This is my third John Wyndham novel, and he’s quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. I love this older, pulpy science fiction. He has very creative ideas, but I wouldn’t say the ideas themselves are the main focus, as with some science fiction. They’re more of a backdrop for really interesting character interaction.
The premise of Chocky is simple – a young couple’s adopted child, Matthew, has begun hearing a voice. The story is told from his father’s point of view, and he isn’t too concerned at the beginning. Their youngest, Matthew’s sister Polly, had an imaginary friend for about a year when she was five, so they thought Matthew was going through the same thing, even though it seemed a bit odd for a twelve year old boy. Polly’s imaginary friend was a nuisance to the family, so they didn’t want to encourage this in him for fear of a similar scenario, but as time went on it became harder to ignore. Matthew was not only hearing a voice, but that voice seemed to have knowledge and skills that were not his.
This isn’t an action-packed novel. In fact, the majority of the plot could be summarized as:
Parents: I think something’s wrong with Matthew.
[most of the novel later]
Parents: Seriously, what’s up with Matthew?
In many stories of this ilk, it’s often left to unrealistic actions to push the plot forward – parents immediately throwing their child in an asylum, for example – but everything the parents do in this felt right to me. They were maybe bizarrely self-aware and rational at times, but their thought processes and actions really felt natural. And while there is a lack of explosions and killer robots, the way the mystery is slowly revealed will easily keep your interest. The gradual progression of our understanding, and worry, is perfectly paced I thought.
I assumed this would be a mix of science fiction and horror at first, as the creepy kid on my version of the cover was freaking me out a bit, but I’d probably describe it more as an eerie science fiction story, I suppose. It’s a really enjoyable read, in any case. My least favourite of the three I’ve read (tough competition with The Day of the Triffids and The Chrysalids), but still a lot of fun.