Books

John Wyndham: A BBC Radio Drama Collection

John Wyndham (and others)

Bill Nighy, Sarah Parish, Barbara Shelley and Peter Sallis are among the cast in these six classic BBC Radio dramatisations.

John Wyndham’s quietly menacing post-apocalyptic tales are enduringly popular, and these gripping, atmospheric radio adaptations of his classic fiction are resonant with terror and suspense. In

The Day of the Triffids, first broadcast in 1968, most people have been left blind after a meteor shower, and lethal carnivorous triffids are roaming the land.

The Kraken Wakes, dramatised for radio in 1998, is a thrilling story of monsters from the deep, alien invasion and ecological disaster.

The Chrysalids, first broadcast in 1981, explores the dangers of being different, while the 1989 adaptation of short story Survival focuses on the lengths people will go to in order to survive.

The Midwich Cuckoos, broadcast in 2003, is a disturbing tale of a village sealed off from the world for a day, and subsequently taken over by terrifying, inhuman children.

Dramatised for radio in 1998, Chocky is a chilling tale of a boy who appears to be communicating with an invisible friend.

Also included is Beware the Stare! a half-hour BBC Radio 4 documentary looking at The Midwich Cuckoos in print and on screen.

Duration: 11 hours approx.

The Secret People

John Wyndham

'The Sun Bird was beginning to travel fast, close to the edge of the whirlpool. They could look right down into the hollow of spinning water'

While flying over Africa's New Sea, a water project in the heart of the Sahara desert, Mark Sunnet's rocket plane crashes and is sucked through a hole in the desert floor into a strange, cavernous new world.

There, he and his partner Margaret encounter the survivors of an ancient race of underground dwellers whose whole existence is now threatened. Captured and forced to live with other prisoners taken from the surface, the pair know that they must escape before the waters above drown them all . . .

The Secret People, published in 1935, is John Wyndham's first novel.

'Perhaps the best writer of science fiction England has ever produced' Stephen King

Stowaway to Mars

John Wyndham

'It was a desert. A vista of reddish rocks and drifted sand, arid and hot, extending to the limits of their view. A dreary waste upon which nothing moved or grew . . .'

For British pilot Dale Curtance the Keuntz Prize - to be awarded to the first person to take a spaceship to another planet and back - is the ultimate challenge. Not only has he to build a ship to survive the journey, assemble a top-notch crew and choose a destination, he's also got to beat the Russians and Americans.

Soon the GLORIA MUNDI blasts off from Salisbury Plain, bound for Mars. There's only one problem - a stowaway called Joan. Not only does her presence wreck calculations and threaten the mission, but her tale suggests that Mars may be a more dangerous destination than they ever expected.

'Perhaps the best writer of science fiction England has ever produced' Stephen King

The Seeds of Time

John Wyndham

In this thrilling collection of stories, John Wyndham, author of the acclaimed classics The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, conducts ten experiments along the theme of 'I wonder what might happen if . . .'

There's the story of the meteor, which holds much more than meets the eye. In Chronoclasm a man is pursued by his own future. We meet a robot with an overactive compassion circuit. And what happens when the citizens of the future turn the past into a giant theme park?

'One of the few authors whose compulsive readability is a compliment to the intelligence' Spectator

John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Benyon Harris was born in 1903, the son of a barrister. He tried a number of careers including farming, law, commercial art and advertising, and started writing short stories, intended for sale, in 1925. From 1930 to 1939 he wrote short stories of various kinds under different names, almost exclusively for American publications, while also writing detective novels. During the war he was in the Civil Service and then the Army. In 1946 he went back to writing stories for publication in the USA and decided to try a modified form of science fiction, a form he called 'logical fantasy'. As John Wyndham he wrote The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes, The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos (filmed as Village of the Damned), The Seeds of Time, Trouble with Lichen, The Outward Urge, Consider Her Ways and Others, Web and Chocky. John Wyndham died in March 1969.

Consider Her Ways

John Wyndham

The six stories in Consider Her Ways: And Others, the second collecton of John Wyndham's short tales, continue his exploration of the science fiction staple - what if?

In the title story we are introduced to a world where all the men have been killed by a virus and women continue to survive in a strict caste system - bottom of the heap are the mothers. In others we meet the man who accidentally summons a devil and then has to find a way of getting rid of him without losing his immortal soul, as well as the woman who, thanks to an experiment in time, discovers why her lover abandoned her.

'Wyndham writes strongly and has a gift for bizarre plots' Guardian

'One of the few authors whose compulsive readability is a compliment to the intelligence' Spectator

John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Benyon Harris was born in 1903, the son of a barrister. He tried a number of careers including farming, law, commercial art and advertising, and started writing short stories, intended for sale, in 1925. From 1930 to 1939 he wrote short stories of various kinds under different names, almost exclusively for American publications, while also writing detective novels. During the war he was in the Civil Service and then the Army. In 1946 he went back to writing stories for publication in the USA and decided to try a modified form of science fiction, a form he called 'logical fantasy'. As John Wyndham he wrote The Day of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes, The Chrysalids, The Midwich Cuckoos (filmed as Village of the Damned), The Seeds of Time, Trouble with Lichen, The Outward Urge, Consider Her Ways and Others, Web and Chocky. John Wyndham died in March 1969.

The Day of the Triffids

John Wyndham

The most famous catastrophe novel of the twentieth century, John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids, published as a Penguin Essential for the first time.

'When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.'

When a freak cosmic event renders most of the Earth's population blind, Bill Masen - one of the lucky few to keep his sight - finds himself trapped in a London jammed with sightless mobs who prey on those who can still see. But another menace stalks blind and sighted alike. With nobody to stop them the Triffids - walking carnivorous plants with lethal stingers - rise up as humanity stumbles and falls . . .

Chocky

John Wyndham

Matthew's parents are worried. At eleven, he's much too old to have an imaginary friend, yet they find him talking to and arguing with a presence that even he admits is not physically there. This presence - Chocky - causes Matthew to ask difficult questions and say startling things: he speaks of complex mathematics and mocks human progress. Then, when Matthew does something incredible, it seems there is more than the imaginary about Chocky. Which is when others become interested and ask questions of their own: who is Chocky? And what could it want with an eleven-year-old boy?

Plan for Chaos

John Wyndham

In a city that could well be New York, a series of identical women are found dead in suspicious circumstances. Magazine photographer Johnny Farthing, who is reporting on the suspected murders, is chilled to discover that his fiancée looks identical to the victims too - and then she disappears. As his investigations spiral beyond his control, he finds himself at the heart of a sinister plot that uses cloning to revive the Nazi vision of a world-powerful master race...
Part detective noir, part dystopic thriller, Plan for Chaos reveals the legendary science fiction novelist grappling with some of his most urgent and personal themes.

Chocky

John Wyndham

Matthew's parents are worried. At eleven, he's much too old to have an imaginary friend, yet they find him talking to and arguing with a presence that even he admits is not physically there. This presence - Chocky - causes Matthew to ask difficult questions and say startling things: he speaks of complex mathematics and mocks human progress. Then, when Matthew does something incredible, it seems there is more than the imaginary about Chocky. Which is when others become interested and ask questions of their own: who is Chocky? And what could it want with an eleven-year-old boy?

A story of innocence and alien contact, Chocky is a sinister tale of manipulation and experimentation from afar.

The Chrysalids

John Wyndham

David Strorm’s father doesn’t approve of Angus Morton’s unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realize that his own son, his niece Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands …

The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear story of genetic mutation in a devastated world, which tells of the lengths the intolerant will go to to keep themselves pure.

The Midwich Cuckoos

John Wyndham

In the sleepy English village of Midwich, a mysterious silver object appears and all the inhabitants fall unconscious. A day later the object is gone and everyone awakens unharmed – except that all the women in the village are discovered to be pregnant.

The resultant children of Midwich do not belong to their parents: all are blonde, all are golden eyed. They grow up too fast and their minds exhibit frightening abilities that give them control over others and brings them into conflict with the villagers just as a chilling realisation dawns on the world outside . . .

The Midwich Cuckoos is the classic tale of aliens in our midst, exploring how we respond when confronted by those who are innately superior to us in every conceivable way.

Trouble with Lichen

John Wyndham

Francis Saxover and Diana Brackley, two scientists investigating a rare lichen, discover it has a remarkable property: it retards the aging process. Francis, realising the implications for the world of an ever-youthful, wealthy elite, wants to keep it secret, but Diana sees an opportunity to overturn the male status quo by using the lichen to inspire a feminist revolution.

As each scientist wrestles with the implications and practicalities of exploiting the discovery, the world comes ever closer to learning the truth . . .

Trouble With Lichen is a scintillating story of the power wielded by science in our lives and asks how much trust should we place in those we appoint to be its guardians?

The Kraken Wakes

John Wyndham

It started with fireballs raining down from the sky and crashing into the oceans’ deeps. Then ships began sinking mysteriously and later ‘sea tanks’ emerged from the deeps to claim people . . .

For journalists Mike and Phyllis Watson, what at first appears to be a curiosity becomes a global calamity. Helpless, they watch as humanity struggles to survive now that water – one of the compounds upon which life depends – is turned against them. Finally, sea levels begin their inexorable rise . . .

The Kraken Wakes is a brilliant novel of how humankind responds to the threat of its own extinction and, ultimately, asks what we are prepared to do in order to survive.

The Day of the Triffids

John Wyndham (and others)

When Bill Masen wakes up blindfolded in hospital there is a bitter irony in his situation. Carefully removing his bandages, he realizes that he is the only person who can see: everyone else, doctors and patients alike, have been blinded by a meteor shower. Now, with civilization in chaos, the triffids - huge, venomous, large-rooted plants able to 'walk', feeding on human flesh - can have their day.

The Day of the Triffids, published in 1951, expresses many of the political concerns of its time: the Cold War, the fear of biological experimentation and the man-made apocalypse. However, with its terrifyingly believable insights into the genetic modification of plants, the book is more relevant today than ever before.

John Wyndham was born in 1903. After a wide experience of the English preparatory school he was at Bedales from 1918 to 1921. Careers which he tried included farming, law, commercial art, and advertising, and he first started writing short stories, intended for sale, in 1925. During the war he was in the Civil Service and afterwards in the Army. In 1946 he began writing his major science fiction novels including "The Kraken Wakes", "The Chrysalids" and "The Midwich Cuckoos".

The Chrysalids

John Wyndham (and others)

A powerful post-apocalyptic allegory of persecution and intolerance, the Penguin Modern Classics edition of John Wyndham's science fiction masterpiece The Day of the Triffids contains an introduction by M. John Harrison.

Nuclear war has devastated the world, bringing with it a host of genetic mutations. In the bleak, primitive society that has emerged from its ruins, any sign of deviation, no matter how small, is ruthlessly rooted out and destroyed. David lives in fear of discovery, for he is part of a secret group of children who are able to communicate with each other by transferring thought-shapes into each other's minds. As they grow older, they feel increasingly isolated. Then one of them marries a 'norm', with terrifying consequences.

John Wyndham (1903-1969) the son of a barrister, tried a number of careers including farming, law, commercial art and advertising before writing short stories, intended for sale, in 1925. After serving in the Civil Service and the Army during the Second World War, he decided to try writing a modified form of Science Fiction, which he called 'logical fantasy'. Among his most famous books are The Day of the Triffids (1951), The Kraken Wakes (1953), The Chrysalids (1955), The Midwich Cuckoos (1957, filmed twice as Village of the Damned), Trouble with Lichen (1960), and Chocky (1968).

If you enjoyed The Chrysalids, you might like Arthur Miller's The Crucible, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'One of those few authors whose compulsive readability is a compliment to the intelligence'
Spectator

Biography

John Wyndham was born in 1903 in the Midlands. After leaving school, he tried his hand at several careers, including farming, law and advertising, before starting to write stories in 1925. During the war he worked as a censor in the Ministry of Information and afterwards served in the Army. The Day of The Triffids was published in 1951, and was followed by many other famous works of science fiction, including The Kraken Wakes, The Chrysalids and The Midwich Cuckoos. Wyndham died in 1969.