Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Midwich Cuckoos

The Midwich Cuckoos
by John Wyndham

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. 

My Reaction: 
(First: I read this with Donald, and as is usually the case with "shared books", I didn't take notes-- so this may be sparse.  We'll see how much I remember...)

Did I like it?  ...Yes, on the whole, it was interesting.  However, I did find the book to be more reliant on philosophical discussions than I'd expected-- and while a little of that is ok, at some point it begins to lose its appeal.  When something does actually happen, most of the time it doesn't unfold "live" before the narrator.  Instead, it comes to us through yet another filter or two, well after the action has winded back down again.  Very civilized-- almost clinical-- but not quite so exciting to read.

A Few Random Points  (with SPOILERS):
--  I was struck by the way the male characters discuss the women of the village (and the way those female characters behave, in some instances).  It's obviously a product of its time (late 1950s), but still... (This is where notes would have come in handy.)  Maybe I'm just overly sensitive to it, as a woman, but it irked me a few times.  (I don't think Donald noticed it/gave it a second thought, incidentally.  He certainly didn't feel aggravated by it, and seemed a little surprised when I was.  Hmph! (g))   

--  I was annoyed... irritated... somethinged by the idea that most of the women would feel some type of (at least temporary) connection to the Children they bore, even when they knew that the Children had been "implanted"/forced upon them and were in no way "flesh of their flesh".  Maybe it's just another example of my failure to be the Perfect Ideal Woman, but no.  I don't think I would feel any lingering fondness or maternal instinct, in that circumstance.  The Children were nothing more than parasites. 

--  I suppose the idea of aliens with collective intelligence is appealing to authors.  We just finished reading Ender's Game, in which the Buggers (another alien species) also share some kind of hive mind. 

--  I spent most of the book thinking about how I would go about destroying the Children and wondering why why WHY the people in the book wouldn't just go ahead and get it over with.  Early on, I decided that you'd sneak the real people (i.e. non-aliens) out of town-- probably at night-- with as little talk/previous arrangement as possible, and then bomb/missile the place.  So... basically what the Russians did, only with an attempt to save as many human lives as possible.  Another possibility would be to poison them, assuming they're susceptible to the same poisons we are and that they all eat at the same time.  Yeah, I know the people in the book couldn't take such decisive action very quickly, or there'd be no story to tell-- but it frustrated me greatly to have to sit through long discussions of how people are so civilized now that they would be appalled at the thought of killing a "minority population"-- couldn't go through with it-- couldn't stomach it-- etc.  I guess I'm not that civilized-- nor would I want to be.  No, you need not apologize for killing off an invading alien species.  I wouldn't apologize for killing off an invading non-alien threat, either, for that matter. 

--  Obviously the Children have to be "dealt with" by the end of the book.  At some point, it becomes equally obvious that Zellaby will be the one to do so, even though he supposedly doesn't hate or even really resent them.  Actually, I was a little impatient with myself for not realizing he would be the one to do so, right away.  His advancing age is referred to so frequently!  He's so logical and practical!  Clearly he was designed for self-sacrifice.

--  I'm curious about the film adaptations of this novel.  Apparently the original was better than the remake.  (What a shocker.)  Both were titled Village of the Damned, which sounds much more "over-the-top horror" than The Midwich Cuckoos.  Speaking of the title, I don't believe there is ever an outright explanation of why the Children are referred to as cuckoos.  If you know what cuckoos do, then the comparison is obvious, but I have a feeling there are plenty of people walking around these days who would only think of either cuckoo-clocks or "crazy people".  ("I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!!")  In fact, they'd probably suspect you of trying to make a joke at their expense if you told them that a cuckoo is a real bird.