The Chrysalids, John Wyndham, Michael Joseph Publishers, 1955, 200 pp
I like this cover better:
Summary from Goodreads: John Wyndham takes the reader into the anguished heart of a community where the chances of breeding true are less than fifty per cent and where deviations are rooted out and destroyed as offences and abominations.
One more by John Wyndham. Then I am moving on.
This one is radically different in a few ways. Though set in the future after what appears to have been a nuclear disaster, called "The Tribulation," the tone is more elegiac than in his earlier books and Wyndham is addressing a different set of issues.
The hero, David Strorm, is coming of age in a strictly religious community. His father is one of those fundamentalist types that creep me out more than any other variety of human. They live by the Bible and any plant, animal, or human showing a genetic abnormality is ruthlessly obliterated or shunned.
David's abnormality is invisible. He is a telepath and by that skill? gift? fatal flaw? communicates nonverbally with several others. The build up is slow but inexorable until David and his fellow telepaths make a break for freedom. At that point the story takes on an extreme adventure tone as the characters travel through woods and wastelands pursued by a posse that includes David's father.
It was quite the relevant read in these days of mega attention on "differences," those who want them accepted and those who consider them abnormalities.
Of course, the rogue characters are the most interesting. David's much younger sister Petra is an extremely strong telepath who has little control over her ability at age eight and inadvertently causes major troubles. She reminded me of Ramona in the Beverly Cleary books. In the end, she plays a large role in saving the others, a bit like super tech savvy kids these days who some say are leading mankind to a singularity.
Petra makes contact with an advanced female being who is from Zealand, where people have obviously recovered from "Tribulation" and rebuilt a civilization. This character put me in mind of some of Anne McCaffrey's best galactic heroines.
It is a thought provoking and complex story. Wyndham made a big leap with it and I look forward to reading the rest of his books...someday.
(The Chrysalids is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)