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Aliens impregnate every nubile woman in a small English village.

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"the majority of feminine tasks are deadly dull and leave the mind so empty" (Ch. 14).

  • Sep 24, 2011


One late September night around 1947 every single woman within the village of Midwich, England who could become pregnant did become pregnant. It wasn't long before all the startled virgins were flocking to either good ole doc Willers or good ole vicar Reverend Hubert Leebody or both for an explanation. The 1957 sci fi novel's title THE MIDWICH CUCKOOs hints at what had happened: aliens had planted their embryos in the wombs of the good women of Midwich, like some of the 59 species of cuckoos that are full-time or occasional brood parasites.


Time marches on. The aliens are born. Most of the willy-nilly mothers of Midwich cherish the slender, attractively built strangers among them who look human except for their golden eyes. After a few years those mothers who have moved away from the village with their Children (note the author's capital C), are compelled by the united wills of the youngsters to come back home.

There the three score boys and girls easily pool their innately superior intellects to learn 100 times as fast as mortals and steadily increase the power of their united wills to inflict vengeance on any human who does them wrong. This is the beginning of inter-species warfare. British Army  Intelligence learns of other similar alien colonies planted all at roughly the same time among Eskimos, in the USSR and a couple of other places. No set of humans anywhere on the globe is happy hosting the Children who, by the time they are eight, look 16. Why are they here?


The boy Children learn from other boy Children, not from the girl Children. But both sexes can pool their will power to effect changes at a distance.

Curiously, in the novel there is also a huge gap between the human males and the human females. Many of the males, e.g. the vicar, the doctor, the thrice-married Renaissance man ethicist, Gordon Zellaby, the only man the Children trust: these males can seem obtuse and slow on the uptake. But the women, by contrast, are absolute lame brains. Their maternal instincts are completely predictable. They sacrifice themselves for the good of their alien brood.


There are many fascinating layers of meaning in John Wyndham's 1957 sci fi THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS (which has spawned at least three motion pictures). Whether authorial obfuscation is deliberate or simply can't be helped, the way Wyndham words things can be tortured at best. A sample: 

Good ole Doc Willers, grappling with the fact of the curiously passive acceptance of most of the women on their unexplained pregnancies, explains the way things are to his fellow males:



"... if we remember that the majority of feminine tasks are deadly dull and leave the mind so empty that the most trifling seed that falls there can grow into a riotous tangle, we shall not be surprised by an outlook on life which has the disproportion and the illogical consequence of a nightmare, whose values are symbolic rather than literal, " (Ch. 14, " Midwich Centrocline"). 


Know your structural geology? Then you grasp the curious title for Chapter 14: like the younger rocks in a centrocline formation, all of the Children who have left the village with their host mothers compel their elders to bring them back to be close to the other alien youngsters. The Children are, that is, centripetal. The aliens are like a hive of bees. Of course, that is not all they are. Read THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS and shudder to imagine how things may turn out.



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About the reviewer
(Thomas) Patrick Killough ()
Ranked #6
I am a retired American diplomat. Married for 47 years. My wife Mary (PhD in German and Linguistics) and I have two sons, six grandsons and two granddaughters. Our home is Highland Farms Retirement Community … more
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