, placed here by an unknown power for an unknown purpose.

It’s an excellent book; perhaps a little stilted by today’s standards, but very original and intelligently written. It’s gotten me thinking though, about parasites and the way they turn their hosts’ defences to their own advantage.

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