The Midwich Cuckoos

The Midwich Cuckoos
By John Wyndham

The Midwich Cuckoos spends a lot of time locating Midwich in relation to the roads that lead in and out of it and its proximity to neighbouring communities, but I was at first confused as to when it was set. It was first published in 1957 but for some reason I thought it had been written earlier. The town itself is described as existing in a “thousand-year doze,” and it has the same cozy air of 1930s golden age detective fiction that triggered Brian Aldiss’s “cosy catastrophe” critique of The Day of the Triffids. There’s no reference to any war, past or present, or much in the way of technology. In short, it could be taking place at any time, though certainly not anywhere.

You then notice odd things you wouldn’t see in a cozy novel, though they are still only suggested. The minister’s wife has had an abortion. The town has a lesbian couple. And as for the aliens, they’re either sex tourists or practical jokers looking to punk homo sapiens.

It’s an odd mix of what are familiar elements, used again by Wyndham to dramatize his favourite theme of the incompatibility between evolving species. Humanity is something that needs to be surpassed, but only over our dead bodies: a stark message that seems to have become more relevant in our own time.

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