The quiet village of Midwich is famous for being… well… quiet. Not much has happened since man decided to turn it into a settlement area. It’s people are ordinary, dull, slightly snobbish in that rural ‘country manor’ sort of way. And for a few centuries, this boring pattern of nondescript life ebbs along… until the ‘dayout’ that is.
“It ruins a man’s concentration to have a crèche hanging over his head”
Imagine one day you wake up to an invisible wall, a magic circle looming over an entire village, and everyone within the perimeter of the wall inexplicably falls asleep. And not just people. Cows, birds, anything with a pulse entering that dead-zone drops to the floor like a sack of potatoes. Well, welcome to the ‘dayout’. This is what happens to the people of Midwich. The police force, the ambulance services, the military, secret services… no one can figure out the reason nor the source of the strange force-field. Twenty-four hours later however, people start to wake up and the invisible wall seems to be lifted and everything goes back to normal.
But a month later, the horror slowly begins to spread, as one by one, the women in the village discover that they have somehow become pregnant. Married and virgin alike are carrying something inside them… the question is, do they give birth to it, or do they destroy it?
This is a unique take on the invasion story, but with a twist. Wyndham’s version has domestic undertones as he takes the plot and weaves it closer to the homestead. Setting the invasion in an ordinary village makes the whole situation slightly absurd, if not abstract. This is my first taste of Wyndham, and I find his style to be deceptive, in the fact that his quintessentially English leitmotifs act as a mechanism for the reader to be lulled into a false state of security. Then ‘bang’, he introduces a crystal-clear nugget of bare-ugly truth to the whole matter, which leaves you feeling slightly shell-shocked. This happens more than once, the most notable occasion being when the women find out about the pregnancies and the head of the village holds a crisis talk. Much effort is made to calm the growing anxiety, and in some way or another it this is achieved, but the stories of the illegal abortions, the pain and shame of the collective violation, and the suicides attempts shake the reader back to their senses.
Overall, the story itself, the premise, is very promising. It was the inspiration for the ‘The Village of the Damned‘, but after reading the blurb and then getting down to reading the story, the reader may feel a slight anti-climax. There were many times I wished Wyndham would delve into the mechanics of the aliens. For instance who they are and where they came from. But he doesn’t do any of that. Instead, Wyndham concentrates on showing us the very weakness of modern society, how guns and nuclear weapons really have no sway when it comes to an alien invasion, as the superior species would easily win the war of survival by capturing the castle from within.
I give this book 3/5 stars, because it could have been written better. At times it felt that Wyndham was being lazy with his descriptions. Then again, it might have been his way of leaving a trail of question marks for his readership to mull over, but I find there were too many of them, which in turn, looked more like plot-holes. But I do insist that you read it to the end – and it’s quite a shock.
- A Sneak Peek at the John Lazarus: Mann from Midwich Book Cover Design (johnlazarus.wordpress.com)
- Read Excerpts of Johnny Came Home & Mann from Midwich on Wattpad (johnlazarus.wordpress.com)