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The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
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The Midwich Cuckoos (original 1957; edition 2008)

by John Wyndham (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,350654,529 (3.8)1 / 296
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.… (more)
Member:imlee
Title:The Midwich Cuckoos
Authors:John Wyndham (Author)
Info:Penguin (2008), Edition: 16, 220 pages
Collections:Your library, Physical
Rating:***
Tags:fiction, lee-read, im-unread, fantasy & sci-fi

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The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham (1957)

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» See also 296 mentions

English (64)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (65)
Showing 1-5 of 64 (next | show all)
3.5 stars ( )
  snakes6 | Aug 25, 2020 |
Wyndham, after writing in several different genres under a different name in each, decided to write "realistic" science-fiction - and met with success.
In this book, one character expounds the view that in all science-fiction, aliens invade Earth by turning up with superior armaments and blasting away - until defeated, having underestimated humanity or overlooked some other factor of crucial importance (e.g. microbes in War of the Worlds). They are essentially doomed by their own hubris. During this lecture the character has clearly become a talking head for Wyndham: This is an alien invasion story - but the aliens do not turn up with all guns blazing.

Towards the end of the book, when relations between the Cuckoos and the British have turned ugly, a discussion of morality appears that reminded me of similar discussion in Starship Troopers. In summary the view taken is that when humans are attacked by a hostile species, there is no resort other than a fight to the death - and that this is essentially a biological imperative.

This may be so - but only on the assumption that neither party is amenable to any compromise at all. Wyndham mentions humans not tolerating dangerous species; Britain has no bears or wolves - they were inconvenient and potentially dangerous so they were all shot. But actually humans have compromised with "dangerous" species - otherwise, what are all those nature reserves and national parks all about?

The views of evolution and ecology presented by Wyndham in this novel (and by Heinlein in Starship Troopers) show a fundamental mis-understanding. Survival of the fittest does not mean "survival of the toughest, meanest, most agressive and intelligent" - it means survival of the most appropriate to the environment. This does not in any way imply the superiority of technological species or agressive ones. There is more co-operation in nature than competition. No mammalian species could survive without symbiosis with its stomach flora; lichen - something Wyndham really ought to have known about - is a symbiosis. Many plants and fungi are in direct symbiosis. Even parasitism is not about destroying your host - it might happen as an accidental by-product but not before at least one life cycle of the parasite is complete - even then, wiping out your host species amounts to suicide for the parasite species. Even predator species have no interest in wiping out their prey species.

Hence "intelligent" species are likely to be amenable to comprise if they find thenselves losing a war as they should be able to rationally recognise their own best interest as a species.

The crux of the matter is that whilst we hear the baby Cuckoos speak, we never hear a word from the adult Cuckoos: what are their motivations, methods, opinions? Their total absence from the book is what weakens the story. ( )
  Arbieroo | Jul 17, 2020 |
I love John Wyndham, I really do. If I met him in the street I'd be all like "Oh my God it's John Wyndham!" and I'd totally get his autograph before decapitating him. Damn dirty zombies.

The title of The Midwich Cuckoos refers to the habit of some species of the eponymous bird of laying their eggs in the nests of other birds. Individual females lay eggs that look like those of a different species of bird, but different females have different coloured eggs, and so different hosts. The colouring is passed down genetically through the maternal line so daughters parasitise the same species as their mother but rarely have to compete with other cuckoos. This habit of the cuckoo also gives the etymology of the word "cuckold". Most of that is irrelevant to this review, but I found it interesting.

In a nutshell, then, the story here asks what would happen if some alien species played cuckoo with us humans? We can assume we're aware enough to realise what had happened, but we're also human, so we couldn't just destroy the intruders. What then to do?

It's a fascinating concept, and the half of the book that it takes up is outstanding science fiction. Unfortunately the other half is a bit hit and miss. The events of the story cover about a decade and there's a lot of filler, mostly certain characters having long discussions or giving lengthy soliloquies about ethics or philosophy or something other than alien children invading an English village. Wyndham's a great writer, but there's only so much of this stuff I could take before wondering if he'd forgotten what he was doing. I'd happily recommend the book, just don't say you weren't warned. ( )
  imlee | Jul 7, 2020 |
I love John Wyndham, I really do. If I met him in the street I'd be all like "Oh my God it's John Wyndham!" and I'd totally get his autograph before decapitating him. Damn dirty zombies.

The title of The Midwich Cuckoos refers to the habit of some species of the eponymous bird of laying their eggs in the nests of other birds. Individual females lay eggs that look like those of a different species of bird, but different females have different coloured eggs, and so different hosts. The colouring is passed down genetically through the maternal line so daughters parasitise the same species as their mother but rarely have to compete with other cuckoos. This habit of the cuckoo also gives the etymology of the word "cuckold". Most of that is irrelevant to this review, but I found it interesting.

In a nutshell, then, the story here asks what would happen if some alien species played cuckoo with us humans? We can assume we're aware enough to realise what had happened, but we're also human, so we couldn't just destroy the intruders. What then to do?

It's a fascinating concept, and the half of the book that it takes up is outstanding science fiction. Unfortunately the other half is a bit hit and miss. The events of the story cover about a decade and there's a lot of filler, mostly certain characters having long discussions or giving lengthy soliloquies about ethics or philosophy or something other than alien children invading an English village. Wyndham's a great writer, but there's only so much of this stuff I could take before wondering if he'd forgotten what he was doing. I'd happily recommend the book, just don't say you weren't warned. ( )
  leezeebee | Jul 6, 2020 |
This is my second book by Wyndham. Along with "Day of the Triffids" it is by far the most respected of his books. This one was better then "The Kraken Awakes", but still not the amazing book I expected. It is a good story and it's mostly well told.
I have a small conflict with Wyndhams style. I do occasionally stumble over pre-WWII English phrasing and idioms. Though written in the 1950s it has the linguistic feel of the 20s or 30s.. I sometimes find the sentences of H. G. Wells more readable then those of Wyndham. This should not be so since the language of Wells' time was even farther removed from the 21st century. Wyndham's clumsy phrasing inhibits an otherwise decent story. ( )
  ikeman100 | Feb 8, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wyndham, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Adam RobertsIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Doeve, EppoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ellis, DeanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
F. Nagy, PiroskaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fruttero, CarloForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hills, GillianCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hogarth, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leger, PatrickCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lempiäinen, VesaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lord, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lucentini, FrancoForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McShane, BarbaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McShane, Patrick AlfayaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meriranta, AnettaForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Minaříková, JitkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Monicelli, GiorgioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Priest, ChristopherIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rekunen, VeikkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AdamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schwinger, LarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Severi, GiorgioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stege,GiselaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thole, KarelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
van den Haak-Janzen, J.R.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Veillon, AdrienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willock, HarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zhouf, MartinCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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One of the luckiest accidents in my wife's life is that she happened to marry a man who was born on the 26th of September.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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Cuckoos lay eggs in other birds' nests. The clutch that was fathered on the quiet little village of Midwich, one night in September, proved to possess a monstrous will of its own. It promised to make the human race look as dated as the dinosaur
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