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1001 Book Review: The Midwich Cuckoos John Wyndham

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Happy Halloween! I’m a bit of a whimp when it comes to reading horror or scary books so this year I was pleased with the book Book Worm and I selected for our Halloween read: Midwich Cuckoos. Check out what we thought of the book and scroll down to see my top ten list of Halloween reads. 

The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
Published in: 1957
Reviewed by: Book Worm  and/or Jen
Rating: ★★★★
Find it here: The Midwich Cuckoos

Synopsis from the book cover: In the sleepy English village of Midwich, a mysterious silver object appears and all the inhabitants fall unconscious. A day later the object is gone and everyone awakens unharmed – except that all the women in the village are discovered to be pregnant.

The resultant children of Midwich do not belong to their parents: all are blonde, all are golden eyed. They grow up too fast and their minds exhibit frightening abilities that give them control over others and brings them into conflict with the villagers just as a chilling realisation dawns on the world outside . . .

The Midwich Cuckoos is the classic tale of aliens in our midst, exploring how we respond when confronted by those who are innately superior to us in every conceivable way.

Book Worm’s Thoughts: 4 stars. This was my third Wyndham book and while  Day of the Triffids remains one of my favorites, Midwich Cuckoos is definitely a great read.

On surface this may appear to be a straightforward tale of alien invasion but it is actually much more than that and is filled with philosophical questions. It was interesting watching how the village of Midwich reacted to the pregnancies and the resultant children and how they chose to deal with what had happened. There was a real sense of community spirit and the village acted together to face adversity.

The best parts for me were the philosophical discussions about what the presence of the children meant and how to deal with the children. Wyndham raises questions about what right and wrong and about morality.  As we read, we ask whether the government would be brave enough to do the right and moral thing.

Overall this was an engaging book that asks, “what would you do?”

Who would like this? I would recommend this to those who enjoy their science fiction with a bit of depth and those who like eccentric English characters. One warning though as you would expect for the era the women in the novel are not actually well developed as characters.

Jen’s Thoughts: 4 stars. I really enjoy John Wyndham’s books. I find them interesting because they often include interesting philosophical dilemmas and thought-provoking ideas nested within unsettling tales. Midwich Cuckoos was no exception. It was unsettling and thought-provoking. It’s probably not your typical Halloween read since it’s not really scary per se but it will certainly make you uneasy.

Midwich Cuckoos was written in the late 1950s and while on the surface it is about an alien invasion, it is clearly a product of Cold War fears. The title refers to the behavior of some cuckoos who lay their eggs in the nests of other birds — leading to those other birds raising their children. The action takes place in a quintessential English village and the center point of the novel is in large part a moral dilemma.

As Book Worm mentioned above, the book raises philosophical questions about morality, the implications of scientific thinking, and ultimately about humanity and civilization. Weird, creepy children make for a good Halloween read for those of us who aren’t huge fans of typical horror.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: Midwich Cuckoos

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think? 

And in honor of Halloween, I’ve put together my personal top ten Halloween reads. I should note that I don’t like gory, super violent books. I enjoy books that are more about psychological horror than graphic visual images (although there are a few exceptions to that rule on my list).

10. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Not scary in your typical way but unsettling in the way the author captures a woman’s sense of feeling trapped through her mental illness.
9. It by Stephen King. I read this as a teenager and it gave me nightmares. I’ve been thinking about it again because of the recent creepy clown craze popping up all over the place. NOT funny.
8. Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Great creepy book to read with your kids. Listen to the audio because Neil Gaiman is everything when it comes to narrating his books.
7. Dracula by Bram Stoker – because no Halloween list is complete without this book. I highly recommend the audio book narrated by multiple narrators including Alan Cumming
6. Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe. No list is complete without at least one Poe and this is probably one of the creepiest for me.
5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
4. House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski
3. Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier. This books started my love affair with classic literature when I was a child.
2. Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
1. The Shining by Stephen King. As a teenager I devoured Stephen King but as an adult, I found the imagery in his books to be too much. The Shining is one of the few exceptions that I continued to enjoy as an adult. I have read it about 4 times and each time find it creepy. It’s the psychological horror that gets to me. I disliked Dr. Sleep precisely because it moved away from what was so scary in the Shining.

Which books make your list of Halloween reads?

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tracy S #

    Wyndham is one of those surprise finds from the 1001 list- The Day of the Triffids is one of my favorite books, but this was a great read, too!

    A scary book for me is one that keeps me jumping at bumps in the night, or keeps me up at night thinking about it, which in turn makes me jump at bumps in the night…

    Some of my favorites: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Salem’s Lot and The Stand by Stephen King, We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

    Like

    October 31, 2016
  2. just downloaded an audio version with Bill Nighy, looking forward to it! I am generally pretty bored by “horror” but I do enjoy good sci-fi. Give me some old twilight zone over gory slasher flicks any day of the week.

    Like

    October 31, 2016
  3. I read this when I was 11 or 12 – I can’t recall if it was last year of primary school or first year of secondary. I can recall that I loved it and that my school teacher used it as an allegory for the cold war and possible nuclear attack. I received The Day of the Triffids from Willoughby Book Club recently. I read that around the same time as Midwich Cuckoos and I’m excited to re-read it.

    Like

    November 13, 2016

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