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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-09-02 23:42
The Kraken Wakes
The Kraken Wakes - John Wyndham

‘I don’t care. I don’t mind working hard when there’s hope. It was having no more hope that was too much for me.’

This may come as a spoiler to people but I have to get this off my chest because I absolutely detest books whose title promises something that the book does not deliver:

 

The is no bloody kraken in this book. 

 

The kraken only appears as a reference to a poem by Tennyson in which the ills of the world are unleashed. And while this describes the story of the book perfectly, it does little for the unassuming reader who has come here for a kraken adventure.

 

With this out of the way, there were some marvellous aspects of human behaviour laid out in this book - mostly I fear, human behaviour at its worst. One was the way that fear-mongering and distress will cause people to divide into an us v them mentality. Another, was that despite a likelihood of survival being better in a group, everyone is seen as a victim first, then as an asset to accomplish a common goal. 

 

As this book was written during the Cold War, the utterly stupid assumption that dropping atom bombs on a problem would solve it made an appearance, too. And this assumption was flaunted quite readily as a solution. Of course, it was of absolutely no help whatsoever.

 

And so it took the near destruction of the world for some nation, who at the time of writing had been written off, to find a solution. 

 

There really is much truth in Wyndham's observations of humans and politics, even tho his description of technology was dated even at the time of writing. This book is sci-fi, but it really is not about fancy technology at all. If anything, it is about the destruction of civilisation by an unknown force who ultimately causes a type of disaster that is very real to the present reader - the melting of the ice caps.

I really admire Wyndham's foresight on this point along with his observations about humans. 

 

Unfortunately, Wyndham's style of writing was not for me. In particular, our main character's narrative was abysmally boring. It was really only when conversing with his wife or some other characters that the story really came to life. This made the reading experience an exercise in drudgery, and the book deserves so much better.

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review 2018-10-28 01:45
Competition for survival
The Midwich Cuckoos - John Wyndham

This one went into and explored many of the points that I thought Chocky would, which is doubly great because creepy kids are disturbing as hell, and because I can give Wyndham props for not repeating himself in hindsight.

 

There are differences with the pop-culture classic movie, as it always happens. Beyond the distillation over our narrator and Zellaby (which I imagine stems from a wish to transfer all the BAMF quality from the seemingly absent minded old man to a younger MC), the big fact is that the mind reading is not part of the original book. There is enough flash and imminent danger with the will thing. The hive mind is the cherry that makes the eerie otherness cake.

 

I loved how things proceed slowly, and this insistence of going about business as usual. When the mothers bring the babies back to town, you immediately go "Oh, fuck", and in their heart of hearts, you know every character kinda does too, but they bury themselves in self denial. And as the book comes closer to the end, you start thinking back to Zellaby's wondering if civilization had not been a bad survival idea.

 

Seriously, for all the old man seemed to everyone as digressing from the current point, he was very much clear-sighted.

 

I loved the sci-fi call backs (and the niggling for none going into the morally ambiguous). Some of the doubts it tries to posit (specially on evolution) are a matter of "science marches on" but I always end up finding the idea of outside influence entertaining. The social commentary (outside the references to sci-fi, that is after all a commentary on society too) was a mixed bag, some insightful, some blithely chauvinistic, and there is what is clearly a lesbian couple never addressed as such, so maaaybe fair for its time.

 

At any rate, I had fun reading it. And that's a good way to wrap up my bingo card and get my reading black-out. Just to wait for the calls now.

 

 

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review 2018-10-25 21:59
Unexpected
Chocky - John Wyndham

That ended in a place I did not expect before I started. It is disquieting indeed, but more from being guilty of emulating the mum than anything else.

And because almost every adult involved was ghastly.

(spoiler show)

I kinda loved that it veered so.

 

I'm discounting a star because this being my second read of a book of his, I noticed and got irked by Wyndham's penchant for making women the overcautious anxious frets (sometimes warranted) while the men are all calm, cool and collected (sometimes even when unwarranted). He does not say that each are not sometimes right in their approach, but makes those approaches kinda married to their sexes, and it grates.

 

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review 2017-12-31 09:02
High "Holy-Shit!" quotient
The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham

That was awesome! I love it when pop-culture classics are really all that.

 

This one kept surprising me:

 

- Because I had NO IDEA what it was about (beyond some vague notion that there was an apocalyptic event, and some plants were involved)

 

- It changed lanes and directions non-stop (no getting too comfortable here, shit kept happening and fucking everything up)

 

- The dry, matter of fact and concise way some things were put, like

 

Oh, yeah, and one day those plants picked themselves up and went walking, whats it to you? Did I mention they are carnivore? Bah! People got over the novelty in a week or so

(spoiler show)

 

- And the sassy social commentary.

 

I was very much entertained, and could hardly stop reading, or muttering exclamations every chapter or so. Classic campy deliciousness. Loved it.

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review 2017-09-24 10:49
The Day of the Triffids
The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham

by John Wyndham

 

I didn't really know what to expect from this one apart from evil plants, so enjoyed the thrill of discovery as the plot slowly unfolded in the early chapters. It surprised me that there was so much of the plot focused on the issue of everyone going blind from an unrelated source before it got to any significant story about the carnivorous plants.

 

It did help set up the end of the world situation though, and showed much of the moral dilemma involved with deciding how much to help others in an unprecedented situation and whether your own survival would be compromised.

 

I'd class this as a Dystopian novel, though the man-eating plants do lend a Horror aspect. More of the plot involved survival in difficult circumstances long before the plants feature significantly.

 

There were times I wanted to shout at the characters "Why don't you..." or "Why haven't you..." and get them to do a few obvious things to improve their situation. I even wondered why it had become such a classic of Horror because much of it was more tame than I had expected. It wasn't what I expected at all, but it still made for an enjoyable read.

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