The Midwich Cuckoos
|The Midwich Cuckoos|
|Media type||hardcover, softcover|
|Preceded by||The Chrysalids|
|Followed by||The Outward Urge|
Plot summary 
Ambulances arrive at two traffic accidents which block the only roads into the fictional British village of Midwich, Winshire. Attempting to approach the village, one paramedic falls unconscious. Suspecting gas poisoning, the army is called in. However, they find that a caged canary becomes unconscious upon entering the affected region, but regains consciousness when removed. Further experiments show the region to be a hemisphere with a diameter of 2 miles (3.2 km) around the village. Aerial photography reveals an unidentifiable ground-based silver object in the centre of the created exclusion zone.
After one day the effect vanishes along with the unidentified object, and the villagers wake with no apparent ill effects. Some months later, the villagers realise that every woman of child-bearing age is pregnant, with all indications that the pregnancies were caused by xenogenesis during the period of unconsciousness referred to as the "Dayout".
When the 31 boys and 30 girls are born they appear normal except for their unusual, golden eyes and pale, silvery skin. These children have none of the genetic characteristics of their parents. As they grow up, it becomes increasingly apparent that they are, at least in some respects, not human. They possess telepathic abilities, and can control others' actions. The Children (they are referred to with a capital C) have two distinct group minds: one for the boys and another for the girls. Their physical development is accelerated compared to that of humans; upon reaching the age of nine, they appear to be sixteen-year-olds.
The Children protect themselves as much as possible using a form of mind control. One young man who accidentally hits a Child in the hip while driving a car is made to drive into a wall and kill himself. A bull who chased the Children is forced into a pond to drown. The villagers form a mob and try to burn down the Midwich Grange, where the Children are taught and live, but the Children make the villagers attack each other.
The Military Intelligence department learn that the same thing has taken place in four other parts of the world, including an Inuit settlement in the Canadian Arctic, a small township in Australia's Northern Territory, a Mongolian village, and the town of Gizhinsk in eastern Russia, northeast of Okhotsk. The Inuit killed the newborn Children, sensing they were not their own, and the Mongolians killed both the Children and their mothers. The Australian babies had all died within a few weeks, suggesting that something may have gone wrong with the xenogenesis process. The Russian town was recently destroyed by the Soviet government, using an "atomic cannon" from a range of 50–60 miles.
The Children are aware of the threat against them, and use their power to prevent any aeroplanes from flying over the village. During an interview with a Military Intelligence officer the Children explain that to solve the problem they must be destroyed. They explain it is not possible to kill them unless the entire village is bombed, which results in civilian deaths. The Children put up an ultimatum: they want to migrate to a secure location, where they can live unharmed. They demand aeroplanes from the government.
An elderly, educated Midwich resident (Gordon Zellaby) realises the Children must be killed as soon as possible. As he has only a few weeks left to live due to a heart condition, he feels an obligation to do something. He has acted as a teacher and mentor to the Children and they regard him with as much affection as they can have for any human, letting him approach them more closely than they do with others. One evening, he – in effect abusing their trust – hides a bomb in his projection equipment, while showing the Children a film about the Greek islands. At an unspecified moment, Zellaby sets off the bomb, killing himself and all of the children.
The title is a reference to the cuckoo bird, which lays its eggs in the nest of other birds in the hopes that they will raise the cuckoo's offspring as their own.
Major characters 
- Gordon Zellaby - an academically-minded man.
- Richard Gayford - a published writer and the narrator.
- Bernard Westcott - the middle man between Midwich and the military.
Critical response 
Damon Knight wrote that Wyndham's novelistic treatment "is deadly serious, and I'm sorry to say, deadly dull... about page 90 the story begins to bog down under layers of polite restraint, sentimentality, lethargy and women's-magazine masochism, and it never lifts its head long again."
Thomas M. Wagner concludes that the novel "remains a cracking good read despite some obviously dated elements". 
- The novel was filmed as Village of the Damned in 1960, with a script that was relatively faithful to the book. A sequel, Children of the Damned, followed shortly afterwards.
- A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer remake to have begun shooting in 1981 did not materialize. Christopher Wood was writing the script for producer Lawrence P. Bachmann when the Writers Guild of America went on strike early that year for three months.
- A remake of the original was made in 1995 by John Carpenter set in Midwich, California and starring Christopher Reeve in his last film role before he was paralysed in a riding accident. This movie also included Kirstie Alley as the government official Susan, a female character not present in the original novel.
- There have also been several radio adaptations by the BBC:
- A radio dramatisation in 3 parts for the BBC World Service by William Ingram was first broadcast in 1982. This version is regularly repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra. It featured the following major cast members:
- Bernard Westcott - Charles Kay
- Gordon Zellaby - Manning Wilson
- Richard Gayford - William Gaunt
- Angela Zellaby - Pauline Yates
- Ferrelyn - Jennie Quayle
- Janet Gayford - Rosalind Adams
- Alan Hughes - Gordon Dulieu
- Dr. Willers - Hugh Dickson
- Vicar Leebody - William Ingram
- Chief Constable - Ronald Baddiley
- The music was by Roger Limb of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and production was by Gordon House.
- In 2003, BBC Radio 4 aired a version by Dan Rebellato which starred Bill Nighy (Richard), Sarah Parish (Janet), and Clive Merrison (Zellaby). The latter version was released on CD by BBC Audiobooks in 2007.
- Wyndham began work on a sequel novel, Midwich Main, which he abandoned after only a few chapters.
- The Thai film Kawao Thi Bang Phleng (Cuckoos at Bangpleng) is a localized take on the story. It was based on a book by the famous Thai writer and politician, Kukrit Pramoj, that was clearly based on unattributed wholesale borrowings from Wyndham's book. The Thai version contains intriguing differences due to the confrontation between the alien intelligences and Buddhist philosophy.
Allusions/references from other works 
- The Stepford Cuckoos, a group of New X-Men characters were partly inspired by the Midwich Cuckoos.
- The Golden in The Establishment were a trio of characters who looked like adult Midwich Cuckoos.
- In The Simpsons episode, 'Wild Barts Can't Be Broken', the children go to see a film entitled 'The Bloodening', a parody of Village of the Damned. The children in the film look like those from the film adaptation of The Midwich Cuckoos.
- The Befort Children from the anime Fantastic Children were also inspired by The Midwich Cuckoos.
- "1440 Cuckoo" is a song written in 2006 by British singer/songwriter Pete Doherty and was inspired by the serial number of the Penguin edition of the novel which Doherty read while in rehab at the Priory in London.
- In Smallville, episode 9 of season 3, entitled "Asylum" (2004), one of the characters is reading "The Midwich Cuckoos," which proves to be prophetic about that character's nature.
- In Catherine Jinks's book, Evil Genius, teachers of the main character, Cadel, speculate about the possibility of his physical resemblance to the children in The Midwich Cuckoos.
- The plot of Beetle in the Anthill, a novel by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, has some similarities. Authorities of Earth have a great fear about the group of foundling children, alleged to be Wanderers' spies and probably even non-human. These children were moved out of Earth by a secret order of government, but later one of them came back to Earth and was killed by Earth's security service.
- The weekly webcomic FreakAngels, written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Paul Duffield, is also loosely based on The Midwich Cuckoos. It portrays characters of a similar type who have grown into adulthood.
- In Elizabeth Bowen's 1964 novel, The Little Girls, a character notes another's unease at the impending birth of his grandchild; she notes that the man is terrified of children, and ruefully regrets having loaned him The Midwich Cuckoos to read: ‘Frank's terrified that some Hostile Race, which will go on to drive everyone else out, is at any moment going to begin to be born’ (The Little Girls, 229). This passage has been interpreted as reflecting the anxieties of the Cold War.
- In the videogame Silent Hill, the local elementary school is called Midwich Elementary School.
- Silent Hill: Shattered Memories introduces Midwich High School. The school's football team is called the Cuckoos, and its founder is named John Wyndham.
- In Hearts in Atlantis, a Stephen King novel, the film based on the novel is referred to by Bobby Garfield, one of the protagonists of the novel.
- The song "Children of the Damned" from the "Number of the Beast" album by the Heavy Metal band Iron Maiden is loosely inspired by "The Midwatch Cuckoos".
- Knight, Damon (1967). In Search of Wonder. Chicago: Advent. ISBN 0-911682-31-7.
- "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, October 1958, p.130
- http://www.sfreviews.net/midwich.html Wagner's review
- anonymous (9 April 1981). "Movie is Cuckoo". Windsor Star. p. 29.
- "Future Projects". Film Bulletin (Philadelphia: Wax Publications) 49: 20. July 1981.
- And You Call Yourself a Scientist! - Cuckoos at Bangpleng (1994)
- "Interlude - Page 3". FreakAngels. Retrieved 2010-05-29.