by John Wyndham, introduction by Christopher Priest
The Chrysalids is set in the future after a devastating global nuclear war. David, the young hero of the novel, lives in a tight-knit community of religious and genetic fundamentalists, who exist in a state of constant alert for any deviation from what they perceive as the norm of God’s creation, deviations broadly classified as “offenses” and “blasphemies.” Offenses consist of plants and animals that are in any way unusual, and these are publicly burned to the accompaniment of the singing of hymns. Blasphemies are human beings—ones who show any sign of abnormality, however trivial. They are banished from human society, cast out to live in the wild country where, as the authorities say, nothing is reliable and the devil does his work. David grows up surrounded by admonitions: KEEP PURE THE STOCK OF THE LORD; WATCH THOU FOR THE MUTANT.
At first he hardly questions them, though he is shocked when his sternly pious father and rigidly compliant mother force his aunt to forsake her baby. It is a while before he realizes that he too is out of the ordinary, in possession of a power that could doom him to death or introduce him to a new, hitherto-unimagined world of freedom.
The Chrysalids is a perfectly conceived and constructed work from the classic era of science fiction. It is a Voltairean philosophical tale that has as much resonance in our own day, when genetic and religious fundamentalism are both on the march, as when it was written during the Cold War.
Download the Reading Group Guide for The Chrysalids. by John Wyndham, introduction by Christopher Priest
John Wyndham's The Chrysalids anticipates and surpasses many of today's dystopian thrillers....The Chrysalids explores intolerance and bigotry with satisfying complexity as it races toward an ending that is truly unpredictable.
—The Seattle Times
One of the most thoughtful post-apocalypse novels ever written. Wyndham was a true English visionary, a William Blake with a science doctorate.
Sometimes you just need a bit of soft-core sci-fi, and Wyndham's 1950's classic, newly back in print, fully delivers.
— Thicket Magazine
It is quite simply a page-turner, maintaining suspense to the very end and vividly conjuring the circumstances of a crippled and menacing world, and of the fear and sense of betrayal that pervade it. The ending, a salvation of an extremely dubious sort, leaves the reader pondering how truly ephemeral our version of civilization is...
— The Boston Globe
[A]bsolutely and completely brilliant...The Chrysalids is a top-notch piece of sci-fi that should be enjoyed for generations yet to come.
—The Ottawa Citizen
Re-Birth (The Chrysalids) was one of the first science fiction novels I read as a youth, and several times tempted me to take a piggy census. Returning to it now, more than 30 years later, I find that I remember vast parts of it with perfect clarity...a book to kindle the joy of reading science fiction.
A remarkably tender story of a post-nuclear childhood...It has, of course, always seemed a classic to most of its three generations of readers...It has become part of a canon of good books.
— The Guardian