Written in 1955, The Chrysalids is a story set in a post apocalyptic world where it appears a nuclear war several thousand years ago has seen whatever people survived living a more rural life.
Because such a long time has passed the people now believe the nuclear event was God punishing the ‘Old People.’ Exposure to radiation has meant that occasionally animals or people are born with ‘defects’ and seen as ‘blasphemies’ from the devil.
Anything with a defect is killed as a sacrifice or (for people) cast out of the land and into an area the locals call the ‘Fringes’ and left to fend for themselves against the other desperate people out there.
David Strorm is only ten years old and has been bought up with a strict religious upbringing because his father is one of the town’s respected senior members. It is always refreshing to read a book written from the perspective of a child when it’s done right, and Wyndam does it right.
After befriending a girl that has a small physical defect (six toes on each foot), David begins to question the rigidity of the environment he has been raised in. Coupled with vivid dreams of technologically advanced cities and the discovery that he may also have a ‘blasphemy’, it’s enough to put him on a path that clashes with his upbringing.
It brought to mind the recent stories of Megan Phelps, who left the infamous Westboro Church movement. When all you’ve known growing up is the hatred fed to you why would you question it? You can find more info on that HERE.
The Chrysalids is an interesting book that deals with some interesting aspects of society and religion. The characters are well written and Wyndam does a good job of fleshing out the world into a believable place. It stumbles here and there with some pacing issues, the ending in particular felt a little rushed but this is a book well worth checking out.