The Essential John Wyndham: The Pulp Fiction Collection

John Wyndham, edited by Christopher Broschell

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Whether they realise it or not, most people will be passingly familiar with at least one John Wyndham work, even if they’ve only seen it on film or TV and took no notice of the writer’s name in the credits. The most common is probably The Day of the Triffids, a fantastic peri- and post-apocalyptic sci-fi which I first read at around the age of 8 (unbeknownst to my parents), and which hooked me on Wyndham for life. The term ‘triffid’ is now often used for a large plant, especially one that’s in the wrong place – for me, it’s what I always picture when I see the “Heavy Plant Crossing” road signs.

Wyndham’s novels often deal with a real-life question or problem. The Day of the Triffids isn’t just about the huge walking venomous plants, it’s about the nature of man, and how humanity would cope stripped of just one of our advantages. The Kraken Wakes tackles with climate change, and Trouble with Lichen covers a few issues, including classism and what the ramifications of an increase in human lifespan might be.

Wyndham also wrote a fair amount of short fiction, some of which he published in anthologies such as The Seeds of Time and Consider Her Ways and Others. The Essential John Wyndham is not one of those; instead, it seems to be a Kindle-only collection of random stories published both pre- and posthumously, and was published in 2021.

Unusually for an anthology, there are almost no duds in this collection. The only story I’d place in this category is Bargain from Brunswick, originally published under Wyndham’s pen name of John Beynon, a rather tasteless retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin based in America, with European children standing in for the rats. The rest are either decent or particularly good.

My stand-out has to be …And the Walls Came Tumbling Down… in which Wyndham ponders the outcome of a first contact in which the aliens are so dissimilar to life on Earth that neither side recognises the other for what it is. A Stray from Cathay and Judson’s Annihilator deserve a special mention, too. As short story collections go, The Essential John Wyndham is representative of Wyndham’s wider works, and definitely worth a look, especially at the low price. If you’re signed up for Kindle Unlimited then even better, as you can borrow it for free! Wyndham is classic sci-fi at its best.

The included stories are:

Pillar to Post – 3/5
No Place Like Earth – 3/5
A Stray from Cathay – 4/5
Judson’s Annihilator – 4/5
Never on Mars – 3/5
Jizzle – 3/5
The Living Lies – 4/5
How Do I Do? – 4/5
Technical Slip – 3/5
…And the Walls Came Tumbling Down… – 4/5
Confidence Trick – 3/5
The Eternal Eve – 3/5
Pawley’s Peepholes – 3/5
Bargain from Brunswick – 2/5
The Wheel – 3/5
Close Behind Him – 3/5
Adaptation – 3/5
The Red Stuff – 3/5
Reservation Deferred – 4(ish)/5
More Spinned Against – 3/5

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