Tuesday, 15 September 2015


John Wyndham Chocky (1968)
I haven't read all of Wyndham's novels, but of those which I have read, Chocky takes quite a different tack in so much as the focus remains on a small, well-drawn cast, as distinct from a small, well-drawn cast responding to a broader catastrophe. In fact it reads more like one of his short stories, and is accordingly expanded from an earlier novella. The first couple of chapters suffer a little from Wyndham's tendency to channel light-hearted Ealing comedies of the forties - as epitomised in the borderline unreadable Pawley's Peepholes of 1951 - but either he toned it down or else I got used to it, because the jolly old ginger beer references appear to subside by the time it becomes apparent that Matthew Gore's imaginary friend may not actually be imaginary. Chocky is, roughly speaking, a first contact story, one which gives away very little of its weird alien visitor, but doesn't really need to, instead working all its magic into the sharp contrast of the admittedly ambiguous presence with a beautifully realised domestic snapshot of rural England in the 1960s. I'm sure Brian Aldiss read this one with smoke coming out his ears, but never mind.

As a novel, it doesn't really do much beyond playing around with how well its people cope with the unexplained, but that's fine because it doesn't aspire to the grand scale, at least not beyond a few brief and intriguing glimpses of Chocky's point of origin. In other words, it does what Wyndham did well with neither an excess of syrup nor the dispiriting introduction of any character bearing too close a resemblance to big hearted Arthur Askey. Chocky may fall short of his best but is nevertheless great on its own terms, and seems to have been an obvious source of inspiration for a whole ton of kid's TV shows in the seventies - not least the quietly terrifying Boy from Space, and including a couple apparently based directly on this book, although I never saw them. Unfortunately, according to Wikipedia, Steven Spielberg acquired film rights in September 2008, and is interested in directing, but hopefully the fucker will have forgotten by now. No-one wants to see Spielberg's Chocky.

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