John Wyndham’s 1957 book The Midwich Cuckoos is better known by the more sensational title of its two film adaptations, Village of the Damned. The story begins with Richard and Janet Gayford who have spent the night of September 26 in London, returning to their home in Midwich the following day. Then, in ways that are difficult to pin down, the village seems changed--not quite the same place that it was before. The nightmare that descends on Midwich has dire implications for the rest of the world; whatever dwells there is sowing the seeds for a master race of ruthless and inhumane creatures who are bent on nothing less than absolute and total domination.
In Wyndam’s classically elegant, calm style, this novel explores the arrival of a collective intelligence on earth that threatens to eliminate mankind. The quiet, eerie changes that befall Midwich manifest in strange ways; on the surface, everything seems normal, but scratch a little deeper and there is a clear sense of dread. After the night of September 26, every woman of childbearing age is pregnant, all to give birth at the same time, to children who are all alike--their eyes mesmerizing, void of emotion. These children are innately possessed with unimaginable mental powers and a formidable intelligence. It is these children who develop into an unstoppable force, capable of anything and far out-reaching other humans in cunning.
The London Evening Standard called The Midwich Cuckoos “humane and urbane with a lightly sophisticated wit putting the ideas into shape.” Wyndham skillfully heightens the terror by making his narrative so rational and matter-of-fact. In such a nuclear and technological age, Wyndam’s story is rich in irony in that it is set in the picturesque, bucolic English Village and the “enemy”, the threat, are seeming cherubim.